On Monday 9th December a judge will decide whether to accept the Home Office’s application to deport Trenton Oldfield who was imprisoned last year for disrupting the Oxford Cambridge boat race. Trenton’s choice of target was designed to highlight the injustice of growing inequalities being presided over by a government cabinet composed of almost 70% Oxbridge graduates. His intentions have been met with a grossly disproportionate response by Theresa May whose representatives will seek to prove at the tribunal that Mr Oldfield is “not conducive to the public good”, has “undesirable” associations and even presents a “threat to national security”
This is not the first time there has been political intervention to ensure that Trenton is punished for an entirely peaceful protest. Having initially been charged with a low level public order offence, Trenton found his charge upped to one of “public nuisance” under a 12th century law which the Law Commission has said should be scrapped. This followed the intervention of a conservative MP Michael Ellis who raised concerns that “one idiot” could cause such disruption at a sporting event in a Home Affairs Select Committee just ten days after the boat race.
Although public response to the protest was initially divided, there has been widespread opposition to the heavy handed treatment of Trenton.
10,000 people have signed a petition calling for the removal plans to be dropped and supporters include MP Peter Hain, who played a high profile role in the anti-apartheid movement, and leaders of 6 major trade unions. Cambridge academics have also expressed outrage that such “a draconian penalty be applied in the name of an event representing their institution.” Author Danny Dorling who has written widely on issues of inequality will be amongst those providing character references in the hearing itself.
The persecution of Trenton takes place in the context of increasing criticisms about attacks on the right to protest in Britain including of the crime and anti-social behaviour bill which will give greater powers to councils and police to prevent or disperse protest if it risks causing “public nuisance or annoyance”.
If the Home Office is successful Trenton will be separated from his wife Deepa Naik and their newborn child. He will be torn away from his work with This is Not a Gateway and Myrdle Press which he and Deepa founded to address issues of inequality and injustice.
A supportive gathering will take place outside the court, with many expected to attend the hearing to “bear witness” to the proceedings. The proceedings are open to the public and the press.
Recent articles on Trenton’s case: