Defend the Newcastle 14!

On 25 May, 14 anti-racist protesters, including FRFI supporters, were arrested while leafleting for a counter-demonstration against the English Defence League (EDL) organised by Newcastle Unites. a coalition of Labour Party members, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Newcastle TUC. Newcastle Unites had told FRFI supporters we would be prevented from attending the demonstration because of our opposition to the Labour Party, and then worked hand-in-glove with the police to ensure this happened. Those arrested had their houses raided, and their computers and mobile phones seized. Since then the Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign (N14DC) has been active in mobilising support for the comrades, going from door to door with petitions, hosting speak-outs, and on 20 July, marching to the city’s central police station.

On 11 June, the North East branch of the RCG received an email from Newcastle TUC secretary James Simpkin, banning FRFI/RCG and Tyneside Community Action Against Racism (TCAR), a campaign supported by FRFI, from the TUC Centre Against Unemployment. Bourgeois justice allows the accused to know the charges in advance and to present a defence, and even to appeal. Newcastle TUC does not believe in such formalities: FRFI did not know that it was to be tried, let alone have a chance to appeal against the decision. Such is the reactionary character of the trade union bureaucracy!

On 17 July, FRFI/RCG supporters and two Socialist Party (SP) members attended a branch meeting of Unite Newcastle Community branch, the union branch for the unemployed, to put a motion committing the branch to challenge the ban. When the vote was taken, the motion fell as there were nine for and nine against. Despite a previous commitment to support the motion, both SP members abstained. They said later that they did not think their vote would make a difference: in fact it was their cowardice that allowed the reactionaries to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Despite this, the N14DC has made progress. On 20 July, the campaign held a march to Newcastle’s central police station and handed in petitions with over 1,000 signatures calling for no charges to be brought. Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird, former Labour Solicitor General has refused to support the campaign, saying it was an operational matter.

This continuous street work and protest, is clearly upsetting Labour councillors. On a door-knock on 11 July, an FRFI supporter was approached by a man in a car, who refused to sign the petition. After asking several probing questions about the campaign’s membership and the 14 arrested, he chose to reveal his identity, stating, ‘I am Councillor Habib Rahman and, yes, I am in the Labour Party!’ Rahman works closely with Councillor Dipu Ahad, the figurehead of Newcastle Unites. That he chooses to spend his time stalking activists as they engage in street-work shows that the Labour Party is unhappy about our campaign.

As we go to press, the campaign is organising an all-day picket of Etal Lane police station on 7 August, when the 14 have to answer police bail and may learn whether they are to be charged. No to political policing!

James Bell

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013


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