Anti-racists are celebrating after the Stansted 15 protesters won an appeal to overturn their convictions under terror laws on Friday.
The group stopped a deportation flight in March 2017 by locking themselves to a Boeing 767. The Home Office chartered the aircraft to deport 60 migrants to Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ghana.
Melanie Strickland, one of the Stansted 15, told Socialist Worker, “It feels great to win. It’s been nearly four years since the action, I thought it would never end.
“There was a lot of stress, having a terror charge over our heads. It brought job insecurity, trouble travelling, renting cars and so on.
“We were peaceful and stopped terrorism from the government. Forcing people onto planes, sometimes in chains, in the middle of the night is fundamentally wrong.
“I feel sad and angry that the immigration system hasn’t changed. I have no regrets, people must keep campaigning.”
In February 2019, 12 of the Stansted 15 received community orders and three were handed suspended jail sentences.
They had been convicted under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act (AMSA) 1990, the first time the terror law was used against political protest.
The group's barristers appealed against the prosecution last November.
Tory home secretary Priti Patel had made clear the government wants to have a "regular drumbeat" of deportation. She announced at the beginning of this month that the Tories would make it easier to deport people who had served time for minor offences.
It's right to resist Britain's racist immigration system.
Some of the migrants due to be deported on the disrupted flight are still in Britain.
One of the protesters, May Mackeith, said in a statement, "The nightmare of this bogus charge, a ten-week trial and the threat of prison has dominated our lives for four years. Despite the draconian response, we know our actions were justified.
"Eleven people, including survivors of trafficking, who would have been deported that night are still in Britain.
"Mothers, fathers, colleagues, friends and family members are rebuilding lives the government attempted to destroy."