Manchester #BlackLivesMatter protest: Moss Side demands justice

BlackLivesMatter protest

'The last time I saw Moss Side like this was 1981' – Tony Eriza

This was a stirring of political anger the likes of which have been eerily absent from Manchester's streets in recent years, and all the more significant that it should kick off in an area still suffering from racist police harassment, poverty and inequality, despite all the Labour council's 'regeneration' programmes. Well over a thousand marched to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement's demand for justice for Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of US police, but also expressed anger at the British state's own violence and racism. As in London and across the country, the RCG supported the protests and signed up more than 100 people to a petition connecting the issue of killer cops with Britain's racist deportations policy.

By 6pm there were hundreds of people gathered in Alexandra Park, with more locals joining as they found out about the protest. There was a palpable sense of urgency from many in the crowd with some keen to march and becoming restless with speeches. Tariq Mehmood, a veteran of the Bradford 12 and Asian Youth Movement, was rapturously well-received for a fiery political speech, connecting the racism of Britain and the US with their role as imperialist powers. Carole Duggan spoke of the uprisings sparked by the murder of her nephew by British police in August 2011 and of the continuing struggle for justice against a ruling class set up to protect its own.

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Defending the right to protest in Liverpool

Four Liverpool women charged with breach of Section 35 of the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act will face trial in February 2016. Section 35 gives police (with local authority agreement) the powers to disperse protests and protesters from a specified area for 48 hours based on criteria they can decide at the time they issue the order. Liverpool Council is one of only a few authorities to support the use of these dispersal powers.

Since their arrest at the end of April outside the occupied Bank of England building in the city centre, the four defendants have had to attend court on 12 occasions as the prosecution have constantly failed to provide any evidence for the charges - other than police statements at the most recent hearing in October.

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Liverpool: Free the Lovebank 4

Bank

 On Thursday 17 September, five Loveactivist protesters were gaoled for ten weeks for occupying the empty Bank of England building in central Liverpool in support of homeless people. Although all had pleaded guilty, there was no expectation that they would receive a custodial sentence. However, given the spate of occupations across the country highlighting homelessness, it was evident that there had been a decision to make an example of the five. Although one of the gaoled activists, Chelsea Stafford, was given a suspended sentence and released on appeal, the other four will have to serve their time. FRFI readers are urged to send cards and letters to them.

The political momentum to occupy the Bank of England was provided by a militant solidarity campaign with the Palestinian people in Liverpool during the summer of 2014 which repeatedly occupied shops and banks either selling Israeli goods or investing in the Israeli economy, and in which FRFI supporters played a leading role. The spark was provided by cuts in Liverpool council services to the homeless. On 18 April 2015, activists seized the building and held it until the last five were forcibly evicted on 12 May. The occupation provided a safe space for dozens of rough sleepers and homeless people every night until the police sealed off any access on 29 April; over 1,000 people passed through the building bringing donations of food or expressing solidarity with its anti-austerity message, while polls showed that there was majority public support for the action. Despite subsequent denials, the local Whitechapel homeless charity referred homeless people to the occupation as it had no beds in the city.

Once the building’s owners were able to secure a court order for its repossession, the police went on the attack. They erected a fence to stop the public from providing food and water to the occupiers and started to use dispersal powers against supporters under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014. These had first been used in October 2014 against pro-Palestine protesters. Around 20 people were arrested. One case has been heard: the defendant pleaded guilty and had to pay over £1,000 in court costs and fines. Remaining cases will be heard in November 2015.

With no legal defence for defying the court order, and with the pressure of significantly greater costs if they tried to mount a challenge, the five activists pleaded guilty to the charge of aggravated trespass. Court costs totalled £2,500. This is class justice, intended as a lesson to all who want to undertake a real struggle against austerity and the consequent human suffering.

Robert Claridge

For further information go to

lovebank5.noflag.org.uk/

Send donations via www.gofundme.com/d94jfvf3, and letters and cards to

John Hall A8155DN, HMP Liverpool, 68 Hornby Road, Merseyside L9 3DF

John Rice A8157DN, also at HMP Liverpool

James Allanson A8147DN, HMP Altcourse, Brookfield Dr, Liverpool L9 7LH

James C Jones (Jay) A8149DN, also at Altcourse.

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Letter received from two of the LoveBank4. They are due for release on 21 October. Readers are asked to send them cards, letters or other forms of greetings.

Dear Friends - fellow humans,

Well you said to expects lots of mail, we did not quite know what you meant, we certainly know now!!! We need you to pass this part of the letter on to as many groups as possible!

We (John Hall and John Rice) would like to thank everybody for your support and solidarity, you are making our sentences really easy to serve.

We would like to encourage people to help us to help some of the guys in here, who have nobody on the outside, by writing to them. We will be speaking to the Chaplain of Walton Prison (HMP Liverpool) and the guys to find some people and will pass on their names and numbers to you. We would suggest anyone willing to help by writing to them, gives as little personal details as possible, so maybe at first you should send the letters to us and we can blank out your address details, as we develop the idea we can work out a better system.

