It’s been three days shy of a year, but for seven UK Uncut protesters and a legal observer, justice has finally been done. The verdict arrived this afternoon – NOT GUILTY.
We’re obviously on top of the world, but we feel the need to emphasise our solidarity with the twenty-one protesters who stood in court before us and who didn’t see the same verdict.
We hope that our verdict shows that it was a peaceful protest and we clearly did not intend to ‘intimidate’ anyone, and that today’s result should cast a light on the upcoming appeals of our fellow demonstrators.
The fight isn’t over though. New legislation this week is making tax dodging more and more appealing to those who can afford the accountants, at the same time the austerity measures are taking their brutal effect.
Stay tuned. Stay active. Stay activists.
We’ve just walked out from the second day of Trial C.
It’s been somewhat surprising so far, principally because the District Judge (DJ), in stark contrast with the previous two, seems to be a reasonable human being. The defence are not having, this time, to take the knocks of ridicule and obvious bias that we’d become accustomed to. DJ Purdy is actually listening, though in a thoroughly professional manner he’s giving nothing away if he does indeed intend to find these last defendants guilty.
Day one was comprised entirely of the prosecution’s case. Amidst an awful lot of rhetoric about events surrounding the Fortnum & Mason occupation, there was no evidence presented at all connecting any defendants with any intimidating acts whatsoever. In fact, the prosecutor’s argument very much revolves around the idea that the protest was intimidating because there were a lot of people there protesting.
The defence put to the magistrate that there was, in fact, no case against the defendants to answer. Purdy, to our astonishment, agreed to consider the decision overnight.
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DPP’s Today programme announcement shows that the CPS are not even following their bizarre new guidelines
By one of the Fortnum & Mason arrestees
These days, I’m all too used to being woken up by the sound of my own voice shouting at the radio. This particular Tuesday morning, I discovered that my semi-conscious yells were being directed at Kier Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 [from
Mr Starmer had just said something about a case I was involved in – a mass arrest that I’d been caught up in at an anti-cuts protest at Fortnum & Mason last March. The thing he’d just said meant that either he was woefully misinformed about our case, or else that he was flat-out lying for PR purposes. His exact words, in an interview about some new prosecution guidelines that he was announcing that day, were:
“We have had cases recently where hundreds of people have been arrested. To take the example of Fortnum & Mason we had had over a hundred people who were essentially peaceful in that situation and in respect of whom we dropped charges, but others who were more involved and they’ve been charged.”
Mr Starmer was holding our case up as an example of good practice, and saying this was how protest cases should be run in the future. Under the new rules, prosecutors would be encouraged to divide protesters into two types: those with “peaceful intent” and those who “came along planning to commit violence or disruption”. There are huge problems with this kind of “good protesters vs. bad protesters” split in any case (more on that in a moment), but the immediate implication of what he was saying was that the people who had been charged for the Fortnum case had been selected because they were “more involved” than the others in “planning violence and disruption”.
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This drama about UK activism tells the story of what happened when radio producers got a little too close to the action.
With recordings of the protests mixed with drama recordings, actual participants mixed with actors, Occupied creates a world of sound that is both authentic and original.
The play is made in collaboration with artist and activist John Jordan; as well containing sound from within the Fortnum and Mason sit-in it also documents the actual moments when a crowd of activists decide to make camp outside St Paul’s cathedral.
What emerges is not only a play about three people trying to make a play – it’s about how and why people protest in the UK.
You can listen to the radio play on the BBC website.
It hit the airwaves on 17 February 2012, 14:15 on BBC Radio 4.
Today the 21 Spartacus defendants, who reinstated their cases after they were dropped by the CPS, had their cases formally dismissed after pleading ‘not guilty’ and having no evidence presented against them.
This throws the conviction of 10 people for aggravated trespass last week into stark relief. The judgement was made that these defendants were guilty on the basis of joint enterprise – that as a group they had intended to intimidate. This was despite the fact that none of the defendants were shown to be doing anything intimidating.The CPS chose to drop 109 cases, leaving 30 to face trial. Then, due to a processing error, they accidentally dropped one of the 30 cases, leaving 29. The first 10 defendants were there because they had previous convictions (a point which was ruled as not relevant to the case at hand), or because they were carrying placards (in one case, the placard was a UCU placard) or used a megaphone. Perhaps the most ridiculous was one defendant who was seen on CCTV to pick up a green umbrella and open it.
The facts are simple. The 21 spartacus defendants walked into the shop, along with those still facing trial. They participated in the meetings, and remained in the shop until the group decided to leave, and were subsequently arrested.
The very basis that the prosecution used to divide the defendants has been dismissed as irrelevant – but we still have very different outcomes for various defendants.
This is great news that the Spartacus defendants were found not guilty. We hope that this decision will help the court of appeal to make the right decision about those convicted last week, and that people are not intimidated from protesting about issues they care about.
This open letter was published in the Guardian on Friday November 18th:
This week, the first 10 defendants from the blanket arrest of people joining the UK Uncut protest in Fortnum & Mason’s were found guilty, despite their actions being described by the senior police officer on the scene as “non-violent and sensible”(Report, 18 November). The judge ruled that the simple act of “demonstrating” is potentially intimidating, and therefore a crime. Read the rest of this entry »
This brief coverage from the event outside court on the first day of the trial proper asked people that question.
Report from the court room by an anonymous defendant.
Nerve racking morning, early start, with all the anticipation of an 8 months wait since being arrested but a big relief to finally be getting going on this.
The first day started off at fast pace, getting through the prosecutions opening statement and 4 witnesses, cross examined by the prosecution and the defence.
We began with an attempt by the prosecution to amend the charge, practically admitting that the case they had against us was weak and trying to reduce it to a lesser charge. The Judge, DJ Snow, explaining that this is way too late in the day for amendments refused this change! We then swiftly moved on for the prosecution to outline their case and called 4 witnesses, all staff of Fortnum and Mason.
Sitting in the dock behind the glass is not a great feeling, and it seems to me that the politicians and heads of business who collude to dodge £billions in tax whilst ripping apart our health service and education should be here rather than us, but feeling good about my actions 8 months ago and proud to stand up against this in court.
We’ll be publishing more details as the trial progresses.
25th November: 7pm-1am
RESISTANCE RIDDIMZ brings inspiration and solidarity through a fantastic mix of talks, poetry, comedy, live bands, Hip Hop and DJs.
Go to the event page on Facebook
Heres an introduction to just some the people and groups that will be performing or speaking.. Read the rest of this entry »