Wednesday 18 March 2015

Admonished for using a megaphone

Today in Glasgow Sheriff Court a campaigner in defence of disability rights received a sentence of admonishment (no fine to be imposed) for being found guilty of the criminal offence of using a megaphone during an anti-cuts protest on 22 February 2013. 

Dominic O’Hara, a supporter of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! was arrested alongside another FRFI supporter on the then monthly demonstrations against ATOS and the cuts to living standards. The two activists were arrested amidst a targeted police operation to close down the moving pickets campaigner’s used to highlight the reality of welfare cuts; around 50 Strathclyde police officers on foot, bike, police cars and vans, together with Community Safety CCTV vehicles, were mobilised in a planned operation against a demonstration of 20 people, under the direction of Inspector Muir at Stewart Street police station (A-division).
The original report we published as our comrades were in custody can be read here
In the days and weeks which followed, the intentions of Strathclyde Police became clearer. One of those arrested was targeted by Special Branch, who attempted to recruit him as an informer. Charges against this comrade were eventually dropped by the Crown Office following the comrades public rebuttal of the police attempts to recruit him. Further secret manoeuvres took place in order to demobilise the Glasgow Campaign Against ATOS, which FRFI were instrumental in establishing and expanding. FRFI activists were smeared; the age old tactic of divide and rule was deployed which effectively destroyed the campaign.
On 19 March last year Dominic O’Hara was found not guilty of police assault and found guilty of the megaphone contravention. The original report we published last year is available here.
The GDC would like to thank our supporters who stood with us throughout the duration of the past 25 months of this case. We have learned an enormous amount throughout the course of this time. We noted the class nature of justice in this country, we noted how time and time again in periods of crisis the police are allowed to move beyond the limits of the law to destroy and demobilise effective protest. But we also learned how we can resist and who our allies are. We repeat; political charges must be met with a political defence. We repeat; if Dominic O’Hara is a criminal for speaking out in defence of the disabled then we are guilty one and all and proud to be guilty. For speaking out against injustice is a right we are prepared to fight for. We refuse to submit.
Miriam Kelly
PRO Glasgow Defence Campaign

Monday 4 August 2014

Resisting Militarism: Solidarity with the Finnieston 4!

The GDC expresses its full solidarity with the four anti-war activists arrested and charged for unfurling a ‘Resist Militarism’ banner from the Finnieston Crane on 28 June, Armed Forces Day. We urge all our supporters to send messages of support to and join all future court protests. Here, a GDC supporter looks at the growing trend towards normalising militarism and repressive policing, and the real role of the Commonwealth Games.

30 June: GDC join White Feather, Anarchist Federation and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters to picket Glasgow Sheriff court for the release of Finnieston 4

Boots on the ground

Stirling, Glasgow…cities of Empire?

You’d think they were trying to tell us something. Britain’s national event for Armed Forces Day this year was held in Stirling on 28 June. As it happens, purely coincidentally, Stirling was chosen as host city at the same time as it would hold events to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. The Princess Royal, alongside Prime Minister David Cameron, Leader of the Loyal Opposition Ed Milliband, and Alex Salmond, were on hand to oversee the carnival of reaction: service parades, ‘exciting military demonstrations’ of Apache attack helicopters and Red Arrow fly-bys. As families looked on, the very same day, these instruments of death were being put to other uses, as the IDF pounded artillery shells into Khan Younis and wounded seven Palestinian children and a pregnant women.

A month later, the Red Arrows were back in Scotland, flying over Glasgow to mark the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games as Her Royal Highness shuffled around Parkhead, God Save the Queen was sung and presumably, teary-eyed, the Chief of the Armed Forces looked longingly over the remnants of the colonial empire she once proudly headed.

And, just in case we didn’t get the point, Glasgow has been chosen as the focal point of the British government’s activities to commemorate (or should that be ‘celebrate?’) the 100th anniversary of the mass slaughter of World War One. The Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, has invited Commonwealth leaders to remain in Glasgow and attend a special ceremony after the Games end to ‘add to the sense of occasion.’

