A group of 15 protesters found guilty under terror legislation have vowed to keep up the fight against deportations.
The “Stansted 15” protesters tried to block a deportation flight taking off from Stansted Airport in Essex in March 2017. They were all found guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court on Monday.
Melanie Strickland, one of the Stansted 15, told Socialist Worker the charges against them were “completely absurd”. “We were charged with an offence that has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment,” she said.
“And it’s down to the judge’s discretion how to sentence us.”
She added, “They are really coming down harshly on people challenging a contentious government policy.
“We will appeal.”
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) brought charges against them under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act. This was the first time the terror law has been used against political protest.
Melanie said, “There is certainly a massive clampdown on protest—our rights are not safe.”
The jury heard that the Stansted 15 had “placed the safety of the airport in the likelihood of danger”.
Melanie hit back against the claims. “The guilt lies with the government and the Home Office,” she said. “They put people in danger when they throw them into immigration detention centres
“They put people in danger at the airports and when they put them onto the deportation flights.”
The flight that the Stansted 15 stopped had on board 60 migrants, who the British state was deporting to Nigeria and Ghana.
Melanie said, “Eleven people on that flight are still in the country and some of them now have leave to remain.”
“Some of the people on the flight were victims of trafficking, so they were clearly in danger of being retrafficked, many into sex or domestic servitude.”
The Tories rely on charter planes with unscheduled take-offs as opposed to commercial flights with other people on them. They want to keep the reality of their racist deportations out of public view.
Melanie said, “We really exposed a massive scandal about how the government is deporting people who should not be deported.
She added, “That’s why they want to make an example of us.”
Outrage at the Windrush scandal earlier this year put the Tories onto the back foot over their “hostile environment” towards migrants. They are desperate to claw back the ground and push through more racist scapegoating of migrants.
They hope that harsh sentences against the Stansted 15 will help dampen resistance. Anti-racists must show solidarity with them and keep up the fight against deportations and the hostile environment.