Socialist Worker

Right to protest: Activists need our support against charges

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2256

Over 30 protesters appeared in court last week to answer public order charges.

Many are from last year’s student protests, with some from the TUC demonstration on 26 March this year.

On Thursday, 26 young people appeared in court. None pled guilty. They instead chose to take their cases to the crown court, entering no plea or not guilty pleas.

Dozens of supporters assembled outside court, including students, trade unionists and campaigners.

The picket was organised by the Defend the Right to Protest campaign.

Outside

Jim Wolfreys from the UCU lecturers’ union spoke at the rally outside.

“It is utter hypocrisy for the police to talk about violence when students break a few windows,” he said.

“The real violence is that of the government’s austerity drive, which is destroying the lives of millions of people, and the violence of the police, who hospitalised Alfie Meadows and dragged Jody McIntyre from his wheelchair.”

Alfie Meadows was among the defendants.

He was charged with violent disorder and accused of lifting up metal fences to use as weapons against police on the student demonstration on 24 November last year.

Alfie entered a not guilty plea. His lawyer told the court, “There is no CCTV evidence yet presented despite repeated requests.

“This charge is one of violent disorder, a charge that was only brought after a complaint was launched to the IPCC by Mr Meadows.”

On Friday the court was again the scene of protest and defiance.

Bryan Simpson, who was a student at Strathclyde University when he attended the 10 November Millbank occupation last year, is also accused of violent disorder.

He denied the charges and had many supporters outside the court, including a delegation from Scotland.

Delegation

Bryan is now a Unite union shop steward. His workplace banner was outside the court.

Many defendants are yet to see the CCTV and intelligence evidence against them. Just one defendant has pled guilty—a minor who will be sentenced at a youth court.

Police charged one person with violent disorder for allegedly putting a traffic cone in a bin that was on fire, and another with hitting a broken window with a stick.

Violent disorder is a serious charge, and carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. It is essential that these young people are defended and supported.

  • Around 150 people attended a Defend the Right to Protest meeting in central London last Wednesday.

    Speakers at the “We won’t let fear rule our streets” meeting included Merlin Emmanuel—nephew of reggae singer Smiley Culture who died in police custody—Jody McIntyre, representatives from the Fortnum and Mason defence campaign, trade unionists and others.

    The meeting vowed to take a united stance against police repression, refusing to be divided between “good, non-violent” protesters and “bad, violent” protesters. It also agreed to build huge solidarity with 30 June public sector strikes.


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Tue 14 Jun 2011, 18:17 BST
Issue No. 2256
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