Tag Archives: Alfie Meadows

Alfie Meadows and Zak King Found Not Guilty!

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Alfie Meadows and Zak King found not guilty – two years, three months, and three trials later

Alfie Meadows

After years of uncertainty and two mistrials, Alfie Meadows and Zak King have been found unanimously not guilty of violent disorder on a demonstration against tuition fees and cuts to education of December 9, 2010. Alfie was beaten so badly by police on that day he needed three hours of emergency surgery after he developed bleeding on the brain.

The following is a press statement from Defend the Right to Protest, who have tirelessly supported Zak, Alfie and other victims of police violence and harassment.

Today a jury has delivered a unanimous verdict acquitting Alfie Meadows and Zak King of violent disorder. Alfie and Zak were amongst thousands of students who took to the streets against the tripling of university fees, cuts to higher education and education maintenance allowance on 9 December 2010.

Zak and Alfie have had to wait more than two years and go through the ordeal of three trials to clear their names. Meanwhile the trial has taken a heavy toll on both Alfie and Zak’s families, with Zak having had to watch his younger brother being dragged through the courts on the same false charge.

The trial has also exposed the same pattern of criminalisation and victimisation by the police and CPS, which we also saw played out in the cases of the Hillsborough tragedy and the miners’ strike at Orgreave.

Alfie suffered a baton blow to the head at the same protest, which required life-saving brain surgery. While the police have so far escaped any form of accountability for their actions, Alfie was charged with violent disorder and has had to fight to clear his name before finally beginning the road to justice.

Of the 15 protesters who pleaded not guilty to charges of violent disorder relating to the 9 December 2010 demo, so far 14 have been found not guilty. In a time of unprecedented cuts to public funding, it is atrocious that the police and the CPS have wasted resources in the pursuit of criminalising protesters.

The trial has allowed us to scrutinise what happened on the day of the protest. The peaceful and kettled protesters were charged at with horses and subjected to indiscriminate baton use. When Alfie’s barrister Carol Hawley challenged officer Wood, a senior officer in charge of the ground operation on the day, on whether their batons had been used as a last resort, his reply was that the use of a machine gun against protesters would have been the last resort. It transpired that police also considered the use of rubber bullets against the student protesters.

The treatment of Alfie and other student protesters stands in stark contrast to the failure to hold any officers to account for violent police tactics or injuries sustained by protesters. In the wake of this verdict we are reminded that we must fight together to defend our right to protest and for justice for all victims of police violence.

“The struggle for justice for my son has finally begun. The whole family has been through two years of total agony. We have been silenced on what happened to our son. We can now move on to the really important thing, which is to get justice for Alfie” (Susan Matthews, Alfie’s mother).

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“All of us must be Bryan Simpsons” (Defend the Right to Protest, UK)

defendtherighttoprotest.org

Bryan Simpson – a university student facing charges for occupying Millbank against education cuts

SHOW SUPPPORT FOR PROTESTERS AT THEIR HEARINGS
City of Westminster Magistrates Court, 70 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2

THURS 9th JUNE, 9AM
Hearings of students including Alfie Meadows

FRIDAY 10th JUNE 10AM
Hearings of students including Bryan Simpson
(www.defendbryansimpson.org)

MONDAY 4 July, 9AM
Hearing of Fortnum & Masons occupiers
(www.fortnum145.org)

LEAFLET TO DOWNLOAD

The right to protest is under serious threat in Britain today.

The police are increasingly resorting to extreme tactics including kettling, mounted horse charges and battering protesters with extreme force.

The results have been horrific. For Alfie Meadows, a student on the anti-fees protests last year, this led to severe wounds to his head and emergency brain surgery to save his life. For Ian Tomlinson, an encounter with police on a demonstration proved to be fatal.

Peaceful activists have been targeted for arrest and arbitrary detention. 145 members of UK Uncut were arrested and charged for a sit-in at Fortnum and Mason during the mass TUC anti-cuts protest on 26 March. The extent of damage caused by them appears to have been one smashed chocolate rabbit. For this they have been charged with ‘aggravated trespass’ for which they could be sent to jail.

