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Special Action Report: Newcastle - September

Police Harassment and Rally for Democratic Rights in Newcastle

On Saturday 1st September Newcastle activists gathered at Grey's Monument for a Rally for Democratic Rights. In recent months there has been increasing police harassment of political activity on the streets of Newcastle, under cover of council regulations on collecting money. Despite clear exemptions under sections two and seventeen of the regulations, for collections taken at a street meeting, police have regularly demanded names, addresses and dates of birth of activists under threat of arrest, have issued formal warnings to two members of Tyneside Stop the War, and on two occasions have arrested supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Group and seized money and collecting tins, which have still not been returned. Whilst the police demand that political groups should obtain permits from the council, the council has stated in writing that permits will not be granted to collections for political purposes. There is a long tradition of political activity at Grey's Monument, but this is now under threat. One side of the monument has been privatised and fenced off in the last year as a seating area for a cafe, and now the police are trying to restrict political activity in the remaining area. Attempting to cut off funds necessary for effective campaign work is censorship by the back door, an attempt to drive political activity off the streets of Newcastle.

The rally was a positive show of unity against these attacks on our basic democratic rights, and was supported by large numbers of the public, including many working class people who know from their own experience the role of the police in keeping people down. Stalls were held by members and supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Group and its newspaper Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, Tyneside Stop the War, Tyneside East Timor Solidarity Campaign, Tyneside Community Action for Refugees and other activists, all collecting money openly. Support was also expressed by local members of the CPGB-ML and Socialist Party. The police stayed well away from the event, not even sending a van to monitor the square as they do on many Saturdays.

On Monday 3rd September an FRFI comrade attended bail following his arrest on 28th July for 'obstructing a police officer', as he attempted to explain the legal advice he had received, that it was unlawful for the police to seize donations. He was released from bail without charge, and told that he would receive a summons in the post. Since the first arrest for collecting money in January no summons has ever been issued. Clearly the police know as well as we do that they would get nowhere in court, but are using the regulations on collecting as an excuse to harass and intimidate activists on a regular basis.

Our defence of democratic rights in Newcastle will not stop.

Defend the Democratic Right to Collect!
Stop Police Harassment!

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