ACTIVISTS IN Burnley were celebrating last week after the court of appeal halved the sentences of five Asian men jailed after the Burnley ‘riots’. The defendants had taken to the streets to defend their areas from Nazi attack 18 months ago.
At the trial last November the all-white jury accepted that the defendants had acted in community self-defence and returned ‘not guilty’ verdicts on the major charges. However, they were found guilty of one charge – running down towards (and passing) police lines, and of banging windows on the local pub where the Nazis used to drink. On the CCTV evidence this event took just over one minute.
The guilty verdict on this count was the green light Judge Boulton needed to inflict vicious sentences on the five. Throughout the trial Judge Boulton made it clear that he did not accept the self-defence plea. The jury decision, and now the appeal court decision, emphasises how wrong he was.
The appeal court ruling is a reflection of the campaign fought by the defendants, their lawyers and the community in Burnley for justice. Although they should never have been imprisoned in the first instance, the decision is a victory. It means that some of the young men have been released and others will get out over the next two months. It is a boost to anti-racists everywhere in the run-up to the May elections.
Michael Lavalette, Preston
IRENE Stanley, widow of Harry who was shot dead by a member of an armed response unit in 1999, was in the courts of justice last week. This was for a judicial review of the inquest into Harry’s death, held at St Pancras coroners’ court last June.
The judicial review is not complete until mid-May when the final ruling will be made, although the judge has indicated that he will be granting a new inquest. It is not a complete victory for the Stanley family.
But it does show that if you are prepared to fight like Irene has then it is not so easy for the police to get away with it. Keep up your support. Contact the campaign on 07931 844 969.
Terry Stewart, London
THOSE OF us travelling from the north of England to attend the recent anti-war demonstration in London had our journey made deliberately difficult by the Metropolitan Police. The Chesterfield contingent were unable to reach the designated start point for those from the north, and were forced to begin marching at Marble Arch. A large group of northern protesters, including the Sheffield and Nottingham groups, marched through Hyde Park, the site of the rally for the end of the demonstration.
After a number of redirections and hold-ups a large police force totally stopped our progress on the south side of Hyde Park. Breakaway groups of around 25 individuals managed to breach this aggressive wall of police before reinforcements arrived.
The major body of the group was penned in and our breakaway group was isolated. The decision was then taken by the small group to block the road next to the police line forcing them to break the wall.
Thankfully the police wall collapsed and the march successfully progressed to Parliament Square. I believe that the hostile, aggressive nature of the Metropolitan Police highlights the intolerance and fear that the ruling powers felt towards the huge anti-war movement.
Liam Hawkins, Chesterfield
I WAS alarmed by the suggestion (Socialist Worker, 5 April) that postal workers should elect Dave Ward as CWU deputy general secretary. His victory would be a defeat for the left. He is probably the weakest ever negotiator to hold a national position in the union.
Your article also misses the point about the current London weighting dispute. By submitting a unilateral pay claim the union’s London division has fallen into the trap of regional pay bargaining which the employer has wanted for decades. Everybody recognises the drawbacks with his opponent John Keggie. But it’s unfair to suggest that he is to the right of Ward in this election.
Paul Glenholmes, CWU Birmingham branch
ANTI-WAR protests happened on a daily basis all across the Indian subcontinent from the beginning of the US and British invasion of Iraq. People queued in the streets to punch and burn effigies of George Bush and shout strong anti-US slogans.
Major protests took place in Kashmir, Bombay, New Delhi, Jaipur and Bangladesh. Each demonstration attracted crowds of between 40,000 and 50,000 people. Police used heavy-handed tactics to disperse the protesters. They have used tear gas or opened fire with live rounds, as happened in Srinagar.
There is also some anger at the Indian prime minister A B Vajpayee, for sitting on the fence and refusing to condemn US and British aggression. About 60,000 Indian workers were sent home from the Gulf just days before the invasion.
Indian workers are a cheap labour force and work in many Gulf states, particularly Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. For many poverty-stricken families it is the chance they have to feed and clothe themselves. Bush and his poodle Blair have plunged this country and the lives of many ordinary Indians into chaos.
Barry Donnan, by e-mail
GROUPS LIKE yourself could make far more use of the internet. Your website could produce an A4 poster for anyone to print off and distribute in their area. There could be an advert for your newspaper for those who wish to read the reports in greater depth.
An article in your paper prompted me to write this. A French cameraman claimed American soldiers in Iraq deliberately shot at the vehicle he was travelling in. The only word of this incident to my knowledge comes from your newspaper. Producing a poster would have spread that news to a much greater number of people.
TONY BLAIR – you said there were ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq. Yet no evidence exists for you to prove that. We have all seen the weapons of mass destruction – of the US. You bomb and kill for ‘peace and democracy’ creating a second Vietnam and uniting the whole Arab world against the West.
David MacDonald, Leigh
WHY IS the Pentagon refusing to clear up depleted uranium (DU) weapons it has been using in Iraq? It claims DU has no long term effects. But a United Nations report found DU was still contaminating water and air in Bosnia seven years after the US used it. DU has been linked to high levels of cancer in Iraq and to Gulf War syndrome amongst troops.
Joanne Ball, London
THE REAL horror of the war on Iraq has been censored. The BBC’s producers’ guidelines say, ‘We should be circumspect about pictures of and accounts of injured, dying and dead combatants.
‘Pictures should not normally be close up and should not linger too long.’ This means we see the weapons of war, but not the results. War becomes sanitised.
SOME PEOPLE now think that the BBC stands for the Blair Broadcasting Corporation because of their pumping out of government propaganda during the war in Iraq. The BBC, as the state broadcaster, is expected to represent the ruling class views in times of war. The solution must be independent broadcasters who are free to constantly question the propaganda and investigate so we are told the truth.
David Deakin, West London
HOW MANY times did the government tell anti-war protesters that Britain and the US were invading so Iraqis could enjoy the same freedom as us to demonstrate? Now we read that US troops have shot dead at least seven civilians at a demonstration in the Iraqi city of Mosul.
Iraq’s overflowing hospitals are struggling to care for children with horrific injuries, while thousands of ordinary people have lost their homes or are terrified to go out because of looting and violence. Bush and Blair should be ashamed to call this freedom.
FOLLOWING the butchery in Afghanistan and Iraq, it would be great if Auden’s ‘August 1968’ became more known. It was written to condemn the Stalinist liquidation of the Czechoslovakian uprising of that year, but it fits today’s ‘Ogres’ just as well:
‘The Ogre does what ogres can/Deeds quite impossible for Man/But one prize is beyond his reach/The Ogre cannot master Speech. ‘About a subjugated plain/Among its desperate and slain/The Ogre stalks with hands on hips/While drivel gushes from his lips.’
Sasha Simic, London
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