As independence looms, the British establishment, and its willing toadies in the City Council, seem keen once more to present Glasgow as a loyal city of Empire.

Resisting militarism…

As the artillery rolled through Stirling, the same day four brave female anti-war activists scaled the Finnieston Crane in Glasgow to protest against the glorification of war on Armed  Forces Day. A huge banner was unfurled that read ‘RESIST MILITARISM #whitefeather’. The Glasgow Defence Campaign salutes this imaginative and brave act of dissent. Speaking from the top of the crane, one of the protesters, Friday Grey, said: ‘When children in Scotland go to see tanks and bombs today in Stirling, that’s part of the normalisation of military culture.’ Actions and protests such as this are crucial in disrupting that culture.

As a statement from White Feather on the protest noted, £55 million is being spent on the UK government funded celebrations of the start of WWI: ‘”The War to end Wars” was a lie then and a 100 years later a new generation is being told that lie to indoctrinate them with militarism and with a heartless irony, sell them a myth to ensure support for current and future wars. It’s time to speak out and these brave activists have done so in the proud traditions of Glaswegians Mary Barbour, John Maclean and the many, many war resistors from Glasgow and far beyond.’

…policing dissent

Unsurprising, Police Scotland responded to this peaceful protest against mass slaughter by arresting the four activists, detaining them for 48 hours in police cells and charging them with ‘breach of the peace.’ Presumably, the Finnieston Crane felt ‘fear and alarm’ at being so wantonly abused. The Procurator Fiscal duly took up the case against the activists as being ‘in the public interest.’

Supporters of the GDC will be familiar with the concerted attempts at Police Scotland, and its predecessor Strathclyde Police, to harass, undermine and criminalise any expressions of opposition to war and militarism in Glasgow. In the past week alone, supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) organising solidarity with Palestine have had streets stalls disrupted and public meetings visited by uniformed police officers demanding information.

The four activists appeared in court on 30 June, with the GDC joining the supporters who gathered inside and outside the Sheriff Court in solidarity. The four women all pled not guilty and were released on bail with the next court date set.

In a significant development, however, the Crown initially tried to impose bail with ‘special conditions’ preventing the accused from entering what they termed the Commonwealth Games ‘events zone’ which included over a dozen areas of the city and the entire Marathon route. As the judge, who struck down the attempt, commented, this would have meant the accused being unable to leave their homes and going to their places of work, study and other locations. All this over a breach of the peace charge and a protest that had nothing directly to do with the Commonwealth Games.

Boots on the ground

As the GDC has consistently noted, the attempts to impose special bail conditions on anti-cuts and anti-war activists shows more than anything the political nature of these arrests and charges. Other activists in Glasgow, including GDC supporters, have previously faced repressive bail conditions such as ‘city centre exclusion zones’ and bans on ‘gathering with two or more people for the purposes of a demonstration.’

The attempt by the Procurator Fiscal to deploy the Commonwealth Games as a factor in the treatment of the arrested activists confirms another point made by the GDC, the Glasgow Games Monitor and anti-ATOS campaigners over the past two years: that the Commonwealth Games is being used as an excuse to clamp down on dissent, extend increasingly repressive policing, normalise the deployment of armed soldiers on the streets and destroy any opposition to the corporate interests which dominate both the Games and Glasgow itself. The case of the Glasgow Against ATOS 2 – FRFI activists arrested and charged for speaking on a megaphone against the Commonwealth Games sponsors – and the recent arrest of an anti-ATOS activist during the Queen’s Baton relay in Barrhead are just two examples. The latter was banned from entering any Games venues for the duration of the event.

