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 glasgowdefence@gmail.com

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.

video


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. 

Friday, 28 February 2014

Speaking against ATOS in defence of the sick and disabled is not a crime. Picket Glasgow Sheriff Court 4 March

Glasgow Defence Campaign
FIGHTING FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
 glasgowdefencecampaign.blogspot.co.uk
Dear

Fighting political policing. Defending the right to protest.

We are writing to you today to call for your support and solidarity with a student protester in Glasgow facing criminal proceedings for using a megaphone. We do not believe it is in the public interest to criminalise young people who participate in peaceful protest against the cuts in social welfare. We are demanding that the Lord Advocate intervenes and drops the outstanding charge in the interests of justice.

On 22 February 2013, during a peaceful anti-cuts protest in Glasgow city centre Dominic O’Hara was arrested for using a megaphone under Section 54 of the Civic Government of Scotland Act (1982). Daniel McGarrel was arrested for allegedly attempting to free a person in custody. At court, 10 months after the arrests, the Procurator Fiscal conceded that the original arrests were unlawful and all charges of resisting arrest, police obstruction and attempts to liberate a prisoner from custody were dropped before the trial. However, in a quite incredible decision, the Crown Office decided to pursue prosecution of Dominic for use of a megaphone under the 1982 Act. Maximum penalty for this is a £50 fine, yet to date the case has, we estimate, cost £7,000.

This ‘megaphone’ case is a sign of the times we are living in, and is only one in a long line of police attacks on peaceful protestors over the last three years. The Glasgow Defence Campaign (GDC) was established to oppose this political policing. Our work aims to offer practical, emotional and political support to all those being criminalised for defending our democratic rights in the struggle against the cuts in Glasgow and across the UK.  

Following the collapse of the original charges Dominic told the GDC: ‘The key question here is freedom of speech for everyone who is trying to organise against the cuts and welfare reform. It’s a fight we can’t lose.’ Daniel added: ‘That the Crown didn’t abandon the megaphone case shows that this is clearly political. The dropping of the charges against myself shows the importance of fighting political charges with a political defence.  I’d like to thank the GDC and supporters who have stood with us throughout the last twelve months.’

We are writing to you today to call for your support and solidarity with Dominic and all those across the country who are facing such criminalisation and demand that the Lord Advocate intervenes and drops the outstanding charge in the interests of justice. . It is vital that all progressive thinkers unite to stop this attack on the right protest.  You can support GDC by:

·         Joining us on Tuesday 4 March, 10.15am  at the Court Picket,  Glasgow Sheriff Court. 1 Carlton Place. Trial begins 11am in court 19 (open to the public).

·         Demand the charge be dropped! Send us a statement of support and solidarity and publish it on your blog or website. Read the statement of solidarity from the renowned writer and working class activist James Kelman on our website. We commend Kelman's consistent and principled stand on this question and urge others to follow his lead.

·         Become a member of GDC. You can support the vital work of GDC by becoming a member of the organisation or sending us a donation (details enclosed).

·         Read further background on this and many others cases of political policing in Glasgow and across the UK. See http://glasgowdefencecampaign.blogspot.co.uk

Thank you for your time and for considering joining us in defence of our right to protest. 

Sincerely

GDC       Box YI-45, 48 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1BO         glasgowdefence@ gmail.com

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Standing shoulder to shoulder against the criminalisation of football fans

In 2012 ‘The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act’ was passed. Since then Strathclyde Police and now Police Scotland have been using their new power to build cases against football fans. Under the new legislation any action within a football stadium that may cause offence to someone may be treated as a criminal act. Although this sounds absurd, bordering on laughable, this is a very serious issue illustrated by the house raids, arrests and prosecution of Celtic fans who now face the possibility of jail time if found guilty. This should concern any citizens in Scotland who value their right to freedom of speech and right to protest. These rights are something that the working classes have had to struggle for, over hundreds of years, and we should vigorously resist this attempt to erode them.

The Celtic fans facing trial are accused of singing of a song called ‘The Roll of Honour’ which was written by the band The Irish brigade in 1982.  The band have opposed any attempts to slander the song as racist or offensive stating;

‘the roll of honour was written at a time of great social and political upheaval in the North of Ireland. It was to commemorate the sacrifice of ten young men who died in the Hunger Strike of 1981. The song was a reflection of the thoughts, feelings and beliefs, held by many in Ireland and throughout the world who felt that these deaths could have been avoided if the British Government at that time had not taken such a harsh and unbending attitude towards the prison crisis. The line ‘England, you’re a Monster’ is figurative language and is a reference to this belief. The word ‘Monster’ is defined as someone ‘unnaturally cruel’ – the Government at that time. It is not or was not, at any time, to be construed as referring to the English Nation or the people of England, it is not a racist remark’. 

