Defence campaigns are starting to take shape for the thousands of young people who face jail over the recent riots.
In Tottenham, mass leafleting with legal advice has now covered many estates.
The defence campaign there has distributed around 4,000 leaflets to local people—and there are plans for more solidarity work to come.
The campaign was to hold a strategy meeting this week.
In Hackney, east London, more than 150 people came to a meeting on the riots on Thursday of last week.
The diverse audience included many from local estates who saw riots on their doorsteps.
Local resident Owen Jones, author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, said that while the riots were “traumatic”, the real looters are the Tories.
“They’re not smashing up and setting fire to libraries—instead they’re shutting them down with the stroke of a pen,” he said.
Campaigning lawyer Matt Foot agreed, saying there was “one law for the rich and one law for the poor”.
He contrasted the dawn raids and harsh sentences for rioters with the way Cameron’s spin doctor and former News of the World editor Andy Coulson had been “arrested by appointment”.
“His door wasn’t smashed down,” he said.
And he issued a rallying cry to set up defence campaigns everywhere. “We’ve got a battle ahead.
“The police have arrested thousands of people. We’ve got to pull together all the people who are appalled at this. We can change the climate.”
Hackney activists were meeting again as Socialist Worker went to press to formally establish the defence campaign.
There is no time to lose.
Last week Steven Earle, 19, was sentenced to two years in jail for violent disorder after he threw a brick at a police car during the riots in Liverpool.
Judge John Roberts openly called the sentence “punitive”, saying a “deterrent effect” was needed.
Meanwhile an 11-year old boy—the youngest in court yet—was convicted of stealing a £50 bin from Debenhams and given an 18 month youth rehabilitation order.
This means the council will now dictate where he lives.
District judge John Woollard told him, “If you were a little older, you would be ending up in prison.”
There are dozens of sentences like these every week—and there will be for many months to come.
But the Hackney meeting showed that the harsher the sentences, the more people will oppose the clampdown and back defence campaigns.
It is vital that socialists are at the centre of setting them up in every area. You can:
- Organise a meeting where you are. Invite lawyers and local activists
- Leaflet local estates
- Picket courts when riot cases are being heard