On the day of royal wedding, protesters and others celebrating an alternative party in Soho were arrested and detained on suspicion that they might be about to commit a ‘breach of the peace’. Here we are in an Orwellian world of ‘pre-crime’, arrested for something that you may do in the future.

We stand with all those who have been targeted by the police in recent months and those who are now facing jail terms simply for exercising their right to protest. The attack on Alfie Meadows, the Fortnum and Mason 145 and all the rest, is an attack on all of us and our democratic rights.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
Encourage people to sign up to the Defend the Right to Protest petition and the petitions for Alfie Meadows and Bryan Simpson.

Build support for the campaign. Invite a Defend the Right to Protest speaker to your trade union or student union, campaign group or organisation. Pass a motion to affiliate to the campaign.

Contact us with ideas for future actions, or to let us know about any support you can give whether its web and press skills or just hours to dedicate to the campaign.

If you have been arrested or witnessed arrests or violent behaviour by the police please get in touch confidentially.

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Editor’s Note. Thanks to the infinitely valuable Infinite Thought for the heads-up.

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Crushing the Right to Protest (Alfie Meadows Charged with “Violent Disorder”)

The UK seems to have decided to join the Russian Federation in the race to the (police-state) bottom…

Take a deep breath, and don’t let it out until you’ve finished this sentence: the Metropolitan Police are charging Alfie Meadows with ‘violent disorder’. Now you can collect your jaw from the floor.

Alfie Meadows is the student who was beaten so badly by police that he had to undergo serious brain surgery. He was also, reportedly, denied an ambulance by police for a considerable period of time. When he finally boarded an ambulance, police attempted to prevent the ambulance from delivering him to Charing Cross hospital on the grounds that the hospital was reserved for the treatment of injured rozzers, not their victims. This happened on the afternoon of 9th December, Day X 3, the day of the parliamentary vote on tuition fees when tens of thousands protested in Westminster and across the country. It was on that evening, you may recall, that police engaged in a particularly nasty, punitive ‘kettle’ of protesters on Westminster Bridge. Alfie Meadows was beaten across the skull by a policeman with a baton, but is being charged for an offence that carries a maximum sentence of five years.

Eleven people have been charged with various offenses under the Public Order Act by the ‘Operation Malone’ unit of the Metropolitan Police. The unit in question was set up with 80 officers solely to investigate the student protests, and as such represents a massive outlay just to arrest people who are either innocent of any crime, or at most guilty of very minor ones. The inclusion of Alfie Meadows on the charge sheet is clearly politicised, bearing in mind the IPCC’s ongoing investigation into the case. One also has to take into account the recent High Court decision that the kettling of G20 protesters was illegal, which could and should result in thousands suing the police. But it’s also typical of the police’s way of handling cases where they may be vulnerable. You might recall the example of Jake Smith, who was arrested after the Gaza protests in 2009. The case collapsed when it was disclosed that the footage showed, not Jake Smith engaging in ‘violent disorder’, but rather the police engaging in a violent attack on Jake Smith.

Of course, everything that is done by the state with reference to the student protests has a wider social mission, which is to preemptively criminalise the coming social struggles and validate the police’s pre-meditated violence. Take the case of Edward Woolard, the 18 year old who dropped a fire extinguisher from the roof of Tory HQ. He was disgracefully given a sentence of 32 months. This was longer than the sentence handed out to some rapists, though no one was harmed. The judge’s homily explained that the court was “sending out a very clear message to anyone minded to behave in this way that an offence of this seriousness will not be tolerated”. Of course, sending out ‘messages’, or rather heavily moralised threats, is what the criminal justice system does by nature. And we get the message alright.

Yes, they beat someone’s skull in. Yes, this was part of a series of violent tactics deployed by police, which included assaults on young boys, and teenaged girls. Yes, if the protests had continued, and the police had continued with their tactics, they probably would have killed someone just as they killed Ian Tomlinson. We’ll be lucky if, in the next few years, they don’t kill another protester. And their very clear message is that whatever happens, just as they did with Jean Charles de Menezes and the Koyair brothers, they will always find a way to blame the victim, exonerate or protect the guilty, and continue as before.