In response to the legislation and prosecutions a group called Fans Against Criminalisation has been formed by Celtic supporters to campaign against the criminalisation of football fans. FAC recently held a well organised leafleting session in the area surrounding Celtic park before the match on Saturday 8 February in order to publicise the re-release of ‘The Roll of Honour’ song on iTunes in protest against the prosecutions. On 16 February the single reached number 33 in the official UK top forty singles chart showing that there is widespread opposition to this attempt to criminalise the content of the song and to prosecute Celtic supporters for singing it.


‘The Roll of Honour’ song is neither racist nor is it sectarian and in fact carries many similarities to the National anthem of Scotland (Flower of Scotland) in its opposition to national oppression and foreign occupation. Up to this point no one has been charged for singing ‘The Flower of Scotland’ nor do we expect them to be. This once again highlights that anti-Irish racism is alive and well in Scottish society; on the street and in the establishment. If you sing a song about Scottish nationalism it’s okay you’re only being patriotic but dare mention Ireland’s politics or nationalism and you’re a criminal. ‘The Roll of Honour is an Irish political song. Under this legislation a potential sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment faces those who sing it in football stadiums.

The Glasgow Defence Campaign calls on everyone to stand shoulder to shoulder against this injustice and we call for organisation and mobilisation against this sectarian legislation. We send our support both to those facing prosecution and to those who are organising in defence of them.

Unity is our key to victory!
All power to the people!


Danny McGarrell

Friday, 31 January 2014

Anniversary Picket of 'Glasgow Against Atos 2' Trial To Go Ahead. Stand with us

The adjournment of Tuesday’s ‘megaphone’ trial against one of the ‘Glasgow Against Atos 2’ means the case will have gone on for over a year before its concluded. It has been rescheduled for 4 March. Against the cold winds blowing round Glasgow sheriff court supporters once again mobilised to demand the political charge of ‘using a megaphone’ was dropped. Spokesperson for the Glasgow Defence Campaign Miriam Kelly commented;


‘An undeclared war on the poor is underway. We see this in job centre sanctions and with Atos rulings declaring sick and disabled people fit for work. We also see it in courts with working class people evicted from their homes because they can’t afford rent payments. This ‘megaphone’ case is also a sign of the times were living in. History tells us that attacks on the poor are accompanied by an attack on the right of free speech and other basic democratic rights which allow the poor and oppressed to organise to defend themselves. We will take the lessons of the past and continue our work to support those people being criminalised for fighting the cuts. The best defence we can have is our unity against what is happening.’

Join us for an anniversary picket of Glasgow Sheriff Court. Bring pots, pans, whistles, banners and voices to let the police and courts know they won’t silence us.

Court Picket: Fight The Cuts! Defend Free Speech! Refuse to be silent! 
Tuesday 4 March, 10.15am
Glasgow Sheriff Court
1 Carlton Place
Trial begins 11am in court 19 (open to the public)

And a protest song penned by one of the ‘Glasgow Against Atos 2’ 
‘We’ve No Even Started! Fight The Cuts! Defend Free Speech!’ 
https://soundcloud.com/the-wee-man-1/weve-no-even-started-fight-the

Monday, 27 January 2014

Message of solidarity from James Kelman

The Glasgow Defence Campaign has received the following statement of solidarity from the renowned writer and working class activist James Kelman, on the eve of tomorrow's trial of free speech in Glasgow. We salute Kelman's consistent and principled stand on this question and urge others to follow his lead.

"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)




Saturday, 25 January 2014

Megaphone Trial Continues. Picket Glasgow Sheriff Court 28 January!

Day two of the trial against the Glasgow Against ATOS 2 continues this Tuesday 28 January. The two were arrested for using a megaphone on a protest against cuts to sickness and disability benefit on 22 February 2013. Framed up charges against the two were dropped on 1 October after a Sheriff court ruled that their arrest and detention had been unlawful (compensation is now being sought). However the charge of using a megaphone was upheld.

One of the supporters arrested has penned this song to tell the story of their arrest and trial. The song opposes the criminalisation of protest against the cuts showing the hypocrisy of the real criminals robbing the poor and defending the bankers. We hope you enjoy it.

‘We`ve no even started! Fight The Cuts! Defend Free Speech!’

For information on the case so far see
http://glasgowdefencecampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/megaphone-trial-begins-in-glasgow.html

Join the Glasgow Defence Campaign to picket the Sheriff Court!
Tuesday 28 January, 10.15am front of the court
Trial in court 19 (Open to the public)

1 Carlton Place
G5 9DA

FIGHT THE CUTS!
REFUSE TO BE SILENT!
DON'T PANIC - ORGANISE!

