Friday, 22 March 2013

Militant rally for Glasgow ATOS 2 held at Sheriff Court – drop the charges now!

A section of today's court protest. We refuse to be criminalised. 

Today, Friday 22 March, the armoured exterior of Glasgow Sheriff Court witnessed scenes not seen in a long time, as campaigners united in defence of two members of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! arrested on a peaceful protest against ATOS exactly one month ago for the crime of speaking on a megaphone. 

Footage from the protest can be viewed here:

Upwards of forty activists and supporters braved the driving wind and snow to hold a militant rally on the steps of the court demanding Strathclyde police and the Crown Office end their campaign of harassment, surveillance and violence against progressive political activity on the streets of Glasgow. Glasgow Against ATOS and the Glasgow Defence Campaign mobilised for the protest, with ‘ATOS Kills’ and ‘Defend the Right to Protest’ placards held high, chants of ‘No harassment, no arrests – drop the charges now!’ ringing out and leaflets distributed to those entering the court. The protest was joined by regular supporters of the campaign – the 32 County Sovereignty Movement – and one member of the SWP and one of the ISG.

Officers from Strathclyde police’s specialised Support Unit – a particularly unpleasant bunch of public-order trained thugs – were humiliated in their attempts to intimidate the protest both inside and outside the court, and were provided with a lesson in law from the chief steward as they tried to ban demonstrators from taking photographs of the court building. 

A message was read out on behalf of the two arrested comrades and speeches made in front of lines of police on the steps of the court. Paul Mallon, a member of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, thanked supporters for attending and stated clearly that “in exercising their muscle, Strathclyde police are out to bully people. Well they have a problem, because they find themselves on the wrong side of history – that is protecting the wealthy against the weak and the vulnerable.” Another member of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! arrested in 2010 and 2011, stated: ‘For three years we have faced 18 court charges, court appearances and court protests and now we stand here today, three years on, not weakened but stronger. The only ones who are weak today are Strathclyde police.”

Supporters packed Sheriff Court number two in a show of strength to hear the restrictive bail conditions placed upon Dominic O’Hara and Daniel McGarrell banning them from attending demonstrations in the city centre lifted, and new trail dates set for 19 June. Glasgow Against ATOS and the Glasgow Defence Campaign gives their full solidarity and congratulations to the two comrades, and welcomes their continued presence in the campaign in the face of repression. 

Today’s protest, following on from yesterday’s city centre demonstration, was another important step in building the unity and militancy necessary to defend the right to protest against austerity and the war being waged on the working class. As we stated after Saturday’s violent attack on the Green Brigade, the GDC will continue to forge this unity with all the means at its disposal. As Dominic told supporters:

‘for almost three years I have been criminalised for organising with others against the cuts and racism. Today’s court picket was one of the first times that I saw a real unity of people opposing political policing and political charges. What a great sight! This unity will have to be maintained and grow in size covering all progressive groups and individuals in Glasgow. Then the police and courts will have to think twice before attacking the right to free speech and protest. We go into this trial with no illusions in the ‘justice and peace’ of this system or its courts. We are facing political charges for speaking out against the policies of the ruling class targeting sick and disabled people.’

Danny added: 

'It was great to see as many people turn out today at the Glasgow Sheriff Court in support of the Glasgow Against ATOS 2 and their right to protest and free speech, especially considering the awful weather. Since being arrested at the Glasgow Against ATOS picket on the last Friday in February, on charges that I will be contesting in court I have been visited at my family home and harassed on the phone by members of the Strathclyde police force (officer DC Barry Weir) making sinister comments in relation to my personal and political life then saying that he has done his homework and that it would be in both our interests if we meet up and speak. The offer to meet up was declined by myself and  instead I informed my legal representative of the strange and sinister phone conversation. 

These attempts to intimidate and criminalize will be met with resistance, as has been shown today outside and inside the Glasgow sheriff court, well done to everyone involved.

We will not be silent, We will not be beat!
Onward to victory!'

End the war on welfare!
Defend the right to protest!

PRO - Miriam Kelly, Glasgow Defence Campaign, 22 March 2013

Join the next picket of ATOS on Friday 29 March @ 12.30pm on Cadogan Street

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