A jury unanimously acquitted student protesters Alfie Meadows and Zak King on Friday of last week.
The two were accused of violent disorder after taking part in a protest against government attacks on education on 9 December 2010.
Their two-year fight through three trials has ended in a massive defeat for the Metropolitan Police.
Alfie talked about how the process has changed him. He told Socialist Worker, “I’m much more aware of state violence and the huge injustices that take place at the hands of the police.”
On the day of the protest, police kettled thousands of young people for hours in freezing conditions.
Protesters were hit with batons and shields and police repeatedly rode horses into the crowd.
Zak said, “This verdict has vindicated us for standing up. We tried to defend ourselves and others. We want to focus now on making the police accountable.”
Alfie said, “I was defending myself and others. The jury unanimously acquitted us on the basis of self defence.
“Having access to that defence is so important and has political significance.”
On the day, Alfie was hit so hard on the head with a police baton that his skull fractured and his brain began to swell.
He was rushed to hospital for life-saving surgery while doctors told his parents he might die from his injuries or suffer serious brain damage.
Alfie filed a complaint against the police, only to be arrested days later and accused of violent disorder.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.
“The student protests were the first major fight back against austerity,” said Alfie.
“Although the movement has ebbed and peaked, I’m looking forward to the struggle reigniting.
“I’ve received a huge amount of support from families whose loved ones have died at the hands of the police.
“That includes the relatives of Sean Rigg, Anthony Grainger and Mark Duggan.
“I have gone to their inquests and joined the United Families and Friends Campaign against deaths in custody demonstrations.”
Alfie was keen to stress that the policing of the students was not a one off.
He said, “It’s part of a history going back the attacks on miners’ picket lines and the clampdown on urban riots through the 80s and 90s.
“It’s also part of the day to day harassment of black and Asian people by the police.
“We have to support all those people fighting for justice against the police and the state.
“We can use this victory to turn the table on injustice.”
Alfie’s legal team has contacted the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
It is calling for police actions on the day to be fully investigated, including how Alfie came to be so seriously injured.
Solidarity built support campaign
Alfie and Zak were supported through their trials by solidarity protests outside the courts.
These were organised by the Defend the Right to Protest campaign.
This was set up during the state clampdown in the wake of the Millbank protests.
Hannah Dee, chair of the campaign, told Socialist Worker, “The persecution of Zak and Alfie was part of a pernicious attack on the right to protest.
“The aim was to turn Alfie from victim of police violence into a criminal.
“It failed because of the courage of both individuals and the momentous support they received from the wider student and trade union movement.”
In response to the verdict Susan Matthews, Alfie’s mother, said, “The struggle for justice for my son has finally begun.
“We have been silenced on what happened to our son. We can now move on to the really important thing, which is to get justice for Alfie”.”