The arrest of 29 anti-fracking protesters in Balcombe last week, including MP Caroline Lucas, once again saw the police mobilised to attack a popular and effective protest in defence of giant energy firm Cuadrilla.
(http://netpol.org/2013/08/21/force-not facilitation-at-fracking-protests/) Sussex police, who ran the operation, are the same force used against students involved in the the popular anti-privatisation campaign at Sussex University earlier this year- with 4 students now facing trial for supporting university staff against major attacks on their jobs and conditions.(see http://www.defendtherighttoprotest.org/new-support-sussex-campaign-against-privatisation-against-protest-ban-criminalisation/)
These incidents are part of an intensification of policing and the criminalisation of protest at a time of unprecedented government cuts, growing inequality and injustice. Groups like UK Uncut, and environmental & anti-racist campaigners have been targeted and subject to surveillance. Students protesting against fees were kettling and beaten. Anti-fascists standing up to the EDL and BNP have faced police violence. All of this has gone alongside fresh attacks on trade union rights. The use of anti-trade union laws against anti-fracking protesters (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qZRtnvhhgY), for example, is a sign of things to come, whilst the government is preparing to give police yet more dispersal powers under new laws.
Alongside this we have seen increased harassment of black and working class communities. From stop and search to the continued scandal of deaths in custody (see http://www.inquest.org.uk/), it is clear that 14 years on from the Macpherson Report institutional racism remains rife. When these issues sparked the biggest riots in Britain for decades, the government, police and courts responded by suspending basic civil liberties and sending thousands of young people to jail.
Meanwhile Hillsborough, the Murdoch hacking scandal and the deaths of Mark Duggan and Smiley Culture reveal the “untouchable” status that powerful institutions have acquired such that the police felt able to spy on Stephen Lawrence’s family with impunity.
And the government continues to remove access to legal aid for those seeking justice (http://www.savelegalaid.co.uk/ justicealliance)
These attacks have given rise to many important and powerful campaigns.
Solidarity between students, trade unionists, lawyers, anti-racist and justice campaigners, for example, helped to ensure victimised student Alfie Meadows, almost killed by police, was unanimously acquitted of protest related charges after a two year battle (see http://www.defendtherighttoprotest.org/alfie-meadows-zak-king-on-how-we-fought-and-won/) .
It takes place as in an autumn which will see further fresh public inquiries and inquests into police corruption and deaths in custody take place; and in the context of continued struggles against government cuts, privatisation, racism and inequality here and internationally..
It will look at how protest movements have confronted these attacks in the past and how we can organise in the future. Practical workshops will also inform people of their rights and suggest ways to run effective defence & justice campaigns.
Speakers include: Trenton Oldfield victimised protester facing deportation, Owen Jones, Susan Alexander mother of Azelle Rodney, Eamonn McCann civil rights campaigner, Alfie Meadows, Margaret Gordon Legal aid lawyer of the year, Nina Power, Hannah Dee Chair DtRtP, Alastair Morgan brother of Daniel Morgan, Amy Jowett injured anti-fascist protester, Carole Duggan, Dave Smith anti blacklisting campaign, John McDonnell MP, Fahim Alam director Riots Reframed, Matt Foot Justice Alliance, Val Swain NETPOL, Janet Alder, Jelena Timotijevic UCU NEC, Marcia & Sam Rigg, Occupy Sussex defendant, Ken Fero director Injustice, Nadine El-Enany, Susannah Mengesha; Estelle De-Bouley NMP, Brian Richardson Lawyer, GBC, Rachel Harger plus activists from international struggles tbc
Workshops and Forums include: Austerity & the law - the changing face of policing; The fight to save legal aid; Deaths in custody -who polices the police?; Protest, Stop and search and the law -Know your rights; The politics of Prisons; Blacklisting and the anti-union laws - defending workers rights; Riots-a brief history; Defending the right to protest on campus; Resisting police racism after Macphearson; How to run an effective defence campaign; When fear changes sides- the power of protest today
Tickets £3 unwaged/student £5 waged / £10 solidarity. Free for defendants,
For more information about current campaigns and how you can get involved go to www.defendtherighttoprotest.org
Dates for the Diary – can you help?
Saturday 7th September, UAF & United East End march against the EDL, Tower Hamlets East London -show support and distribute bust cards http://uaf.org.uk/2013/07/edl-
9th September and 19th & 20th September: Trials of Sussex University anti-privatisation campaigners -solidarity protest and court support
Monday 16th September (for 10 weeks) Inquest into Mark Duggans death, Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand: rota of supporters to attend the public gallery and any protests that may be called
Saturday 29th September National Demonstration for the NHS, Manchester http://www.unitetheunion.org/
Saturday 5th October UK Uncut national day of action is defence of Legal Aid http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/
Saturday 26th October, 12 noon Trafalgar Square United Family and Friends National Memorial March to demand justice for victims of deaths in custody http://uffc-campaigncentral.
Sunday 27th October, 11am, ULU Defend the RIght to Protest National Conference
5th November Day of civil disobedience against austerity called by the People’s Assemblyhttp://thepeoplesassem
Ongoing - Support the campaign against Trenton Oldfield’s Deportation - Sign the petition and write to Theresa May here: http://www.
If you can help Defend the Right to Protest with any of these – please contact us –email us in firstname.lastname@example.org