The security operation for the Commonwealth Games is the biggest ever seen in Scotland. The policing tactics of Police Scotland during the event are based on the ominously named ‘Project Servator’, developed by the City of London police in order to ‘protect the City as a global financial centre.’ According to Project Servator, one of its tactical pillars is ‘hostile reconnaissance’ – the ‘purposeful observation of people, places, vehicles and locations with the intention of collecting information to inform the planning of a hostile act.’ The targets of such hostility are helpfully defined as ‘criminals, whether extreme protest groups, organised crime or terrorists.’ Alongside dozens of armed police officers on the streets of Glasgow, more than 2,000 Armed Forces personnel are involved in the security operation, including units from the Black Watch, while Typhoon fighter jets are on standby. Detective Chief Inspective Allen informed the public that ‘those going to events will see uniformed personnel, whether they’re military or police, at the entrances.’

To borrow from the marketing jargon of the Games organisers, this will be one the key ‘legacies’ of the Commonwealth Games. This huge security operation will not melt away after the Games. Like Armed Forces Day, its role is to normalise the apparatus of repression, of armed police and soldiers on our streets. Its real target is not some anonymous ‘terrorist threat’ but the protesters, activists, and in the end, the working class communities of Glasgow who may dare to raise their voices in opposition to the endless violence of the British state at home and abroad.

We answer them with the words of Glasgow’s revolutionary son, John MacLean, as the first volleys of the World War were being fired: ‘Let the propertied class go out, old and young alike, and defend their blessed property. When they have been disposed of, we of the working class will have something to defend and we shall do it.’

Miriam Kelly,
28 July 2014

Saturday 2 August 2014

Defending the right to defend Palestine!

The Glasgow Defence Campaign calls again for protest in defence of Palestine itself to be defended. Today 2 August, 13.00hrs, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) supporters in Govanhill, who had publicised a protest against the bombing and blockade of Gaza, were followed and harassed by four officers.

Taking up the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Apartheid Israel and its illegal settlements in Palestine FRFI supporters planned pickets of Tesco and Sainsbury’s on Victoria Road. There is nothing illegal in this. That is your democratic right to protest.

The reality of British democracy and British establishment support for Apartheid Israel  was demonstrated by the officers, in marked and unmarked cars, who stalked a supporter on his way to the protest and then followed him into Lidl store with the senior officer asking him randomly "can I help you". In an attempt to intimidate and provoke the officers approached staff to warn of the protest and asked the supporter "don't you remember shouting at me last week". The police remained visible for the duration of the event and then unsuccessfully attempted to follow supporters leaving for the Palestine protest in the city centre. 

Monday 28 July 2014

Defend the right to defend Palestine!

The Glasgow Defence Campaign condemns Police Scotland for its ongoing interference with democratic rights to protest and organise in solidarity with Palestine. This week’s intimidation and harassment of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) and Palestine supporters is described below.

On Thursday 24 June, 14.20hrs, “Keith McLennan - Police Scotland liaison officer for Palestine protests”, using the contact number publicised on Facebook, phoned FRFI.

In very diplomatic and fluffy language he asked if FRFI supporters could help the police “facilitate protest” by giving them notice beforehand of “how many people and plans for we are able to facilitate Palestine protest within the bounds of what’s allowed”. This would “save yellow uniformed police turning up and not knowing what’s planned...really appreciate you taking the there scope to give us a call next Monday or Tuesday?”

‘McLennan’ left a number for supporters to contact him on “whenever” news of Palestine protests came through. Worryingly he stated that this system for contacting the police “had been working relatively well in recent months for other groups” giving the example of a recent Palestine protest in Glasgow. He also asked for information about ‘Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!’ and the meeting they were holding that night ‘How to organise solidarity with Palestine?’

This meeting was visited by two uniformed Police Scotland officers – male A695 (stationed in Govanhill) and woman G19 (Drumchapel) to “see how the meeting was going” and if any future plans for Palestine protest had been agreed.