We would also like to thank you all for the money you are sending us and to let you know that we are only allowed £10 a week, plus any wages we earn. So far we have received over £90 each which means we have enough money to last our full sentence, so we give you the choice, you can keep sending us money and when we are released, any monies left we will be able to donate to different groups, who are feeding the homeless people or if you have any other ideas, we can work out the sharing of the remaining monies, just let us know!

We believe in using any situation to our advantage, so if anyone has any ideas of how to use our time in here to help others, please let us know and together we can use the time to share our way of life of love, peace, learning and sharing!

We would like to maybe start some sort of help for people who need support and assistance with their cases, or for support for when they first get out of the prison system. We would like to say we are proud to do time for our efforts to help others, such as the homeless and that we believe the only reason we 4 are in prison is because we upset people like Mayor Joe Anderson and his likes who made the Judge put us in here.

We are political prisoners, which we find ironic, when we are not interested in politics at all. Everything we do, we do as humans, who want to help other humans. We would also like to say on the record that we are peaceful men and anybody who says any different, in particular the media are lying.

We thank you will all our hearts for making the time in here easy to face, through your support, solidarity and love, together we are making a difference!

Solidarity, Love and Peace – John Hall & John Rice xxx

Manchester Palestine trials: Two steps forward, one step back

On 16-17 February three activists stood trial in Manchester on Public Order charges, following their arrests in a violent police attack on pro-Palestine protesters on 16 August 2014. After a seven month legal ordeal, during which they were banned from Market Street – a focus of protest in Manchester – the trial at the magistrates' court ended with one not guilty verdict, one case thrown out for lack of evidence and one activist found guilty on the verbal 'evidence' of three police officers who had clearly worked on their story. The fight for justice will continue as three more activists face trial in April. The situation is clear: building solidarity with Palestine must also mean a fight for our own rights in imperialist Britain.

As we reported at the time of the arrests (Manchester - defend the right to protest for Palestine), the police crackdown on the protests against Israel's attack on Gaza was led by Manchester Labour council. Leading councillors Pat Karney and Richard Leese labelled peaceful demonstrators as 'extremists and revolutionaries' and publicly called for the pickets to end. At least 12 people were arrested, some of them violently, with 9 people being dragged through the courts. These attempts to destroy the Palestinian people's support base in Manchester have failed. The boycott Israel actions continue to gather support in the city.

After day one of the trial, the inconsistent, unsubstantiated claims of the police witnesses seemed clear. Despite the claims of Inspector Rose and six constables that the demonstrators had created a hostile environment during the August protests, video evidence showed the police to be the aggressors. One officer even claimed that the protesters had aimed at 'invading the Arndale' shopping centre – which was totally untrue. On the day a police line had blocked protesters from getting to Marks and Spencer and after 10 minutes of chanting the march calmly headed back towards Piccadilly. Police ran to get in front of the gathering and literally picked off four activists for arrest. Comrade Louis was arrested while walking between police lines – police later said that he threatened PC Mackay – and comrades Annika and Francesco were arrested for trying to 'prevent' the other arrest.

Witness evidence helped to show that Annika and Francesco were the victims of police aggression, refuting police claims that Annika in particular had been violent – videos from the day show her screaming in pain as a heavy gang of police use pain tactics to 'restrain' her. It was clear that Francesco's thoughts were to stay close to his partner and the case against him was thrown out. Annika was initially charged with assaulting an officer – a ludicrous claim – and was eventually found not guilty of any offence.

Despite a lack of evidence to back up the police's claim of 'threatening or abusive behaviour', and with video showing a heavy buildup of police, comrade Louis was found guilty and fined over £850. The judge found the police testimony to be 'powerful'. In reality, its only power was in showing how police officers can concoct stories and have them believed by highly paid magistrates who work for the same employers. The campaign must now decide its next move and discuss the possibilities for appeal. Nevertheless we can celebrate a small victory with the police's failure to convict the three other defendants so far; comrade Ashleigh Shaw was also found not guilty of Public Order offences in January.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!/RCG has played a leading role in publicising the court cases and making sure nobody is unaccompanied to a bail hearing. Solidarity is essential to building a movement. In the 24 hours following the most recent verdict, supporters of the campaign raised over £700 of the £850 court costs!

We call on all supporters to donate to the defence campaign and give solidarity to the ongoing struggle for justice.

Donations can be made until 3 March at www.igg.me/at/paldefence

Drop the charges!

Victory to the Palestinian people!

North West Events coming up..

Every Saturday unless otherwise specified - Information/campaign stalls, Manchester City Centre and environs

For details call 07519 427 093 or e-mail: frfi.manchester@gmail.com

 

Regular actions in Liverpool, for details contact FRFI.Liverpool@gmail.com

Contact North West FRFI

075 1942 7093
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FRFI Statement on Justice for Grainger protest

Who shot and killed Anthony Grainger?