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Reaction to the charges brought against Alfie and the others yesterday has been, in the main and entirely reasonably, a combination of bewilderment and anger. The only places I can see where people haven’t responding in this way have been on an anonymous police blog and a similarly anonymous police forum, where posters are desperately trying to cling on to ‘rumours’ that Alfie was hit by a ‘concrete block’ and not by a police truncheon (rumours generated by those sites in the first place). It’s pathetic, but predictable and suitably cowardly that active (though nameless) members of the police force would be so desperate that they would resort to such weaselly and baseless insinuations. Similarly the idea that there’s something ‘suspicious’ about Alfie’s ‘silence’ in the past few months: well, a combination of recovering from major brain surgery, a major IPCC investigation and legal advice might have something to do with it -but hey, unless the spectacle gets fed constantly I guess people start to forget that there’s life beyond the internet and TV…and seriously, ACAB, fuck the CO19 with their shoot to kill policy for the royal wedding, fuck banning people from the city they live in and fuck the version of a fearful world that cops inhabit and try daily harder to bring into existence for everyone else.

The charges brought against Alfie and the others are purely politically motivated in every respect, from the timing, to the charges themselves, to the specific people they picked on. Anyone who still believes (or ever believed) that the police are in anyway related to justice has got to wake up and quickly: similarly, how long can it go on that the IPCC never, ever finds against the police in any serious way? Something’s got to give and hopefully before we see yet more unchecked police arrogance and unpunished brutality towards those exercising their desire to protest freely.

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In what can only be described as a colossally misjudged act of PR, the Metropolitan police have decided to charge several of the student protesters arrested in the wake of last year’s demonstrations with violent disorder, affray and criminal damage. They include Alfie Meadows, the student who had to have brain surgery after he was allegedly hit with a truncheon.

These are serious charges which carry potentially heavy jail sentences. Their timing does not seem to be coincidental. The hearing dates for those arrested had been set for late May and June; they have now been moved forward. But to what end? This weekend will see not only the royal wedding, of course, but also 1 May protests stretched across a four-day holiday (for some, anyway).

By charging these allegedly dangerous individuals and banning them from Westminster and the City for the next week, the Met can reassure the public that they are pre-emptively protecting them from a violent social menace – despite the fact that none of the protesters have yet been found guilty of anything.

But apart from the crudeness of such tactics, does this kind of political policing achieve anything more than public disgust at such underhandedness? The police seem to be operating under the misapprehension that the recent protests have been led by identifiable leaders who can then be picked out, thus leaving crowds bereft of direction. What the protests at Millbank, Whitehall and elsewhere demonstrated, however, was that this assumption is increasingly wrong. A mass movement doesn’t need to rely on charismatic figureheads for strength.

Protesters at recent demos know very well what the coalition is doing to students and workers alike, and that so many of them are prepared to stand up to the government and those paid to violently enforce their policies is clearly causing consternation, and more repressive responses, among the powers that be.

Alleging protester violence rather than questioning their own dangerous tactics, such as kettling, the police can try to put potential protesters off; they can try to make those with families afraid to march with their children (though the huge TUC march last month provided plenty of evidence that this tactic isn’t working); and they can intimidate those who may never have protested before.

At the same time the police (some of whom work for “counter-terrorism”) are creating large groups of criminalised youth, largely young men between 15 and 25, some of whom are students trying to save their EMA and their chance to afford university in a few years’ time. Fingerprints are taken, names and faces noted, and photos of those “wanted” are splashed all over the media, destroying anonymity and carrying the implicit message that if you protest, for any reason, we can and will destroy your future.

Many of those arrested for the first time are unaware of their legal rights, coerced into accepting cautions and distressed at the thought of bringing disrepute to their families, schools and colleges. At the same time the expense to taxpayers created by heavyhanded policing and high-profile arrests is immense.

