‘Upon the Roof’ with Activist Maya Evans
On the 20th November 2014, we had the opportunity to meet the Terrific activist Maya Evans who until then we knew nothing about, except that she was one of nine people brave enough to ‘scale’ the rooftop of ‘UVA engines’ during Israel’s military attack on the children of Gaza during July/August 2014. No doubt most people will remember these iconic ‘UK: Stop Arming Israel‘ images that went viral across social media. This represents an innovative and effective piece of direct action in Solidarity with Palestine by nine peace activists in the UK of which Maya was one.
Maya who is involved with ‘Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK‘ is primarily concerned with and committed to the Children of Afghanistan who she has supported since the US/UK invasions, but nevertheless she was giving talks across the North of England throughout November sharing her experience of engaging in this direct action and her reasons for doing it. The nine activists are everyday peace seeking individuals who became irate with the lack of urgency by those in a position to stop the massacre, they simply were not prepared to stay silent about Israel’s disproportionate use of military force, (a.k.a. dahiya doctrine), hence, they organised in response to it. Although the action may have seemed minimal as compared to the military violence, the activists agreed that it would at least raise public awareness about how the British government is not merely compliment, but is also facilitating the Israeli military.
Maya explained how the police, following the group’s rooftop protest charged them with aggravated trespass, although this has not phased them. They felt what they had done was well worth it and would do it again should issue arise. The cause clearly outweighed the consequence and the charge of aggravated trespass may be likened to being nominated for a medal. The only thing that worried Maya was the possibility of having to make a 12ft drop in order to vacate the roof, thankfully for her it did not come to this as a cherry picker was brought to the scene.
Nevertheless Maya argued the with a certain commitment and preparedness that people can change the world for the better quoting Doctor Martin Luther King Junior, that if we should “fill the jails with children” change would be inevitable. The ‘notorious’ nine pleaded ‘NOT GUILTY’ since the only ones who were aggravated were racist Islamaphobics in favour of Israel’s bombing of hundreds of Palestinian women and children. Even the security guards of UVA engines did not consider the activists actions ‘aggravated’ indicating the nine were merely ‘vagrant youth’ clearly expressing their freedom speech if you only live once. The fire brigade also showed some degree of support by issuing a statement asserting they were NOT supporting the Israeli assault. Indeed it is surprising that the charges have not yet been dropped, the fact they have not reflects the British authorities alignment with the oppressive military agenda of Israel.
More to the point, the defendants have indicated that UVA engines were indeed contravening European Law by manufacturing and exporting equipment destined for use by the Israeli Military, hence it should be the management of UVA and/or the UK Home Office that should in reality be prosecuted. The trial will take place before Newcastle Crown Court between 9th & 13th of February 2015. We strongly encourage peace activists in the North of England to bless the courts with their presence and protest in support of Palestine & the nine peace activists. *Update, the charges have been dropped at the end of January 2015 as they were unable to prove that they had not been braking British law in supplying the Israeli military articles bound for military use. We hope the defence can follow this through and demand the information that UVA do not want making public – They’ve clearly got blood on their hands.
Maya later expressed concerns about vulnerable young people being drawn into the British military, she explained how the army deploys representatives in schools and colleges across the UK, and even bribe university students to serve in the army by paying their fees. British ‘Armed Forces Day’ is yet another example of how the Ministry of Defence (MoD) engage young people into the language of warfare. Where is the ‘PREVENT strategy‘ when it comes to the radicalisation of vulnerable persons being strategically targeted by the army to serve ‘their country’, conditioning them to kill and exposing them to grave risk? £500k is wasted on British Armed Forces Day which was first instigated by the Labour government in 2006 to “show support” for the army. The con-dem government embraced this Labour initiative which is clearly geared towards justifying and fomenting terrormilitary activities on foreign ground. Notably in oil/resource rich countries. Irish republican groups such as Éirígí who protest against this have pointed out that it is a “propaganda stunt” motivated by “falling recruitment rates” and “growing disgust at the British military’s contemporary wars of conquest“, whilst others argue that it dishonours victims and insults the families of those victims murdered by the British army.
Indeed, ‘you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t’, Maya was the first person convicted for breaching Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) in 2005/6 following a tribute to those killed in the illegal war in Iraq which included victims on both sides. Maya read out aloud the names of the British soldiers (whilst others read out the names of the Iraqi civilians) near the Cenotaph war memorial in London. According to the authorities the tribute was an illegal protest in an designated area near West Minister. Maya responded: “I do not agree with the Act. I just think it’s a shame that you can’t voice your freedom of speech in this country any more and it is illegal to hold a remembrance ceremony for the dead” ~Maya Evans. Maya on the importance of protest.
During these years the British Government introduced new counter-terror laws it would use not only to clamp down on ‘terrorism’ by their own definition, hence resulting in the misplaced revenge execution of Brazilian Jean Charles De Menzes, but also to curb the free speech of anyone it deemed a threat to the economy or who presented a credible challenge to its colonial foundation.
Hence in the same year we saw the advocates of nonviolent vegan ideology banned from entering the UK such as Dr. Steven Best, with no criminal record, speaking out against the cruelty of vivisection. Rodney Coronado was also banned for his activism in the 90’s, (more recently Rod was jailed for accepting a ‘friends request‘ on facebook. A verbal threat to a vivisectionist by Keith Mann saw him imprisoned for 6 months following his exposure of illegal animal testing activities. And of course Maya Evans for the serious organised crime of ‘paying tribute to the dead‘. Therefore, the governments war on terror, in addition to targeting Islam, and people of south asian complexion also targeted people advocating the vegan ideology of non-violence.
And so it turned out that Maya was and maybe still is a vegan cook, but lets face it, a non-vegan diet, especially in industrialised societies implies the shedding of innocent blood, violence and use of unreasonable force, all of which run contrary to the sound functioning of a peaceful and civilised society. “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields” ~Leo Tolstoy. Until we make these elementary connections with our animal cousins and inward changes placing them in our hearts and not in our guts we remain complicit in the kind of violence from which we seek to free ourselves from. When we collectively make these inward changes we will no doubt observe corresponding changes transcending this inner peace and contentment into the wider world we seek. Until then we are running the treadmill. “There is only one little step from killing animals to creating gas chambers a la Hitler…There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is.” ~Isaac Singer
Another observation made following Maya’s talk was the national 10 days weapons surrender that was taking place around that time. It seems strange why the police have chosen to provide such a narrow window of opportunity for people to hand in offensive weapons given that weapon production is on the increase, many of which will inevitably find their way onto the streets. If and when the recipients of such weapons do eventually return to their senses, they may have a long wait until the next weapons amnesty, an unnecessary delay of which may consequently result in more unnecessary fatalities. There should be NO time limit for people to legally discard ‘their’ weapons. People should always feel encouraged to destroy firearms as they have no place in the world we seek. We have the means and technology to contain any threat on this plant without recourse to firearms, primarily through education.