I have just watched the excellent Schmovies' film 'On the Verge'. It tells the story, sensitively (if a little one-sidedly) of the four-year SmashEDO campaign to close down Brighton-based arms manufacturer EDO-MBM. Lovely bunch EDO - the bits and bobs they make in Brighton are essential components of war planes and bomb mechanisms that have been responsible for the death of civilians and destruction of social infrastructure in Iraq, Lebanon and Somalia.
Pretty much everyone involved in the sustained attempts to halt the campaign and allow EDO-MDM to get on with its lawful activities making weaponry and murder weapons came in for severe criticism and ridicule, in pretty much equal measures. The firm itself, some of its key personnel, the private security firm hired to hassle the protesters, and especially the law and the lawyers responsible for drafting and interpreting it. But strangely, the police got off quite lightly, I thought.
I say strangely, because after a clumsy-seeming attempt to prevent 'On the Verge' being shown at the Duke of Yorks independent cinema last month, Sussex Police attracted ire in the local, national and international media, generating a level of interest in the film Schmovies can hitherto only have dreamed of. The whole saga was told particularly well in The Guardian. I'm sure the police's actions must have boosted audiences for the film enormously: I certainly wouldn't have found out about it so quickly without all the coverage. And everyone, myself included, assumed all the fuss must have been because the film contained hard evidence of police wrongdoing: harassment of peaceful activists, perhaps, or collusion with EDO-MBM's own security goons. But no - they were made to look a bit silly, of course, but on the whole they were seen to have acted fairly within the confines of a ludicrous legal system that is designed to stifle peaceful protest against lawful activities, like making weapons used to kill children. It's not the police's fault the law's an ass! Anyway, having seen the film I can only conclude the real reason the police tried to suppress the Duke of Yorks' showing was to generate some media coverage, boost support for the campaign accordingly and therefore hasten EDO-MDM's closure - freeing officers up to do something more useful instead, like dealing with alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour.
But don't take my word for it, the film is now available as a download.
so watch it and make your own mind up (there are certainly worse ways to spend 90 minutes of your life!)