But there are ways of fighting back. One student arrested in a dawn raid after the 24 November protest, Bryan Simpson, has set up a campaign which is holding a rally in Glasgow on 29 April.

A new campaign group, Defend the Right to Protest, has been launched with the support of John McDonnell MP, Naomi Klein, Tony Benn and others. There are many in Britain who may not ever want to attend a protest, but they’d be certain they’d want to live in a country in which people could protest. This pre-emptive criminalisation of protesters and the propagandistic tactics of intimidating future protesters is a worrying sign of things to come.

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London’s Finest

Mob must be punished, says Cameron

David Cameron today demanded that tuition fee thugs face the “full force of the law” amid calls for an independent inquiry into the mob attack on the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

But the Prime Minister defended Scotland Yard’s handling of the situation, insisting there was no excuse for the “appalling” violence and vandalism.

London police drag disabled journalist Jody McIntyre from his wheelchair (via Lenin’s Tomb):

Peter Hallward, “A new strategy is needed for a brutal new era”

Shortly after Thursday’s vote, a policeman hit one of my current MA students on the head with his truncheon. He said it felt like he was struck by a solid metal bar. After being bandaged by other students and released from the kettle on account of his obvious injuries, police medics took a quick look at him, and checked that his eyes were still responding to light. According to my student, they recommended that he make his own way to his local hospital in North London, where he received stitches.

At least a dozen of the students I work with didn’t escape the kettle so quickly, and were among the thousand or so people who were eventually forced back on to Westminster Bridge shortly after 9pm, without water or toilets, without information or explanation, in the freezing cold and wind, long after the media had gone home. They were then crowded together for a couple of hours between solid lines of baton-wielding riot police. Many students say they were beaten with truncheons as they held their open hands high in the air, in the hope of calming their attackers.

“I was standing at the front of the group with nowhere to go,” Johann Hoiby, a Middlesex philosophy student, told me. “My hands were open and visible, when a riot police officer, without provocation, hit me in the face with his shield, screaming ‘get back’ when I clearly couldn’t move. The most terrifying thing was the fact that everyone was screaming that people were getting crushed, yet the police kept pushing us backwards when we had nowhere to go.”

Around the same time, one of Johann’s classmates, Zain Ahsan, was “hit in the abdominal area with a baton; I shouted back at the officer that my hands were in the air and I was being pushed by the people behind me.”

My Kingston students say they saw people having panic attacks, people seized up with asthma, people who fell under the feet of the crowd.

“The fact that there were no deaths on that bridge”, one says, “is a true miracle.”

Some students claim that they were then kicked by police as they were slowly released, single file, through a narrow police corridor. Everyone was forcibly photographed, and many of the people detained on the bridge were then taken away for questioning.

The story of one Middlesex undergraduate who used to sit in on my MA classes, Alfie Meadows, is already notorious. He received a full-on blow to the side of his skull. My partner and I found him wandering in Parliament Square a little after 6pm, pale and distraught, looking for a way to go home. He had a large lump on the right side of his head. He said he’d been hit by the police and didn’t feel well. We took one look at him and walked him towards the nearest barricaded exit as quickly as possible. It took a few minutes to reach and then convince the taciturn wall of police blocking Great George Street to let him through their shields, but they refused to let me, my partner or anyone else accompany him in search of medical help. We assumed that he would receive immediate and appropriate treatment on the other side of the police wall as a matter of course, but in fact he was left to wander off on his own, towards Victoria.

As it turns out, Alfie’s subsequent survival depended on three chance events. If his mother (a lecturer at Roehampton, who was also “contained” in Parliament Square) hadn’t received his phone call and caught up with him shortly afterwards, the odds are that he’d have passed out on the street. If they hadn’t then stumbled upon an ambulance waiting nearby, his diagnosis could have been fatally delayed. And if the driver of this ambulance hadn’t overruled an initial refusal of the A&E department of the Chelsea and Westminster hospital to look at Alfie, his transfer to the Charing Cross neurological unit for emergency brain surgery might well have come too late.


London Student Assembly Press Conference for Alfie Meadows (December 10, 2010)


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