Saturday, 31 December 2011

#34 An Interview with the Zombie of the Year!

It’s been a big year for Chris Writes About the End of the World, not least because it’s the first year it existed. There’ve been quite a few highlights. We’ve been in a zombie movie, interviewed a movie director, taken part in numerous zombie LARPs, managed to get a picture of Hello Bear bassist Tom Harvey’s face photoshopped onto a chimpanzee’s body to the top of his Google results, and we've seen the actual end of the world. Twice.

But the biggest story of the year has to be when, on sending my good friend Hannah Eiseman-Renyard of Whippersnapper Press to report on an event, I inadvertently got her arrested.
Blogging about zombies is only for the hardcore
On the day of the Royal Wedding she and disappointingly small number of people turned up to an event touted as a “Royal Zombie Flashmob”. Since there were only about five of them, they instead decided to have a cup of tea in Starbucks. Their cup of tea was interrupted by four police vans and sixteen police officers who arrested the lot of them for “A potential breach of the peace” and held them for the rest of the wedding, before releasing them without charge.

The story shot all the way around the Internet twice, and eventually lead to her being nominated Zombie of the Year by the Zombie Rights Campaign. Under the circumstances, we thought it was time for us to catch up with the woman who is now introduced only as “Zombie Hannah” when meeting people at parties.
We forgot to ask her for her skincare tips
So, you've been voted Zombie of the year. Can you tell us how this makes you feel about this, preferably while thanking various people, including God, and crying a bit?

Firstly I’d like to thank you, Chickenhawk [Ed. I've no idea what this word means], for putting me in harm’s way, and also John Sears and the Zombie Rights Campaign Blog for bestowing this award. I’d like to thank my fellow arrestees Ludi, Erich and Amy. If it weren’t for the “what can we do now?” chat we had down the pub straight after our release I’m not sure I would’ve had the belief to pursue it properly. Thanks to Mary Hamilton of Zombie LARP for the iPhone interviews she did with us on the day. I’ve had brilliant advice from friends with legal/human rights/protest backgrounds – you know who you are. I’m forever indebted to Green and Black Cross for bringing together wider groups of arrestees from the Royal Wedding so we could launch a group legal action. Also our lawyers Bhatt Murphy have been absolutely brilliant.
Hannah celebrates her new award by eating it and attacking the photographer

It's been over six months since your arrest. How's the arrest affected your life since?

Uh… hmm… well I have a pretty unique surname and I did decide pretty early on that I would put my name to this stuff (because I don’t think I’ve got anything to hide and I knew it would be more likely to be reported if it had a name to it.) However, I’m jobseeking at the moment and it’s a bit weird to know that if a future employer Googles me they can find out that I’ve been arrested in a matter of seconds.

But generally the outcomes of the arrest have been brilliant. With the precrime lawfail I’ve jumped head-first into a lot of protest and activism stuff which I’d never taken such an active part in before. (Y’hear that Met? I am ‘increasingly radicalised’.)
We’ve got permission for a Judicial Review, I’ve become a legal observer (someone on protests who is not part of the protest but there to monitor the police’s actions), and I’m volunteering with NetPol – the Network for Police Monitoring. Um… yeah. The arrest gave me a cause. So that’s been nice.

A lot of my readers are very stupid. Could you explain what a Judicial Review is so that they can understand?

A Judicial Review in English Law is a legal review of a decision made by a body such as a government authority, a local council or *cough* *cough* the Metropolitan Police. It's an investigation which private citizens (or groups of them) can request if they feel their (public law) rights have been violated in some way, and they want a legal examination into the decision which led to their rights being violated.

As the review can go as high up as it needs to; it can be long, costly, and time-consuming. Therefore Judicial Reviews are not that easy to get & you have to jump through a few hoops before it even begins. Lawyers under instruction from the plaintiffs must apply for a Judicial Review within three months of the incident. They must submit all the evidence they have as for why there's grounds for a Judicial Review, and the other side will submit their counter-argument/evidence for why there doesn't need to be an investigation. Then there's a reading of the evidence and a Substantiative Hearing which takes place with a barrister from each side and a judge - and if the judge finds there are grounds for a Judicial Review then permission is granted for one to take place.
I doubt my readers' attention span as well. So here's a picture of  Arnold Schwarzenegger in funny glasses
THEN the Judicial Review actually happens.

This is the stage we're at with the zombie case (now known legally as Hicks & Others): we have been granted permission but the review hasn't started yet.

In our case the Judicial Review is into whether or not there was a policy of pre-emptive arrests across London on the day of the royal wedding. We, the plaintiffs, believe that the fact that we were arrested, having not committed any crimes, in at least four different incidents across London on the one day strongly suggests that there was a London-wide policy of pre-emptive arrests in place. The police claim there wasn't. We don't believe them. The Judicial Review is to see whether there was such a policy and (if it turns out there was one) we hope that a judgement will rule that it was illegal and cannot be done again in the future.

For this reason we would love the case to go through and get sorted out soon (and we get a judgement/ruling) before there are more strikes, demos and the Olympics, but it's a lengthy process.

What's going to happen next? What are you looking to see happen?

Well, the Judicial Review should be concluded sometime next year.

My point of view – apologies for biting the hand that feeds – is that this was never about zombies. It’s about the police and the powers that be increasingly treated legitimate protest like a crime. And I wasn’t even protesting anything on the day – but I am protesting now. (That said – if it hadn’t been something as idiotic/photogenic as zombies I’m not sure we would’ve gotten half the publicity we did.)
Pictured: Photogenic
I think the rights of the living (and the undead) will continue to be curtailed and the laws regarding protest and public order will continue be re-interpreted for the worse until a few test cases come through. I think it’s clear from the occupy movement that the police are working to a brief which is more partisan than just ‘enforce the law’. I’m pretty sure it’ll get worse over the Olympics.

Finally, this is a usual question for the blog, seems kind of bad taste here but... What's your zombie survival plan?

Well, since I am a zombie my survival plan is to eat fresh, exercise, get plenty of sleep, stay away from gunfire, axes and law enforcement. Drink lots of water. Maybe some yoga. Y’know, common sense stuff.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

  1. "Give me your clothes, your boots and your sunglasses."