Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Victory in Glasgow! The struggle continues...

At Glasgow Sheriff Court on 27 November, in an important victory for the anti-cuts movement, Dominic O’Hara – a supporter of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! – was found not guilty of assaulting a police officer at an anti-cuts protest in Glasgow on 29 January 2011. He was however found guilty of the lesser charge of obstruction, a decision which is now subject to an appeal. He was fined £250.

Strathclyde police officers McIvor and Orr (‘V’ Division Support Unit) both conducted themselves in the age old police tradition; their versions of events unravelled, however, as both testimonies were not only often at odds with each other but at odds with their own earlier written statements made after the event itself. Despite these glaring contradictions Sheriff Finlay sitting alone in a juryless court found their testimonies to be ‘credible and reliable’ and sufficient to secure conviction on the lesser charge. The class nature of the Scottish ‘justice’ system was on full display throughout as the over-paid, over-fed judge dismissed the entire testimony of the defendant with the words ‘I don’t believe a word you say.’ A police officer inside the court intimidated our supporters throughout, ejecting two from the public gallery. ‘Hulking brutes of police, fat bourgeoisie…’ as Hugh MacDiarmid once wrote.

The not guilty verdict on the most serious charge is a vindication of the political and legal approach pursued by the Glasgow Defence Campaign. Throughout the past two and half years we have maintained that only by open democratic campaigning – outside and inside the courts – can any effective defence be mounted against the criminalisation of protest. We would like to place on record our thanks to our solicitor Patrick Campbell for his efforts in a case which brought into question the legality of the police tactic of kettling – a point dismissed by the judge earlier this year. We also like to place on record our sincere thanks to our family, friends and supporters who have attended court, sent messages of support and donations and materials to help us in our efforts, you know who you are, and we thank you. We would like to mention in particular our Irish Republican supporters based in Glasgow from the 32 County Sovereignty Movement. We cannot at this stage make public the basis of our appeal; but we are able to make some points which we feel are necessary to be made.

The struggle for the defence of democratic rights – the right to free speech, the right to protest and assembly – is now the primary task for all progressive forces. Without it, no serious or effective working class movement can take root or develop. As the crisis of imperialism intensifies the struggle for democracy becomes more and more acute, as imperialism seeks to achieve ultimate rule and act with free reign to ruthlessly stamp out and crush any serious opposition as it feels necessary.

It is in this context those who pose as the ‘left’ in Scotland and in Glasgow in particular have been found wanting. Their absence from our court protests and sittings has only been matched in consistency by the police harassment our comrades have received. Two years ago we were prepared to give these individuals and groups the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they did not know, or were somehow unaware of the police attacks on Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism and the Glasgow Defence Campaign. Two years ago we speculated as to whether their boycott of our events was a conscious one; it is now beyond any reasonable doubt that the attempt to isolate us is a deliberate act. It can no longer be claimed or explained away as an omission or oversight. This despicable sectarian behaviour has actively colluded with the attempts by the state to isolate our comrades; it has no role to play in the movement which will be built. It is necessary to name names: principally the self-styled ‘International Socialist Group’, the Scottish Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party of Scotland (former Militant Tendency) amongst an array of others. It is noteworthy that only the most advanced sections of the Irish Republican community in Glasgow have stood by us.  

Had any of the middle class left bothered to attend any of the dozens of court appearances and court protests we have publicly organised over the last two and half years they may have learned something about the nature of justice in this country. They would have learnt what the Irish people have come to know and understand of British justice, what the families of victims of police brutality have come to understand, what Muslim and Asian people understand – that our rights are being trampled on and that solidarity and opposition must be built.

The Glasgow Defence Campaign reserves the right to challenge and hold to account all those who claim to be socialist or liberal who hold to the dangerous notion that if they leave the communists to their fate – and they themselves ‘keep their heads down’, be seen to behave sensibly or ‘keep their noses clean’ – that they will be spared and somehow escape the blows or persecution themselves. We say that the toleration of these attacks, the effective isolation and exclusion of progressives from democratic activity, serves to jeopardise the rights and even the very existence of other progressive groups. 

Experience has demonstrated that the reaction – the attacks on democratic rights – can be stopped. But they can only be defeated by the joint efforts of all democratic forces working in unity in a principled manner. We need to build a campaign to defend democratic rights as part of the struggle for real social justice.

PRO: Glasgow Defence Campaign, 19:00, 28 November 2012 

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