Police Scotland, posing as 'Liaison' officers soon
returned to their aggressive selves.
The GDC suggests a return to Tulliallan
for some more role play training. 
Finally FRFI’s protest stall, on 26 July on Argyle Street, in defence of Palestine and socialist Cuba was harassed by two police liaison officers; male G16 Inspector Forbes (stationed at Cathcart) and female B 1371. They joked that the protest was not where it had been publicised and unsuccessfully tried to intimidate supporters who calmly informed them they would not be intimidated. As one supporter stated over the megaphone

“Why are the police so scared about people in this country supporting Palestine? Because the Palestinian people, poor and oppressed, are fighting back. The British ruling class fear that resistance could spread!”

Friends of Palestine within Britain should expect to be harassed by the police as they defend the British imperialist state (Tory and Labour alike) which is a political, financial and military partner of Apartheid Israel. However this does not mean we should accept the harassment. We must organise and remain vigilant; do not talk to or cooperate with police liaison officers before, during or after meetings and protests. These softly spoken blue uniformed officers are agents deployed to gain intelligence which their distrusted yellow uniforms will not get them. We have every right to ignore them and withhold our personal details unless they can tell you an offence they suspect you of committing or witnessing.

Miriam Kelly,

Glasgow Defence Campaign.

Glasgow, Scotland, 28 July 2014

Sunday 4 May 2014

Justice and the law - which side are you on?

On Sunday 27th April, the Glasgow Defence Campaign were proud to host a meeting in Maryhill, Glasgow discussing the role of justice and the law. Here we reproduce the text of the talk which introduced the meeting.

Justice and the law – which side are you on?

Any serious consideration of current events cannot but notice the contradictions of our times. As these contradictions become more and more acute they will give rise to challenges to the present social order.

Working class living standards are facing their biggest decline in a generation, yet we are told ‘the economy’ is recovering. Hundreds of thousands of people in Britain are forced to attend food banks for basic sustenance, while our television screens are stuffed full of programmes dedicated to gourmet food and the promotion of self-indulgence as our neighbours go hungry. Whereas previous food crises have been characterised by scarcity, today supermarket shelves are overstocked with an abundance of food – much of it increasingly priced out of the reach of working class people blamed for their ‘unhealthy lifestyle choices.’

Increasing numbers of working class people are being pushed into the margins of existence as a new wave of benefit sanctions leads people into destitution and despair. Every two minutes a young person somewhere in the UK has their benefits stopped by a Jobcentre. Despite making up only 27% of jobseeker's allowance claimants, young people are the recipients of 43% of the sanctions issued. This violence is being played out against a background of a united political class and complicit media telling us that the economy is recovering – that economic prosperity is returning. This is one of the major contradictions of our times. Anyone who switches on the media will hear the manta repeated ad nauseam. Perverse and meaningless statistics are used to justify the new vogue. Those who disagree with this analysis are marginalised and dismissed. Despite this narrative ordinary people in their daily existence know the truth; many here will know someone who is either out of work – or facing punitive benefit sanctions, others will be aware of the vicious attacks on the disabled being waged by ATOS on behalf of the DWP and the widespread deployment of Workfare – modern slavery. You may even be going through this process yourselves. Others will be aware of the increasing phenomenon young people face – called internships – free labour given in hope of a job in the future. For the mass of those in work, job insecurity is now increasing and widespread; the use zero hour contracts are escalating.

But there is another contradiction we need to address: while many of us anticipated these attacks as part of the economic crisis, we did not expect the absence of resistance. The ruling class, sensing this, are widening and deepening the attacks to ever increasing sections of the working class and wider population. Those on the receiving end are told there is no alternative but to accept defeat and isolation; poor people are being blamed for being poor, or else told to blame other poor people for their poverty as racism and bigotry stalks. In response, feelings of hopelessness and depression become all the more common; alcohol misuse and drug abuse are increasing as alienation takes hold.

