They'd been making it difficult for OARC volunteers to go upstairs throughout the day, only letting in a few people whom they recognised, and denying others access at other times. Another local councillor, Nuala Young, was (understandably) heard complaining that the bouncers seemed quite intimidating. It was this that prompted an OARC activist to try and take a photo of one of the bouncers. He was very unhappy about this and threatened to take the camera if any photos were taken. The photographer was then told by Cllr Sareva he was 'banned from the building' (!).
A handful of other OARC users, who had earlier been allowed through, and were leaving the building, heard what had happened, and joined him to demand he be allowed in. Cllr Sareva then decreed that no-one was allowed up at all. The argument over photography continued as another person started filming, only to have the bouncers repeatedly try to grab his camera.
It was at this point, exasperated at Mary-Jane's dictatorial attitude (which I have experienced on several previous occasions), and seeing a large opening with the bouncers distracted by the camera argument, that I decided I had had enough, and decided to go straight in without their permission. They pushed me back outside. One of them lost it completely, shouting "Get back or I'll kill you... I'll kill you.. I'll kill you". This was more ridiculous than scary at the time, though it's slightly worrying to think that a supposedly professsional bouncer should lose his temper so much at someone merely pushing past him.
We calmed them down as best we could, explaining (again!) that we weren't after a fight but just asserting our right to use the building. The arguments continued until the police arrived. Some of them were ushered straight in to talk to Mary-Jane, without stopping to hear our version of events, while others replaced the bouncers at the door. We tried to reason with them too, but didn't get anywhere. They threatened to arrest us for being 'drunk and disorderly' merely for refusing to leave. When challenged they couldn't say what grounds they had for suspecting us of being drunk, but just muttered something about us being disorderly.
The senior officer emerged and pronounced 'based on what she [Mary-Jane] has just told me, yourself and yourself [pointing at two of the others] are under arrest for assault'. Neither of them had done anything resembling assault. They hadn't even tried to run past the bouncers as I had. In fact, one of them was actually assaulted by the bouncers during an argument over the camera(!).
Bizarrely, they were released from the police vehicle a short time later, further up the road, after promising not to go back to the Community Centre that evening. Apparently the police were content merely to get them out of the way. That doesn't excuse a representative of the local green party - which is normally seen as an ally of local activists in Oxford - from using the police to remove those who dare to disagree with her, nor from appointing herself as an authority to decide who gets to use our local Community Centre, and how.
Mary-Jane Sareva has played a prominent part in helping East Oxford police shut down the Social Club, a members-run community organisation which used to run the bar in the community centre. At first she claimed to be working to support the Social Club, and it was on her recommendation that Hawk Security were hired as bouncers. It was only later that we discovered that she worked for them herself! Her answer to this is that when working the door at the Social Club she is doing so as a volunteer, and therefore there is no conflict of interest. Nevertheless Hawk Security were paid for the hours she worked as bouncer.
She then used her same bouncer friends to enforce the eviction of the club, and later to prevent a general meeting of the Community Association (which runs the centre) from taking place - a meeting that could have overturned the decision to evict the social club. The meeting was called off by the Association's Management Committee on extremely dubious technical grounds, and Mary-Jane was the enforcer called upon to ensure the actual members didn't get a democratic say in the process. It's worth mentioning that a director of Hawk Security, and his accountant, are both currently on the Management Committee(!).
The social club has now been evicted, and (partly at the insistence of the police) the bar will now be run by an individual profit-making manager, rather than by a committee elected by the members. Guess who's applied for the job? Yep - Councillor Mary-Jane Sareva herself.
Meanwhile the local council has considered plans to move the Community Centre to another (smaller) site, and develop the current site into flats and shops, and the wider context is of a creeping gentrification of the Cowley Road area.
The local green party and the Community Association must break all ties with Cllr Sareva. She is an authoritarian bully working to extend her own control with the aim of becoming bar manager - giving her unaccountable access to massive amounts of money. Whenever the bar has been under the authority of just one or two individuals there have almost always been questions raised about corruption and money going missing. Mary-Jane cannot be trusted to run the bar, nor would she make a good bar manager, being almost universally disliked. Nor should she be allowed to dictate whether other community centre groups have access to the building.
If you have opinions about this, or have had any experiences of Mary-Jane Sareva's behaviour, please write to the Green Party and Community Association ASAP telling them what you think:
East Oxford Community Association
East Oxford Community Centre
firstname.lastname@example.org (mark for the attention of Sarah Lasenby, the chair)
East Oxford Green Councillors:
If you prefer, their postal addresses and surgery times are listed here:
Some other prominent local Greens (not a complete list):
All local green emails on one line:
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Sushila.Dhall@Oxfordshire.gov.uk, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
For more background, see: