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.