We need to confront this reality and begin to understand why this is happening, we need to understand clearly the role of the law in this country and begin to work out how we can fight for social justice.

One important point I want to make is that all of these attacks are part of conscious political decision making. It has recently dropped out of the vocabulary of the ruling class and its media, but what we are experiencing is the realisation of the Tory party vision of what they termed the ‘Big Society’. That is the role back of the state, the systematic destruction of state welfare provision for the poor and the vulnerable and the promotion of charity as the solution. What we are seeing is a return to the nineteenth century poor laws – people should read the lead article in the current edition of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! where we discuss the social crisis in more detail.

In these times, however, where there is so much injustice and so little resistance it falls on us to understand and explain to people what is happening and begin to work out a solution. We must understand that others before us have faced far worse social conditions and found solutions. We cannot afford to lose inspiration and hope – we need to maintain belief in ourselves and understand that it is working class people organising together who hold the key.

The discerning among the ruling class understands all too well the enormity of the crisis facing British imperialism. They know that the economic crisis is producing a social crisis; they also know that a political crisis is inevitable. They may be many things but they are not foolish. Just look at how skilled they are at dividing and ruling people; they have been doing it for generations. This is why they have erected an array of legislation to criminalise increasing swathes of the population; the last Labour government created criminal legislation at a rate of more than one a day – over 6,000 new pieces of legislation! It was the most heavily legislated parliament since parliament was created and more than twice the rate of the previous Tory regime under Thatcher and Major. A recent academic study of the legislative programme of the Scottish Parliament noted how it had created criminal offenses at a far greater rate than its English counterpart; in the course of a twelve month period between 2010 to 2011 twice as many criminal offences applying to Scotland were created compared to those applying to England. Why, we are entitled to ask, is all of this necessary?

As we wrote previously in Fight Racism! Fight Imerialism!, the economic counterpart to the social disciplining of the working class is a flexible labour market: freedom for the market is matched by social control for the working class. Or as Larry Elliot wrote of the Blair’s Labour government: having decided it will not regulate the markets, Labour will ‘regulate the people instead, imposing a panoply of social controls to ensure that problems caused by uncontrollable unregulated economy…don’t threaten the lifestyles of its new middle class constituency.’

This increasing criminalisation of our communities has gone hand in hand with attacks on our legal rights. I want to discuss two of the major ones, the attacks on legal aid and the moves by the Scottish Parliament to abolish evidential corroboration in criminal trials.

To fully understand these measures we need to view them as part of the overall war on the working class. Let us be clear; the rich will always be able to buy the best lawyers. For the working class however justice is increasingly being denied with all of the consequences which follow from inadequate legal representation when faced against a state intent on widespread criminalisation. That the increasing attacks on legal aid are occurring at a time of increasing criminal legislation is no accident. The challenge before those who oppose cuts in legal aid is to go beyond immediate self interest and show how these issues of justice affect us all. As political activists who are subject to police harassment and criminalisation we declare a special interest. To save legal aid it may be pertinent to examine how legal aid came about in the first instance; I know of no serious study which has examined this issue – either north or south of the border. It is perfectly conceivable that its author awaits.

We need to also understand the recent moves to abolish corroboration in Scots law. Corroboration – the requirement in criminal trails that for a conviction to be safe there must be two independent pieces of evidence of the crucial fact. The emotive issue of Scotland’s poor conviction rate for rape is often at the fore of the corroboration debate. It is misleading and it is intended to mislead and confuse. We are rarely told that in fact this is the political response to Scots law being brought into line with the rest of Europe following the important 2010 Supreme Court Cadder ruling which upheld the right of an accused person to have consultation with a solicitor – a right long held in other jurisdictions. The ruling means that Scottish police can no longer question suspects without offering the suspect a private consultation with a lawyer; not only before an interrogation but also at any time during the interrogation at the suspects request. On 21 April the Scottish Government announced that it was putting on hold this process; clearly with the pending referendum they have calculated that this could be detrimental to the SNPs independence ambitions. In the final analysis these matters will be dependent on the prevailing balance of political forces.

