Tomorrow, pro-democracy activists involved in the student demonstrations in December last year will be put on trial at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court. The demonstrations were followed my a media witch-hunt; photographs of so-called “violent thugs”, and appeals for protesters to come forward and give the police information on their fellow students. But in recent weeks, particularly since the charging of PC Simon Harwood over the death of Ian Tomlinson, it has been the police themselves who are coming under increasing scrutiny for the role they played at the demonstrations.
One of those being charged tomorrow is Alfie Meadows, a resident of Brixton, south London. Alfie needed emergency brain surgery to save his life after suffering serious injuries at the demonstration of December 9th, the same demonstration at which I was twice dragged out of my wheelchair by police officers, but apparently his survival was too much for the police to stomach. On Thursday morning, he will attend court after being charged with violent disorder. All of those being charged were people exercising their legitimate right to demonstrate against the education cuts, and the tripling of tuition fees.
Violent disorder is defined as “where three or more people (including the accused) use or threaten unlawful violence and, the conduct of them taken together is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness to fear for their personal safety.” In fact, there was a group of three or more people who put me in fear of my personal safety on December 9th. They were wearing hi-vis jackets, with the words ‘Metropolitan Police’ emblazoned on the front. That was the group of people I personally witnessed threatening and carrying out violent acts, not only on December 9th, but on every single student demonstration I attended.
So, the obvious question is, why is it not this “group of three or more people” attending court tomorrow. How long will the culture of impunity remain? How long will the tradition of complete unaccountabilty be allowed to continue? These are questions that the family of Smiley Culture continue to pose. In prosecuting the student protesters, the police have been afforded the luxury of months of “evidence” gathering, from an array of sources that includes the newspapers who were so happy to publish photographs of demonstrators whilst calling for their arrest, the CCTV which watches our every move every day of our lives, and their own “Forward Intelligence Team”, who often display a lower level of intelligence than my one year-old sister.
It is my belief that the true test of a political movement is not the force with which it rises up, but the unity with which it defends itself. In the aftermath of the Gaza demonstrations in London during Operation Cast Lead, which took place two years before the student protests, this defence campaign was criminally non-existent. People were put on trial, assigned state-appointed lawyers, and encouraged to plead guilty at every given opportunity. Completely disproportionate sentences were handed down, to set a precedent and to send a clear message; you have a right to protest, but not if you are young, Muslim males, and not if you exceed the boundaries that we deem appropriate.
As we demand justice for Alfie Meadows, as we demand justice for Smiley Culture, and as we demand justice for my own case, we also reassert a basic political point; when our communities are attacked by the government, and attacked by the police, we have the right to demonstrate our political views in any way we deem appropriate, and we will exercise that right. We demand that these show-trials, this political witch-hunt, is thrown out of court, and that the real perpetrators of violent disorder at the student demonstrations are put on trial instead.