This statement by Angry Women Of Liverpool is a response to allegations made by Seamus O'Colgan and others online:
This statement is to clarify events surrounding the “Pack a Scrum of Solidarity” event at The Casa, Liverpool, held on 3rd November to raise funds for the family of Chelsea Manning.
AWOL is amongst the many and varied organisations that have been
falsely credited with organising this action. We were not involved as
an organisation, though some of our regular attendees were aware of the
planned fundraiser and the controversy surrounding its organisers. We
are making this statement because we were in a position to speak to some
of the individuals who decided to take action, and we felt that
somebody unconnected to the event organisers needed to clarify what took
place and the reasons for it.
We have compiled this information because accounts of these events on Indymedia have been edited with a clear bias towards the organisers, members of whom are on the Indymedia editorial collective.
Consequently, comments from their detractors have been deleted, while
biased and misleading accounts, including individuals’ names, pictures
and personal details, have been maintained and circulated.
The “Pack a Scrum of Solidarity” event was organised by Ciaron O’Reilly
as a fundraiser for Chelsea Manning’s family in Wales, to fund their
travel to visit her. This came to the attention of a small, independent
group of feminist activists through flyers posted around Liverpool.
While nobody in this group objected to the existence of the event,
and all supported Chelsea Manning, there were objections to Ciaron
O’Reilly organising such an event due largely to his reported history
of transphobia, misogyny and uncritical support for Julian Assange that
many felt amounted to rape apologism (he is quoted as saying “there is
no rape without a charge, it did not happen.”)
The actions the group planned were entirely non-violent. They aimed to picket the event with a flier explaining their support for Chelsea Manning and objections to Ciaron O’Reilly, and to suggest donating directly to the Pvt. Manning Family Fund
without attending the event. A few also planned to attend the event
and challenge O’Reilly verbally to acknowledge Chelsea Manning’s status
as a woman and to apologise for past misgendering of her and mocking of trans women at the London Anarchist Bookfair.
They also planned to challenge any defence of Julian Assange’s
behaviour that took place. They did not challenge The Casa directly on
their hosting of the event prior to the event itself, but some of the
Casa staff were at a Liverpool Against the Cuts meeting at which the
issues surrounding the event were raised, and so were aware that there
was opposition and that O’Reilly was a controversial figure.
Those planning these actions had no idea that Seamus O’Colgan/Colligan would
be involved in the event. He appears to have travelled from London
specifically for it after hearing that there would be opposition.
O’Colgan (also known as “Peacefulwarrior”, “Skywarrior” and “hesmackeditbro” but mostly using the twitter account @blacbloc) has a widely-publicised reputation from many sources for violence against women, sexual harassment, threatening violence, informing on activists to the media and police and
tweeting names and addresses of activists to their workplaces and to
fascist groups. It’s worth noting at this point that to those who
had planned this action, this reputation was not hearsay or rumour, as
some amongst them were personally acquainted with some of those who have
been harmed by O’Colgan’s actions in the past. While they saw
O’Reilly’s presence as inappropriate and problematic, O’Colgan’s was
intolerable, and it was this unexpected encounter that changed the
nature of the action from a simple challenge of the event organisers
into outright opposition.
Once at the venue, the activists decided not to picket due to the
fact that they seemed to be the only ones attending the event besides
the organisers and the Casa staff. They sat down in the venue to hear
what was being said, and began to have a quiet discussion of the issues
with a woman involved in organising the event. While there was
disagreement, at this point there was no aggression. One of the
activists even made a donation in the bucket at the entrance to the
room, as the objection was to Ciaron O’Reilly, not to the event or to
One of the activists approached Ciaron O’Reilly, asking to speak to
him, and at this point recognised one of the men near the front of the
room as Seamus O’Colgan. O’Reilly asked her to come outside with him
for “a chat”, and the other activists currently in the venue followed in
order to join more who were smoking outside. As they walked towards
the exit, O’Colgan followed and began hitting one of the women activists
on the back of her legs with his walking stick. She loudly asked him
to be careful, in order to draw attention to his behaviour (which she
had no doubt was intentional). O’Colgan then tried to hit another
activist with his stick, so a third grabbed the stick from him and hit
him back with it. After this, all the activists were asked to leave and
barred from The Casa. Angry that they were being barred when O’Colgan
had attacked them, one threw a glass, which did not hit anybody but
smashed on the floor.
At this point, given the poor attendance, the activists considered
there to be little point in continuing their demonstration and left the
vicinity of The Casa. They went to another pub for over an hour, and
left in separate directions to go home. A few were left waiting for a
bus at a stop around the corner from The Casa.