The increasing propensity towards criminalisation, the restriction of access to justice by undermining legal aid and the moves towards abolishing corroboration cannot be separated from the economic and social crisis facing British imperialism. The great contradiction of so much injustice with so little resistance is a temporary state of affairs. These developments show that the ruling class are preparing for a deeper class war than we are currently enduring.

Where will the resistance come from? History is loaded with examples of what propels individuals into political action; we say that the contradictions of our times will inevitably give rise to opportunities for revolutionary advances to be made. The Edinburgh born Irish revolutionary James Connolly understood and articulated very clearly the material basis of political action in an important article published in the Workers’ Republic on 12 August 1899. His prophetic words are worth recalling;

‘In every case the social condition of the mass of the people was the determining factor in political activity. Where the mass of the people find existing conditions intolerable, and imagine they see a way out, there will be a great political movement; where the social conditions are not so abnormally acute no amount of political oratory, nor yet co-operation of leaders, can produce a movement.’

There is no such thing as a problem without a solution; the solution lies within the problem.

What is the role of progressive people at this time? Our primary duty must be to struggle; we must prove ourselves capable of articulating the frustrations and aspirations of our communities. To do so effectively we must constantly be on our guard against our biggest enemies at this time; pessimism, indifference and inaction. We must understand that from nothing comes nothing. We must be able to take each and every particular problem, each instance of injustice to its roots in the general crisis of capitalism and back to the particular solution. We must be vigilant and actively oppose those who would steer struggles into dead ends; those who promote narrow class interests over the interests of working class as a whole. We cannot offer readymade solutions but know that the struggle contains the solution.

Today by having meetings and discussions such as this we are rebuilding the revolutionary traditions firmly grounded upon our knowledge of the economic basis of all political action. As James Connolly stated;

‘Examine the great revolutionary movements of history and you find that in all cases they sprang from unsatisfactory social conditions, and had their origin in a desire for material well being. In other words, the seat of progress and source of revolution is not in the brain, but in the stomach.

In these times it is absolutely vital that we take hope and inspiration from our revolutionary traditions, as Walter Benjamin once noted, it is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us.

Paul McKenna, chairperson of the Glasgow Defence Campaign.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Guilty for using a megaphone against ATOS

Today in Glasgow Sheriff Court, a judge sitting alone without a jury found Dominic O’Hara guilty of the criminal offence of using a megaphone on a picket against ATOS and in defence of disability rights in Glasgow on 22 February 2013. Sentence has been deferred until 18 March 2015 pending a 'good behaviour' report. These are the means through which the British ruling class hopes to deal with any opposition voices they deem a threat.

Supporters packed the public gallery in court number 20 to hear the third and final day of a trial which has cost in the region of £10,000 to bring to conclusion. From the outset the Glasgow Defence Campaign has been very clear – the trial was a political trial – where the right to effective protest was at stake. The trial can only be understood in the wider context of the undeclared war on the working class which is underway. The attacks on democratic rights cannot be separated from the violence which is currently being reined upon the most vulnerable in society who are being made to pay for the economic crisis.  

When placed against a background of almost four years of constant harassment directed against supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! in Glasgow, today’s verdict comes as no surprise. Money and resources was no object. Four crown witnesses were used, three of them police officers. Two supporters were illegally arrested and detained on the protest. The charges relating to this were later to be dropped as the arrests themselves were unlawful. In the weeks following his arrest, one supporter was accosted and stalked at his family home by undercover police officers who attempted to recruit him as an informer. We reserve the right to comment further on the police manoeuvres during this period and will do so at a time of our convenience.

