Following on from a rally outside the Home Office on Tuesday which drew thousands of people, hundreds more took to the streets of Brighton last night to show their support for the Stansted 15.
Organised by a collective including the Devils Dyke Network and Brighton Against Borders, the demonstration attracted over 300 people angry at the injustice of the supposed justice system. After hearing from representatives of Devils Dyke Network, Brighton Against Borders, and a statement read on behalf of Caroline Lucas MP, Lyndsay Burtonshaw — one of the defendants — gave a defiant and rousing speech, demonstrating the courage of their actions before reading an emotive statement on behalf of the group of defendants:
We are guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm. The real crime is the government’s cowardly, inhumane and barely legal deportation flights and the unprecedented use of terror law to crack down on peaceful protest. We must challenge this shocking use of draconian legislation, and continue to demand an immediate end to these secretive deportation charter flights and a full independent public inquiry into the government’s ‘hostile environment’.
Justice will not be done until we are exonerated and the Home Office is held to account for the danger it puts people in every single day. It endangers people in dawn raids on their homes, at detention centres and on these brutal flights. The system is out of control. It is unfair, unjust and unlawful and it must be stopped.
Following this, an angered crowd took to the street in an impromptu march that brought much of the city centre to a standstill for over an hour. With main roads blocked and traffic chaos, chants of “no borders, no nations, stop deportations” reverberated loudly along the high street drawing cheers of support from passers-by. As the demonstration wound its way through the streets, the message that Brighton stands in solidarity with the Stansted 15 was loudly heard.
On Monday — after nine gruelling weeks — a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court found all defendants guilty of intentional disruption of services and endangerment at an aerodrome under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act. After originally being charged with aggravated trespass, the charges were escalated to encompass terror-related legislation in what seems an apparently obvious attempt to stamp out dissent directed at the Home Office’s brutal deportation regime.
Thousands of people turned out for an emergency rally outside the Home Office Headquarters in Westminster following the verdict, where three of the defendants spoke alongside campaign groups such as Lesbians and Gays Support The Migrants.
The 15 have vowed to fight on and appeal the guilty verdict, while huge outpourings of solidarity filter in from Brighton to Katowice. Further solidarity action is planned for Tuesday December 18th in a national day of action, alongside what’s set to be a large mobilisation in Chelmsford for the sentencing on 4th February.
The verdict handed down in Chelmsford follows a recent and very worrying trend in which peaceful protestors being heavily criminalised for dissent. We must all act immediately to prevent further erosion of our fundamental rights to challenge power and authority.
~ Jake Woodier