Monday, 7 November 2011

The vengeance of the state: Glasgow activist imprisoned in London

The Glasgow Defence Campaign would like to send its solidarity to Glasgow activist Omar Ibrahim, who was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in HMP Wandsworth on Friday 4 November for his role in the massive demonstrations in London on 26 March. This is the true vengeance of the British state, determined to crush all those who dare dissent from the politics of austerity and obscene inequality. We salute Omar's political defence at his trial and his public statements calling for the struggle to continue. Any movement against the onslaught of the capitalist class will only be as strong as its defence of those criminalised and imprisoned in the course of the struggle.  We reproduce below a piece written by Omar which appeared on The Guardian website on Sunday. The GDC urges all its supporters to send letters and cards to the following address:

Omar Ibrahim
HMP Wandsworth
Heathfield Road

Is locking people up the way we want to deal with dissent?

Having just been imprisoned for 18 months after being arrested at the TUC march, I worry about the fate of future protesters

Omar Ibrahim

By the time you read this, I'll be in jail. I have hurt no one, offended no one, threatened nobody, and yet I am in prison for 18 months.

I was charged – as so many protesters in recent months have been – with violent disorder, a serious offence that carries with it a likely prison sentence in English courts. My crime? Throwing a joke-shop smoke bomb that I found on the pavement in the direction of Top Shop during the TUC protest on 26 March. Silly? Yes. Serious? No, not least because my throwing shoulder has been dislocated more than 40 times as a result of epilepsy.

Nevertheless, despite my personal circumstances, I was convicted 11-1 of violent disorder by an all-white jury at Kingston crown court. The judge who heard my case, Nicholas Price QC, will also preside over many of the forthcoming trials of protesters in the forthcoming months.

We should all be worried: my heavy sentence, the first of protesters from recent marches to plead not guilty, is indicative of the way in which the English police, courts and government are heavily criminalising those who step out of line, however proximate that line has become.

A similar charge in Scotland, where I'm from, would usually carry with it community service or a fine. The English judiciary are clearly pursuing a highly specific, heavily politicised, notion of justice when it comes to protest.

The crown wishes my case to be seen as one of a mob of hooligans who broke off from the TUC demonstration against the cuts to charge around London, causing chaos and destruction.
I saw instead a carnival of protest, full of colour, noise and rebellion which wished to highlight those that are at fault in this economic crisis.

I went on the 26 March protest to challenge men like Philip Green. When I look at my case in context I see a system where the relations between the state and the individual have been twisted to such an extent that they have now passed breaking point.

Sending people to prison avoids any attempt at explanation for why people are angry with the current government, and solves nothing for those who are sent to jail. Judge Price dismissed the fact that I had recently been offered the chance to start a new job as irrelevant to my case – but if employment is hard to come by now, just imagine how much harder it will be once we get out for the hundreds of us – students, protesters, rioters – charged with serious public order offences.

One wonders if Judge Price has any idea how difficult it is to secure a firm contract of employment in this economic climate. Banks get bailouts, corporations avoid tax and parliamentarians fiddle expenses, while investment bankers pray for the recession to cut deeper for long-term rewards. For everyone else, there's unemployment, anxiety, prison.

My main concerns while I am in prison will be my parents, my elder brother and sisters, who will spend the time I am away sick with worry. I will worry too about my nephews and nieces. I am anxious about my inability to comfort my family beyond a phone call or prison visit, but I am also worried about what my sentence means for future protesters and anyone else who has the misfortune to come up against the police and the courts.

Following the student protests, the massive trade union marches, the alleged pre-arrests before the royal wedding and this summer's civil unrest, we are seeing a rapid and massive expansion of the category of those people the state deems fit to incarcerate. I am being sent to jail on the most spurious of charges, just as many others are too. I am not asking you to feel sorry for me – I am asking you to think seriously about the kind of government and legal system that believes the only way to deal with dissent is to put it behind bars.

Omar Ibrahim has not been paid for this article.

·                                 © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. A link to the Troops Out site with grim details of the Irish victims- including children!- of murderous rubber/plastic bullets. Please circulate widely, the movement needs to know about this as the Met tools up.
    Troops Out Movement - Plastic Bullets