On Friday 16th, three anti-cuts activists were arrested in Birmingham after doing a banner drop in protest against the cuts, at the Lib Dem conference. The banner read “Traitors Not Welcome, Hate Clegg, Love NCAFC,”referring to the Lib Dems breaking election pledges to oppose the hike in student fees, and their part in the governments programme of cuts. Two of the activists were released, after answering bail on Monday 19th. But one campaigner, Ed Bauer, was remanded, and spent 10 days imprisonment without trial for simply unfurling a banner. A defence and support campaign was quickly set up, ‘Banner Drops Are Not A Crime.’
Today Ed had a bail hearing, and a couple of us joined up to 70-80 people who gathered outside Birmingham Magistrates Court, sending an uncompromising message to those inside and showing solidarity with Ed. Chants included, “Use your head, Free Ed!” “Banner drops are not a crime, Ed should not be doing time,” and “Defend our right to protest.” After a very noisy couple of hours, it was great to hear that Ed had been bailed and no longer had to spend time in custody before his trial.
This case, like the action of the police, CPS and the courts across the country, shows a trend of political policing and repression of the protest movement. On Friday 23rd, 9 UK Uncut activists were in court for criminal damage in Brighton after a peaceful protest in a Topshop store in December. All of them were found not guilty, and the local paper branded the trial a waste of money, costing £100,000. Protesters are still being charged and imprisoned over their parts in the March 26th protests, especially the peaceful occupation of the Fortnum & Mason store. Over 150 people were arrested there, but the charges of 115 activists were dropped after it was decided that it was “not in the public interest.” The case against 30 of them continues. As well as this, the high-profile use of agent provocateurs, undercover police officers and anti-Terror surveillance against protesters shows what lengths the state and its agents are prepared to go to to stifle opposition and those who they deem ‘radical.’
It’s things like this that strengthen our resolve and make us more determined to resist both the repression of the state, and the ConDem cuts. We are not for turning.