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Alternative Zil lane threatens protest against Zil lane users! Counter Olympics Defies Ban on Bow Road

On Monday July 9th representatives from Counter Olympics Network were told that TfL has something called an Alternative Olympic Route Network although an attempt to locate this network would be foiled if you chose to search Tiffle's own Olympic Route Network website. They were told Bow Road, the first part of CON's July 28th Demonstration against the Corporate Olympics, was part of this prized alternative network. TfL's representative informed CON that the AORN enjoyed the same status as the ORN itself and no way would Tiffle allow a march up their precious alternative Zil lane.

TfL's tart announcement threatened to block the authorities' declared goal of facilitating protest at the second hurdle. There seemed to be some concern that CON had chosen Bow Road precisely because it was an AORN, a concern which was quickly ruled out by our blank expressions, given that we weren't even aware there was such a thing as an AORN. More than that it was pointed out that there was a good chance the AORN would not actually be in use, it would only come into use if there was some kind of incident in the ORN itself, and therefore was unlikely to be available to be blocked.

The authorities had already fallen off the facilitation horse at the first hurdle when Tower Hamlets staff had said no way would they agree to Counter Olympics using any of its parks for its protest and there was no point in appealing as permission would not be granted under any circumstances. That had ruled out Victoria and Mile End Parks.

However, the police organised a joint meeting with Tower Hamlets and TfL and a motion was tabled by a Tower Hamlets councillor to allow us to use the parks. While denying Tower Hamlets staff could be ordered around by the Mayor or mere Councillors they managed to remount their trusty steed, although in rather bedraggled fashion, when they suggested Wennington Green as a destination instead of Victoria Park, which they still refused to countenance. In the meeting CON then argued for the use of Mile End Park as well. The Tower Hamlets person looked puzzled and asked what the problem was as though this was all very unreasonable. He had to be reminded that they had refused to allow us to use that park.

So the parks were agreed after a fashion but now the roads were a problem. TfL said they would require CON to get a road cloaure permit, which they would refuse to grant. This would cost a few thousand pounds and CON would also have to advertise the closure in the St***ard, notorious for its false story about children being used to block lorries at Leyton Marsh, which would cost further thousands.

Not only that but objections were raised to CON's plan of marching along Old Ford Road by Tower Hamlets who said they would probably have to hold the march up for half an hour or so while people going to enjoy the Olympic events in Victoria Park were walking up Grove Road to the park. They would get priority over those objecting to the Games.

Tower Hamlets then reopened the discussion about our use of the two other parks raising doubts about the damage we might do in them in light of the heavy rainfall. CON reassured the TH representative we would not be driving any vehicles into the parks. Of course, Victoria Park itself will be churned to a quagmire by lorries and the crowds going to the music event but then that will be a council sanctioned quagmire.

As the obstacles piled up and were then dismantled the roadblock at Bow Road remained. CON pointed out it would not be using the AORN lane, the inconvenience would be to other road users, for about half an hour, who would be stuck in the road behind us, assuming of course that the AORN was in use, which it probably wouldn't be. A road traffic accident could last that long. TfL were unmoved.

The police said the road was nothing to do with them and then Tower Hamlets pointed out CON also needed permission from it to use its roads! No mention was made of any fees for this favour. When questions were asked about forms for this we found the Tower Hamlets parks representative was unable to sort this out as he did not deal with highways although he had felt able to raise objections on highway grounds.

Some good hearted banter about the fact that around half the population seemed to be uninterested in the Games and the stupidity of putting missiles on top of blocks of flats helped relieve the tension but TfL remained obdurate. No amount of grandstanding about being evicted for the Olympics, freedom of speech, the irony of a protest against the Corporate Olympics being blocked by a Zil lane for corporate sponsors dented their resolve.

The authorities suggested CON start its march from Fairfield Road but it was pointed out Mile End had already been advertised as the start point. CON argued that it had been openly advertising the event for weeks, had approached the authorities and held a previous meeting without any warning of a problem with Bow Road. We also pointed out that the police had even (secretly) attended the Bishopsgate Institute meeting in April and knew of the plans for a demo, but the police looked blank and said no-one had told them.

Given that TfL was unwilling to consider any way of managing the AORN so that, in the unlikely event it did come into use, ordinary vehicles could be waved into the lane by a strategically placed policeman at the back of the procession but held back should a high-powered chauffeur driven BMW hove into view, there was little more to discuss. The meeting broke up with CON saying it would apply for the required permits.

At a meeting at SOAS on 11th July members of the Counter Olympics Network who were present decided to stick to the plan to walk along Bow Road, if need be on the pavement. TfL had in the meantime repeated that it would not grant a permit to close the road.

The metaphorical Olympic protest ball is now very much in the authorities' rather soggy facilitation court.

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