On 9 December 2010 thousands of students occupied Parliament Square in central London. They were attacked by riot police and charged with horses.
Alfie Meadows, a philosophy student at Middlesex university, was hit on the head with a baton—and almost died. He was rushed to hospital in the nick of time and had to undergo hours of life-saving brain surgery.
Alfie has filed complaints against the police for their behaviour. But he’s the one who has ended up in the dock.
The police charged Alfie with two counts of violent disorder. His case comes to trial next month.
Alfie is just one of hundreds of protesters arrested, raided, charged or imprisoned in connection with the student demonstrations in 2010.
The Defend the Right to Protest campaign has launched a petition and series of meetings to raise the profile of Alfie and others facing charges for political protest.
Susan Matthews, Alfie’s mother, told Socialist Worker, “Alfie was in theatre for four hours and it was another three hours before we knew that the operation was successful.
“The surgeon told us that there was a serious risk of brain damage, or that he may die. We just sat in the hospital, waiting and hoping for him to be alright.”
Alfie told Socialist Worker, “There has been a huge amount of support for me and other defendants. Defend the Right to Protest has brought that solidarity together and helped to show that it is important to fight back.”
Susan went on, “Alfie’s case is particularly poignant because he nearly died at the hands of the police.
“But it is also important to remember all the other protesters that have had to endure being charged and sentenced from the student protests.
“The campaign has been a massive support to us, and to lots of other defendants and their families.
“Being involved has changed me as a person. I’ve seen what so many people go through when they face criminal charges.”
Hundreds of students have faced arrests and trials. Draconian sentences have been handed down to people as young as 15.
Police injured many students on the protests. In London, police figures record 12 times as many students receiving medical attention as police officers.
The students’ injuries were typically far more serious than those received by police.
But the repression has not always been successful. Many students have fought the charges against them—and been found not guilty by juries.
Others have been given non-custodial sentences, or even had their charges dropped after refusing to plead guilty.
Defend the Right to Protest has been at the heart of this process. The campaign brings together defendants, families, lawyers, students, activists and trade unionists.
The campaign’s petition is backed by several trade unions nationally. It demands that charges against Alfie are dropped and that footage from the day is examined to discover who put his life in danger.
Defend the Right to Protest – stand up for justice
Monday 5 March, 7pm, Friends Meeting House, 173 Euston Road, central London (opposite Euston Station)