Friday 29 April 2011

Defend the Right to Protest

The right to protest has been dealt serious blows in recent weeks. Dozens have been raided and arrested simply for planning to protest on the day of the royal wedding. Meanwhile, police raided squats with the excuse that they might also somehow spoil the royals’ big day.

The group Defend the Right to Protest has called several events to organise opposition to these attacks on our civil liberties.

On Thursday the group has called an emergency open meeting in London on how to respond to the attacks. Speakers include Alfie Meadows, who was given brain damage after being beaten by police on the student protests last year, and was later arrested; John McDonnell MP, a Fortnum and Masons occupier, and others.

This from the Defend the Right to Protest Facebook group:



Preemptive raids on protesters before the Royal Wedding.....Alfie Meadows who underwent surgery after been hit by a police baton charged with violent disorder......Fortnum and Masons protesters charged with aggravated trespass. This must stop! Please come along and help organise a response to these attacks on our right to protest

"These raids and arrests are outrageously disproportionate and demonstrate the decline that has taken place in the protection of civil liberties in this country. Those arrested must be defended and supported by us all". JOHN McDONNELL MP

"This appears to be a worrying extension of police using powers preemptively to stop people protesting. They claim to be independent and facilitate peaceful protest its difficult to see how they can justify those statements in light of what they are doing" MATT FOOT CAMPAIGNING LAWYER

This will be followed on Monday 9 May with a protest at City Westminster Court, where Fortnum and Mason occupiers have their hearing. 140 were arrested and detained following the occupation on 26 March.



Protest outside the hearing of Fortnum & Mason occupiers.

On 26 March, around 140 people were arrested and detained for taking part in the occupation of Fortnum & Mason to highlight tax avoidance. Their protest was peaceful, as documented by eyewitness reports and video footage. They were told by police that they were free to leave – but as soon as the protestors left the building they were arrested. The occupiers now face charges of aggravated trespass and the possibility of a prison sentence.

The Fortnum and Mason arrests are part of a much wider project that threatens the right to protest. The student demonstrations of November and December were regularly kettled and charged by mounted officers or uniformed thugs wielding batons and shields. Tahmeena Bax and Alfie Meadows were peaceful protestors hospitalised by police. Alfie now faces charges of violent disorder – unlike the officers responsible for the brain haemorrhage that nearly killed him.

Faced with unprecedented cuts that threaten to decimate the welfare state, now more than ever we must defend and assert our right to protest. On Monday 9 May join us outside the first of the Fortnum & Mason hearing to defend the protestors facing charges and to remind the government and the police that we can and will exercise our protest without fear of arrest or intimidation.

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