For the time being the Glasgow Defence Campaign would like to place on record our sincere thanks to all those who have helped publicise this case and who have stood with us throughout the past year. Tens of thousands of people have read our recent blog postings confirming what we believe to be a growing concern among more and more people about the nature of ‘justice’ in this country. We have held no less than nine pickets of Glasgow Sheriff Court in relation to this specific case to make it absolutely clear to those who oppress the vulnerable we will hold them to account. We would like to salute our comrades from Dundee Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and Dundee Against ATOS who have travelled in support during the trial. We hope you learned something about the nature of the British justice system and how the police react to effective court mobilisations and we hope also to have learned from you about the need to continue to resist.  

When faced with injustice we have no option but to continue to resist.

Miriam Kelly GDC
Glasgow, Scotland

19 March 2014 

They've got all their law books and their regulations
They've got all their prisons and fortresses;
                Their ‘deterrent measures’ we needn't mention!
They've got all their prison guards and judges
Who are well paid, ready to do anything:
Well, why is that then?
Do they really think they’ll wear us down with all that?
Before they perish (and that will be soon)
They will see how all they did was in vain.

They've got their newspapers and printing presses
With which to attack and silence our voices
                Their statesmen we needn't mention!
They own Priests and Professors
Who are well paid and ready to do anything:
Well, why is that then?
Is it because the truth’s so frightening?
Before they perish (and that will be soon)
They will see how all they did was in vain.

They've got their tanks and their cannon
Machine guns and hand grenades
                Their stilted truncheons don’t really count!
Their policemen and their soldiers
Who are underpaid, but ready to do anything:
Well, why is that then?
Is it because their enemy’s so powerful?

They think they must find some support soon
To halt what’s tottering up.
A day will come, it will be soon
They’ll come to see that that’s no good to them at all.
Then they can go on screaming ‘stop!’
Neither money nor cannon will save them!

Bertolt Brecht

Translated by the Glasgow Defence Campaign

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Housing Meetings and Court Protests not allowed in Glasgow? 18 March Update

Tonight’s meeting ‘Housing is in Crisis: What Can We Do About It?’ organised by Glasgow Games Monitor 2014 and Unite Community Union has been shut down by the Board of Directors at Bridgeton Community Learning Campus (BCLC) who have chosen to cancel the venue booking. The statement from Games Monitor in response to this attack on the democratic right to free speech and organisation can be viewed by clicking here

In a separate but no unrelated turn of events the time and court number of the Glasgow Sheriff Court ‘megaphone trial’ due to conclude tomorrow 19 March has been changed in the last 24 hours. It will now take place an hour earlier at 10am and in court number 20. The GDC views this as a blatant attack on the democratic right to protest with Police Scotland and Glasgow Sheriff court attempting to disorganise the publicised court picket planned outside the court from 10.15am. From the last appearance on 4 March it is clear the police and courts are out to provoke and arrest supporters (see full report by clicking here). For this reason we are calling on all those planning to attend the trial to head directly to court number 20 at 10am to witness the trials summary and conclusion.

Unite against these attacks on the right to free speech and protest! 

Join the GDC by sending a donation to 
GDC PO Box YI-45, 48 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1BO 
Enclose your contact details in the donation letter or email

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Megaphone trial continues as police disrupt court protest

Police disrupt peaceful Glasgow Defence Campaign
court protest, issuing threats to arrest,
Glasgow Sheriff Court, 4 March 2014
Day three of the trial against an anti ATOS campaigner violently arrested on a peaceful disability rights protest for using a megaphone last year will continue at Glasgow Sheriff Court on 19 March. Yesterday witnessed the second day of the trial in which the right to use a megaphone is facing criminalisation; outside the court protesters had another sharp lesson on the right to protest being undermined as police moved to disrupt the peaceful court picket. Background can be read here. While, for the time being, we cannot comment on the trial itself, we can however comment on the police operation outside of the court and what that means for the right to protest and the campaign against criminalisation.

