Saving Legal Aid – 17th june 2013

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In Manchester now, there is a movement the likes of which is rarely seen – PCS union members who work in the court system have joined with lawyers, activists and members of the community to fight the proposed changes to the legal system.

The changes that are proposed are no small and innocuous administrative changes – the proposals from all sides are akin to Dr Beaching’s plans with the natural railways, with a mix of Thatcher thrown in. They include amongst a long list, the privatisation of court services, the removal of access to legal aid for many and the massive restriction of access to judicial review – the main way to challenge the government’s attacks.

These are some of the many reasons that the PCS had called for strike action. This is why the lawyers are fighting.  This is why members of the community are gathering together to fight.

Defend The Right To Protest in Manchester

Yesterday saw yet another step in the growing campaign to defend the right to protest, with its first Manchester meeting.

 

Manchester has become a melting pot of the latest wave of protesters and activists, from the spearheading of anti-workfare protests to the massively strong Manchester UK Uncut group – all of which have been harassed, arrested, and a few attacked violently. With laws such as the much abused “Aggravated Trespass” law through to arresting someone for an astrixed out word (that may or may not have been an obscenity). It’s been clear for a while that the Metropolitan Police are not the only ones who are trying their hardest to deter peaceful protest.

 

The meeting, held at the Friends Meetinghouse in Manchester, included such speakers as; Dannie Grufferty (VP NUS) Jennifer Hilliard (Mother of Student Defendants), Steph Pike (UK Uncut) and Rachel from Defend The Right To Protest, covering a huge range of issues (from international police brutality to an arrestee’s rights).

 

The culmination of this is that we will be starting a Manchester chapter of Defend The Right To Protest, and working with as many groups as possible to defend our right to PARTY! Protest!

We ARE All Alfie Medows

Many know of the story of Alfie Medows – a student who went to protest both the rise in tuition fees and the closure of his department at university at Parliament on the 9th of December over a year ago, in 2010, who was hit so hard with a baton over the head by the police that he suffered a brain injury that needed immediate surgery.

 

Many people also know that as soon as he put in an Independent Police Complaint with the Commission, the Metropolitan Police immediately retaliated by arresting, charging and stop-and-searching Alfie as a form of intimidation and a desperate attempt to validate their actions – desperately, like a childhood bully, trying to find a way to say “He did it first!”. Something that we are sure that, like many others, they cannot and will not do.

 

But he needs your support and help in this dark time. We need people to realise that We Are All Alfie Medows – we are all in danger of being beaten and arrested for peacefully protesting. We are all in danger of our very lives being threatened, rapidly followed by the loss of our liberty, for standing up for what we believe in.

 

All we ask is that you go Here, download the “We Are All Alfie Medows” or the “Justice For Alfie Medows – Drop The Charges Now” file, print it off, have your photo taken with it and email it to Defend The Right To Protest.

 

Oh, and if you want to, come along to the protest outside the Kingston Crown Court on Monday 26th March.

 

P.S. Sorry for the lack of posts – court and legal issues, as well as many other things, have conspired against us. We hope to be posting more frequently again!

Steph Pike, Manchester’s Pre-Crime Victim

Court support for Steph Pike

Steph Pike was in court today, giving a strong plea of Not Guilty against a crime that should never be a crime – peaceful and unobstructive protesting as part of Manchester’s UK Uncut group, a group formed to raise awareness of corporate tax dodging and help push forward other possibilities than the massive and deep cuts that we all face. This is a group that not only has the highest calling, but also has shown again and again that it can protest peacefully and sensibly with the support of the public.

Steph, however, was arrested and charged, not with what she was lead to believe was aggravated trespass, a charge she could easily defend against with it’s fairly ridged structure, even with it’s wide open wording, but with a far more worrying crime, a pre-crime as it were:

“Failure to comply with a direction to leave when the police have reasonable belief that you may commit aggravated trespass”

Broken down, this means that:

1) She failed to move on a police order (not illegal on its own unless under specific circumstances)

2) That the police had reasonable belief that a crime of aggravated trespass was to be committed

The idea of a police officer having the power to move you on from a protest on the basis that a serious crime is in danger of occurring (i.e. a riot) does not seem too unreasonable – however this law is far from that. This law, which is punishable by upto three months in prison, is if you are in danger of “ obstructing or disrupting a lawful activity” – a far cry from the violence and terror of a riot or other serious crime.

And what did she do, you ask? She stood in a bank window, wearing a suit with a sign saying “FAT CAT BANKERS”. Is this kind of public conscience rasing work what we want to be criminalising as a socity? Much less with a possible three month prison sentence.

UK Uncut

Read more at Defend The Right To Protest about this case

The aggravated trespass law

The action in question - standing in a window, now a precursor to a crimeThe action in question – standing in a window, now a precursor to a crime