Around 200 activists packed into a meeting in London yesterday (Thursday) called by the Defend The Right To Protest group. The diverse gathering was a response to recent attempts by police to criminalise dissent.
Student fees protesters, anti-royal street theatre groups, trade unionists and others described the way the state is responding to anger with the government by trying to intimidate their opponents.
Steve, a UK Uncut activist who was arrested while occupying the Fortnam & Mason shop in central London, told the meeting that the police were acting like a “private security firm” that only exists to protect corporate interests.
“They are using arrests as way of rounding up protesters, sometimes before they have done any protesting,” he said.
Alfie Meadows, the student protester who needed life saving brain surgery after being hit by police on the 9 December student demonstration, was at the meeting.
He had intended to speak about how he now faces a charge of violent disorder, but his legal team said that this might harm his defence.
His lawyer told the meeting that she is being inundated with cases where the police have broken the law to stop protests.
John McDonnell MP got a rapturous round of applause as he described the government’s fears of protest and how the cops have been “given a free hand” to disrupt the opposition.
Everyone at the meeting agreed that the best response to the crackdown was to support all those who are being targeted—and to carry on campaigning, despite the attempt to intimidate.
Protest outside the court hearing of Fortnum & Mason occupiers. Monday 9 May, 9am, City Westminster Court, 70 Horseferry Road, London SW1P.
For more information go to http://defendtherighttoprotest.org
Full report in next week’s Socialist Worker