Capitalist governments have few concerns about democracy and have always used whatever powers they can marshal to crush any and all signs of working-class resistance. Hence, perhaps sensing the roots of a new uprising against the ongoing destruction of our planet, in September 2018 three men involved in a nonviolent anti-fracking protest were incarcerated by the state for causing a public nuisance! In this case, a solidarity movement succeeded in ensuring their release from prison, but all the same, these democratically-minded citizens still had the misfortune of joining a long list of activists to be wrongly imprisoned by the state for acting in defence of our environment. Here, one early and particularly famous example of such a related environmental fight-back took place in 1932, when five socialist trespassers were jailed after leading a mass protest on Kinder Scout in the Peak District, in what turned out to be a vital part of a successful battle to defend the right of the working-classes to enjoy the countryside. (For more on this history, read “1932 – mass trespass won the right to roam.”)
Now in the latest attack on the right of ordinary people to stand-up to injustice, fifteen nonviolent protestors have been found guilty of terrorism offences — all because they locked themselves to a plane and thereby succeeded in preventing the wrongful deportation of 60 vulnerable migrants to Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. These protestors, known as the Stansted 15, had initially been charged with “aggravated trespass” but this was changed by the zealous agents of the state to the more serious charge of “endangering safety at aerodromes” — an offence which carries a maximum of life imprisonment. This repressive change of mind came about when the government’s then attorney general, Jeremy Wright, disgustingly “granted permission to prosecute the group under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act, a law passed in response to the Lockerbie bombing in 1988.”
There can be doubt is that this is political policing, and both government attacks, on the anti-fracking protestors and the Stansted 15, are being deliberately weaponised by the state to try to prevent the working-class from struggling for a fairer more democratic society. But another important example of such persecution, that has been completely overlooked by the mainstream media, took place earlier this year when a socialist campaigner named Chris Fernandez was jailed for his involvement in what is alleged to be “electoral fraud.” In this case Fernandez’s primary ‘crime’ owed to his acting as the local election agent for eight Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates at the 2016 council elections in Derby (see “New twist in Derby TUSC election agent case”). TUSC of course being an electoral coalition that has always stood firmly opposed to fracking and against the state’s ongoing attacks on all migrants.
With our hated Tory government now well beyond the brink of collapse, the working-class must do what it does best and unite its forces in a fight back against all such cases of political policing. Just as we must defend the right of working-class fighters to participate in elections, we must defend the right of protestors to engage in non-violent actions in pursuit of the common-good.
We must be clear: for every activist that our racist, warmongering government chooses to imprison, there will be many other ordinary people who will be prepared to stand alongside them in their fight for justice. This was the lesson that socialist activists took from the imprisonment of the Kinder Scout five in 1932, when instead of being cowed by repression, the working-class was inspired to fight back in even greater numbers. So, as part and parcel of ongoing efforts to bring our government down, we must now, as a matter of some urgency, mobilise our trade unions, our political groups and our friends and families in a concerted effort to overturn the guilty verdict against the Stansted 15. To anything else is not an option, solidarity forever!
In November, the Leicester and District Trades Union Council (LDTUC) passed a motion unanimously in support of the Stansted 15. The motion was proposed by Leicester UCU; and we voted (myself as a delegate for UNISON) to support them with a donation of £50. The motion said:
“LDTUC notes the case of the so-called ‘Stansted 15’, activists from groups including End Deportations, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and Plane Stupid, who, in March 2017 used non-violent direct action – lying down in front of an aeroplane – to prevent a charter flight due to remove asylum seekers and other migrants to the UK from taking off. As a result of this action, approximately 50 people due to be deported were able to remain in the UK to continue their legal cases. The activists themselves however have been charged with terror-related offences under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act; if found guilty they face life sentences. (The trial starts on October 1 at Chelmsford Crown Court.)
“LDTUC believes that the Stansted 15 acted with bravery, humanity and kindness. It believes that the government’s decision to charge them with terror-related offences is politically-motivated and is designed to reinforce its ‘hostile environment for migrants’ – a policy this branch condemns.
“LDTUC resolves to send a message of solidarity to the Stansted 15 and to consider a donation to the fund set up to help them cover their living costs during the trial.”
In the case of Chris Fernandez: “Not only was he jailed but, after having served four months in prison, he was hit with a bill for £8,847 for exercising his right to contest the case and protest his innocence. Chris had applied for legal aid but, because he lost the case, has to pay a contribution to the costs.” Hence donations to help Chris can be made via the TUSC Legal Costs Fund Appeal, using the PayPal facility on the TUSC website at tusc.org.uk/donate. Please use the ‘Add special instructions’ button to say that the donation is for the appeal.
Finally, for details of a forthcoming political event in Leicester (on December 18) that is being held to show solidarity with the Stansted 15, see here https://www.facebook.com/events/2081279961918126/