After they had been waiting for a few minutes, somebody who had been
at The Casa – the activists are not sure whether this person was Casa
staff or involved in organising the event – approached them at the bus
stop with a camera and voice recorder and attempted to intimidate and
provoke them. Having failed to do so, he returned to the venue.
Shortly after this, O’Colgan approached them and began to shout abuse at
One of them returned verbal abuse and walked towards O’Colgan, who
quickly headed back towards The Casa. The others followed. One grabbed
O’Colgan’s coat in order to prevent him from going into the venue
before finishing the verbal confrontation that he had begun.
At this point, 7 or 8 Casa staff and/or event organisers and/or
customers, outnumbering the 3 or 4 activists, dragged O’Colgan inside
and physically confronted the activists. A scuffle followed. One woman
activist narrowly avoided a punch from a man who she believes to be a
member of Casa staff.
The activists asked why Casa staff were protecting “a rapist tout”.
One person replied “I don’t care” and others called for them to leave
the property, though they had remained outside the gate, on the
They witnessed O’Colgan watching them from the window. They checked
Twitter to discover that, posting as @blacbloc, O’Colgan had identified
an uninvolved male activist (who was not present) as being associated
with them, had decided that he was their leader, and was accusing him of
“sending” women to attack him. They called for O’Colgan to come out,
but he refused. The man who had approached them at the bus stop
returned and took photos and voice recordings of them, which were later
used on Indymedia and on the @blacbloc Twitter. A woman organiser also
began trying to take pictures of the activists’ faces.
Casa staff called the police, and the activists left.
This sequence of events, from the protestors being approached at the
bus stop to the police being called, lasted only a few minutes. While
there was a great deal of aggression, both verbal and physical, no blows
connected with their targets and nobody was hurt.
Immediately after the event and throughout the days that followed,
O’Colgan tweeted names, photographs and personal details of those who
confronted him, as well as those of a number of people who were not
involved. He has called variously for those people to be fired from
their jobs, ousted from organisations that he believes they may be
members of, arrested by the police and “doxed” by Anonymous.
O’Colgan has a long history of targeting people in this way, and
while his calls for Anonymous or the IRA to target his enemies may
somewhat exaggerate the level of influence he holds, these tactics can
nevertheless do real damage, social, economic, psychological and
physical. People have been made to fear arrest, feared friends and
families to be under threat, feared that current or potential employers
may see false and prejudicial information about them, even been exposed
to the possibility that past abusers may discover their current
whereabouts. This includes people who left the event before any
violence took place and even some who were not there and had nothing to
do with it. Some have been targeted merely for criticising those
organising the event via social media. These threats are O’Colgan’s
established way of dealing with criticism of all kinds, and all
activists should be aware that, regardless of whether they agree with
the actions taken last Saturday, O’Colgan is not to be trusted and no
information on activists should ever be given to him or to his
So far this statement has been for information, to give a factual
account that has been denied space elsewhere and not to justify or
condemn anybody’s actions, or give an opinion. At this point I want to
change tone and ask readers to recognise that there is a world of
difference between publicly criticising somebody’s actions (as was the
intention of those who opposed Ciaron O’Reilly’s involvement in the
event last Saturday) and exposing activists online with the aim of
destroying their lives. There is also a difference between this and
publicising an abuser’s identity, to warn others of a perpetrator of
abuse who is a danger to their community, and who has had opportunities
to take responsibility for their actions and refused to do so (as
O’Colgan criticises AWOL for doing to Paul Cunliffe).
There is a place in activism for the tactics of doxing and publicising
details – for example warning comrades of abusers, police informants or
fascist infiltrators – but these tactics are not something to be used
lightly in response to any and all opposition, including demonstrations
that turn briefly and mildly violent on both sides.
Those who opposed O’Reilly and O’Colgan at the Casa were not abusers,
fascists or state agents. They were feminist and class struggle
activists with a point to make, and they have been treated appallingly
not only by the event organisers and Casa staff but by other Liverpool
activists, who must have identified them by name to a dangerous tout
with a history of violence. I write this not only to give the
perspective missing from Indymedia but to make these people aware of
their recklessness. We do not and should never expose other activists
and their families to danger for the sake of political differences or
petty personal resentments. We are better than that in Liverpool and we
must not let the likes of O’Colgan break our solidarity or intimidate
us into communicating with him before each other.
These events have broken trust between a number of organisations and
individuals, and we need to build bridges and repair that damage. If
anybody still believes that those who disrupted this event did so with
malice towards innocent parties or without good reason, comment on this
blog (comments are moderated and can be kept hidden if you wish) or
e-mail AWOL (again, in confidence if you ask for it), and if your
concerns are genuine and you express them respectfully, we will do our
best to address them.
 Not linking to these as, obviously, they contain those personal
details, and I would also rather not link directly to O’Colgan’s twitter
or blog. These are easy enough to find with Google.