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

Intimidation and Harassment by The Metropolitan Police

With a national day of major action upon us, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts’ 9th November protest, the Metropolitan Police have gone too far – beyond Mrs May’s authorization to use potentially lethal ammunition. The Met Police have started a new wave in their campaign of harassment and intimidation towards protesters, with a message delivered directly through the front door of known protesters:


The Metropolitan Police Service is responsible for policing the protest organised by National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.

In the interest of public safety we are working hard with event organizers, partner agencies, utilising all available intelligence, to reduce opportunities for crime and disorder to be committed.

It is in the public and your own interest that you do not involve yourself in any type of criminal or anti-social behaviour. We have a responsibility to deliver a safe protest which protects residents, tourists, commuters, protesters and the wider community. Should you do so we will at the earliest opportunity arrest and place you before the court.

A criminal conviction could impact on employment and educational opportunities, your ability to travel and applications for insurance cover.

If you are near an outbreak of violence move away and create distance between yourself and those taking part. Do not stand and watch as it may not be safe to do so.

Yours sincerely,
Simon Pountain
Commander
Metropolitan Police Service
Public Order Command

This letter is a threat and constitutes harassment – it threatens witnesses of police actions with harm (“Do not stand and watch as it may not be safe to do so”) and it seems to have the sole purpose of intimidating peaceful protesters, as this was not only sent out to people who have been found guilty or accepted a caution (although that would still constitute harassment), but to people who are in court, on bail, have had no further action and even found innocent.

This action is entirely reprehensible in both it’s form and it’s intent, and it shows that the police have no intention of peaceful policing of a peaceful protest.

Maybe they should stop listening to 10cc


A Metropolitan Police Intimidation Tactic - a harassment letter
Click to view the letter

Parents For Real Justice are taking over the airwaves with POET!

Parents For Real Justice campaigners Jennifer Hilliard and Chris have once again been on the local All FM (96.9fm in Manchester) on the Under The Pavement radio show, this time with an update on Parents For Real Justice and a callout for help with a project we like to call POET – listen now to find out more!

Listen Again

A Letter to MPs

We have come across a deeply shocking piece of footage from 9th December student demonstration (See our “Home” page) that shows a very peaceful demonstration that the police cavalry charge into causing the crowd to turn ugly. It is clear to see from this footage that it was the police who provoked a violent reaction and not the demonstrators who were there intent on violence.

The police have always maintained that they came under sustained attack all day and that their response was proportionate. This footage was taken at around 3pm and shows otherwise and we would like your help to send it out to all the politicians in the UK.

Please could you
1. copy the email below, enter your contact information, add your own comments to the start of the letter and send it, with the link to the footage, to your MP – MP’s tend to ignore standard emails so please take a few minutes to add your own comments
2. If you are a student at university please send it to both the MP for your home constituency and the MP for your University accommodation constituency
3. Invite all of your friends to do the same

If you do not know who your MP is then go to this website http://findyourmp.parliament.uk
and type in your postcode. The contact details for your MP will then be displayed.

Dear MP

[Please insert own comments and contact information]

I have recently become aware of a disturbing piece of footage on YouTube that was filmed at around 3pm on 9th December at Broad Sanctuary in central London during the student demonstrations of that day.

The police have repeatedly reported that their policing of this demonstration was proportionate however those at the demonstration that day have consistently challenged the police’s account of events and stated that the violence was instigated by the police and not by the demonstrators. While they acknowledge, as is often the case, there were a small number of trouble makers amongst the demonstrators – they maintain that the vast majority of those attending that demonstration went to do so peacefully.

The footage (in the link below) shows a very peaceful demonstration in Broad Sanctuary, there is little pushing against the police lines (the pushing shown near the start of the clip occurs when the police drag Jody Mcintyre out of his wheelchair the first time) and the atmosphere appears to be quite relaxed. After some minutes a murmur can be heard to spread across the crowd and the camera turns to look up the road beyond the police cordon and there are in excess of 20 horses performing a military style cavalry charging into the crowd. Understandably the crowd react to this attack by mounted officers. Please take a few minutes to watch this footage.

http://parentsforrealjustice.org.uk/?p=40

I am shocked and disturbed to have seen our mounted British police officers charging into a peaceful demonstration with such ferocity. I believed that we lived in a democracy and not an oppressive police state as this footage would suggest we do. These are the kind of actions that we have come to expect from totalitarian states who our government are so quick to criticise and condemn for their poor human rights records in relation to public demonstrations and yet this is what has been witnessed on the streets of our capital city.

I would not only like to draw your attention to the actions of the police at that time but also to highlight that there were a large number of demonstrators arrested at that demonstration and a significant number of them have been charged with Violent Disorder, which means that the CPS believe that they went to that demonstration with the intention of committing violent acts. However as can be clearly seen in this footage the actions of these peaceful demonstrators changed dramatically when provoked by the police and I can’t help but question how many of those facing such charges would not be doing so had the police not acted so violently towards what was a relatively well behaved crowd.

I cannot see any justification for the action taken by the police at that time as shown in the footage and I would appreciate your comments on the matter.

Kind regards