To join the Glasgow Defence Campaign donate a £5 pledge or standing order to the credit of
Glasgow Defence Campaign
Sort Code: 08-92-99
Account No: 65685253

Post your contact details to us at the address below or email glasgowdefence@gmail.com

GDC
PO Box YI-45,
2nd Floor, 48 West George Street,
Glasgow G2 1BP

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Megaphone trial begins in Glasgow

Militant protest held outside Glasgow Sheriff Court, Monday 6 January 2014

The trial against Dominic O’Hara a supporter of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and the Glasgow Defence Campaign began yesterday at Glasgow Sheriff Court as protesters staged a militant protest outside the court. On 22 February 2013 Dominic was unlawfully arrested and detained for speaking on a megaphone alongside another Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporter Daniel McGarrell on a protest against cuts to disability benefits being carried out by the multinational ATOS, on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions. As we noted at the time, the state were setting out to smash the growing resistance against the cuts and in particular divide and derail the campaign against ATOS.

At a previous court hearing on 1 October 2013 the case in respect of three charges against the ATOS 2 collapsed, in an important victory for the Glasgow Defence Campaign, as the crown was forced to concede that their original arrest and detention was unlawful as they had no powers of arrest under the legislation s.54 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 at they had originally claimed. The flagrant abuse of police powers is currently subject to legal action being pursued by the Glasgow Defence Campaign.

Yesterdays trial heard from two prosecution witnesses surrounding the events of the day. Speaking outside of the court, convenor of the Glasgow Defence Campaign, Paul McKenna stated that ‘this trial is a political trial which is intended to restrict and criminalise any effective protest against the cuts. The only criminality which took place that day on a wholly orderly and peaceful protest was the police snatch on our two comrades. We are confident that they will be vindicated’.

The trial was adjourned and will resume on Tuesday 28 January at 10am in court number 19 at Glasgow Sheriff Court, before a single judge sitting alone without a jury.

The Glasgow Defence Campaign will again be mobilising for a court protest and reminds supporters of this Sunday’s important meeting on the fight for democratic rights. 

Policing the crisis
When the law makers are the law breakers there is no law

Sunday 12 January 2-4pm

Woodside Halls, Glenfarg Street, near St Georges x underground, Glasgow. 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Policing the crisis

When the law makers are the law breakers there is no law

Sunday 12 January 2-4pm

Woodside Halls, Glenfarg Street, near St Georges x underground

A special meeting organised by the Glasgow Defence Campaign to build momentum in the fight to defend democratic rights in Glasgow against police repression.  In a week which will start with the yet another political trial in Glasgow as the state attempts to criminalise the use of a megaphone we are having this meeting offering our considered response.

Paul McKenna, chairperson of the Glasgow Defence Campaign, will be discussing the role of the state within crisis politics and how historically the police owe their development to crisis where they have moved beyond the limits of the rule of law. Paul will be discussing how political charges must be fought with a political as well as a legal defence with specific reference to the current situation facing the anti cuts movement and the attacks on our legal rights in Scotland.

Nicki Jameson, is editor of the Prisoners Fightback page in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and author of the book, Strangeways 1990: a serious disturbance. Nicki will be discussing how political policing was used against the four year long Non Stop Picket outside South Africa House in London for the release of Nelson Mandela and all South African political prisoners. Crucially Nicki will be discussing how police repression was successfully countered drawing out the lessons for today’s political struggles.

Entry by donation



Thursday, 2 January 2014

Criminal Trial in Glasgow ‘for using a loudspeaker’ – The Case Continues

The Glasgow Defence Campaign enters the New Year with determination and optimism that the fight against the cuts, racism and political policing and courts can and will grow. 

Since our establishment three years ago we have supported progressive people victim to the assault on democratic rights by Strathclyde Police (now Police Scotland). We have resisted on-going attempts to intimidate, isolate and infiltrate progressive individuals and organisations such as Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! with street and court demonstrations while updating our police harassment log to record the details of these offences.

On Monday 6 January 2014 one of our supporters Dominic O’Hara faces a Sheriff Court trial for using a loudspeaker in Glasgow City Centre. The last appearance of the ‘Glasgow Against Atos 2’ in October found that police had unlawfully arrested and detained both Dominic and Daniel McGarrell on 22 February 2013 during a peaceful static protest against the benefit cutting multinational Atos (working on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions). Despite this ruling against police violence and the dropping of stitched up charges of ‘resisting arrest’ and ‘attempting to liberate a prisoner’ the judge chose to uphold a political charge of ‘illegally’ using a loudspeaker. The campaign is mobilising for a picket of the Sheriff court to defend free speech and the right to protest (details below). We hope to see you + friends and family there if you can be.

In the run up to the Commonwealth Games we expect to see a clamp down on democratic rights in Glasgow City Centre in an attempt to cover up the stench of cuts and corruption coming from the ruling elites in this city. The campaign will work to defend those who wish to expose the hypocrisy of these institutions and the ‘respectable face’ they try to present to the world.

The point we have made from the start that effective resistance to the ruling class can only be built and maintained with an effective political defence campaign to support victims of state repression still stands. We look forward to and hope others will join us in this fight for 2014!

Don’t panic, organise!


Free Speech Court Picket
Defend Free Speech in Glasgow City Centre! Unite Against the Cuts!
Monday 6 January, from 9.15am
Front of Glasgow Sheriff Court,
Carlton Place

For more details on the case see