In recent weeks, the Glasgow Defence Campaign have written to and contacted hundreds of individuals, organisations, trade unions, academics and political groups to make everyone aware of the attacks on democratic rights in general and in particular this specific attempt by the police to restrict the use of a megaphone. What is in issue is the legality or otherwise of the police to intervene in peaceful political protest and determine the effectiveness of the protest.

Prior to the commencement of the trial renowned prize winning writer James Kelman sent the campaign the following message of support;  

"People have a right to question. The police and legal system should do all in their power to support that right. Even when the subject under scrutiny is the authoritarian behaviour of the permanent state and its political apparatus. Instead of defending the people the police and legal system protect the tyrant and attack, condemn and criminalise those who offer resistance. It is beneath contempt. People in Scotland are watching the actions of the police and legal system here today. My best wishes to the Glasgow Defence Campaign. (James Kelman)

On 4 March outside the court as protesters from across Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Dundee gathered in solidarity police moved in and declared the assembly illegal and all those present liable to arrest unless we dispersed. The police stated that the area outside the court was ‘private property’ and that permission for any protest was required. When informed that the area was in fact public space and that no such authorisation is necessary for static protests; the officers changed tact. Individuals were threatened with arrest for breach of the peace, contravention of s.54 of the Civic Government Scotland Act 1982 (which demonstrates a lack of imagination as no sound amplifier was in use) and also for refusing to provide details of our identity when required to do so by a uniformed officer when under suspicion of committing an offence. A note of the incident can be viewed on the campaign harassment log.

This is routine bog standard police harassment. We have the right to protest as enshrined in the Human Rights Act; the moment you do so effectively you face criminal sanction for doing so and subject to a report from the police to the crown office. Inside the court private security firm Alliance gave campaign supporters special treatment – despite campaign material being deposited elsewhere to prevent cause for further harassment, Alliance brutes searched supporters for ‘leaflets’ and confiscated pieces of paper from supporters. When asked under whose command this direction was carried out, we were informed by one bully ‘I am my own boss and it’s up to me’.

We need to keep in mind why this trial is taking place. The trial to date has cost the crown in our estimation in excess of £7,000; the maximum penalty should a guilty verdict be returned is £50. This trial is a political trial; it is part of an overall campaign of state harassment being directed against members and supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! which is intended to disrupt and criminalise legitimate political work. To date the Glasgow Defence Campaign have fought 18 charges, won 15 of them, had one fine, one admonishment with one still pending.

On 22 February 2013 picket, two supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! were illegally arrested and detained for speaking on a megaphone in a protest against ATOS and in defence of disability rights. The police attack took place as the campaign grew; we correctly stated then that the police attack was a calculated divide and rule operation. One supporter was within days visited by undercover police officers – using a false name - at his family home, menacing phone calls followed where a deal to make things ‘go away’ were offered. These unlawful police manoeuvres will not be tolerated quietly and are currently the subject of civil action being pursued by the Glasgow Defence Campaign.

We need to urgently build momentum for day three of the trial and call upon supporters to gather in solidarity; we need to ask in whose interests is this trial being pursued? We call upon our supporters to speak to their families and friends about this case, write to newspapers and your elected representatives, break the silence on the attacks on democratic rights; join the Glasgow Defence Campaign.

We say that if Dominic O’Hara is a criminal for speaking on a megaphone then we are all guilty, for the right to speak out against injustice is a universal right which must be protected and fought for. The Glasgow Defence Campaign is prepared to fight. Everything or nothing; all of us or none.

Miriam Kelly, Glasgow Defence Campaign 17.30 5 March 2014

Picket the Sheriff Court on day there of the megaphone trial.

Wednesday 19 March at 10.15am, Glasgow Sheriff Court, Carlton Place. 

At 11 am the trial will continue and we expect will be concluded on that day before a judge sitting alone without a jury in court 19, which is open to the public. We call on all progressive people to attend in support, those in attendance will be able to hear a summary of the case in the final submissions of both the prosecution and the defence.