Fortnum and Mason 145 Campaign

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Embargo: 10/10/2011

FORTNUM AND MASON ‘SPARTACUS’ PROTESTORS DUE IN COURT

1300: City of Westminster Magistrates Court,NW1 5HB

At 2pm on Monday, Westminster Magistrates court will hear an unprecedented case involving 21 ukuncut activists who have asked to be taken to court, taking a popular cultural reference in declaring themselves as ‘Spartacus’ in the process [1].

This follows on from the sit-in protest at the luxury Fortnum and Mason store in March of this year, in which the police controversially arrested 145 protestors for ‘aggravated trespass’ and held them for 24 hours in a police cell [2].

However, in July this year, the protesters received a letter from the CPS stating that they would only be continuing to prosecute 30 individuals, and would be ‘discontinuing’ the cases against 109 protesters [3].

However, shortly afterwards, the 21 activists in question used their right to ‘revive’ a criminal prosecution by sending a letter back to the CPS asking to be re-trialled in solidarity with those 30 protesters still face prosecution [4].

The 21 risk a maximum sentence of 3 months in prison and a maximum fine of £1,500 if prosecuted and found guilty.

Thomas Pursey said “I’m sparticus! The attempted prosecution of 30 individuals for simply sitting in a shop protesting about unncessary cuts and disgusting tax avoidance by the rich is a farse! I’m standing up and saying the CPS should drop all charges!”

Robert Johnstone, one of those who was arrested at Fortnum and Masons said “It is clear that we were all arrested in an attempt to scare people from protesting, and the police have already admitted that arrests were made for ‘intelligence gathering’ on UK Uncut [5]. I had to spend 24 hours in a police cell for a legitimate protest about the government’s unfair and unnecessary cuts to public services. It is supposed to be our democratic right to protest!”

The outcome of the court hearing on Monday – in which the 21 will be entering plees ahead of the first full trials in November – is unclear given the unprecedented nature of the move.

The courts may prosecute, adding more names to an already bulging post-riot court schedule and budget. Or they may offer ‘no evidence’, thereby formerly finding the 21 ‘not guilty’.

Footnotes

[1] In Roman legend, Spartacus was a leader of the slave uprising against the Romans. When the Roman authorities attempted to execute him, thousands of slaves claimed ‘I am Spartacus’ in order to defend Spartacus.

The 21 activists are trying to stop the CPS from picking on the 30 individuals as they claim this is arbitrary and unfair.

[2] Some of the response in the media to the controversial UK Uncut protest at Fortnum and Mason:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/mar/28/cuts-protest-uk-uncut-fortnum?INTCMP=SRCH

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/mar/30/uk-uncut-arrests-protests?INTCMP=SRCH

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12871359

http://politicalscrapbook.net/2011/05/boris-johnson-labour-uncut-smear/

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/andreas-whittam-smith/andreas-whittam-smith-is-it-wise-to-criminalise-respectable-protest-groups-2257654.html

[3] The CPS letter is available for viewing on request

[4] This letter is available for viewing on request. It states that the 30 have been chosen for spurious reasons, such as ‘found to have more than 50 leaflets on them’.

[5] Lynne Owens, the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said this referring to policing on March 26th:

“We do need to improve the intelligence picture, but our ability to arrest over 200 people at the weekend gives us a very good starting point in terms of building that picture.”

See here for a full transcript:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmhaff/uc917-i/uc91701.htm

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