Justice for the 99% or the 1%?
On Monday the 31st I’m going back to court. This now seems to be the beginnings of long proceedings.
From the 16th of September to the 26th of September, I spent 10 days behind bars, without trial, for unfurling a banner off a bridge at the Liberal Democrat conference. It costs £112 pounds a day to imprison someone, my incarceration for 10 days cost £1120, with whose interest in mind was this large sum spent? I don’t believe it was the public interest. Crown prosecution services have already stated that the unfurling of banner at the Liberal Democrat conference caused “no injury or harm” and “no damage” in other words it was totally peaceful protest.
Was it then in the public interest that I was locked up or with the interest of protecting those in power from further embarrassing protests? Considering that crown prosecution services asked for my detention because they believed me to be a “member” of the national campaign against fees and cuts and therefore liable to organise more peaceful protests, I suspect it was the latter.
The law is being increasingly exercised in the interest of the 1% not the 99%. The government is spending more and more pursuing those it deems “undesirable” and not just politically undesirable. At the same it is pursuing regressive legal aid cuts that will deny many the chance of fair representation. The legal aid cuts will disproportionately hit oppressed groups, legal aids cuts that will even deny the victims of domestic violence fair representation. Yet the government are spending more and more on punishing trivial offences. £100,000 was spent on pursuing 9 peaceful Ukuncut protestors in Brighton through the courts for an offence so minor that most charges were dropped and only a few given a small fine.
We don’t yet know the full cost of the prosecution of those who sat peacefully in Fortnum & Mason for a few hours, another case in which I am a defendant, but it is certain to be a hefty bill for the taxpayer. We should ask how this is in general public interest to spend this large amount of money.
Teenagers, more victims of police violence than perpetrators, kettled in the cold for hours assaulted and provoked are being pursued on mass at again at great cost for “violent disorder” including, Alfie Meadows , who nearly died of a brain injury after being struck on the head by police batons.
Frank Fernie was locked up at huge expense for 12 months for a futile, bordering symbolic, act of violence. Compare this to the case of the assault that killed Ian Tomlinson, for which nobody has yet been punished and the disproportionate treatment given to political protestors thrown into sharp contrast. Where is the quick swift and hard justice that is handed out to protestors for far less?
We are spending huge figures prosecuting and punishing those who peacefully protest against tax evasion, increasing inequality and the open betrayal of election pledges and even more trying to give out massively disproportionate sentences to “allegedly violent” protestors. We should ask whose interest this is all in. Is it the public interest or the interest or the government and their friends in big business?
The government and police are clearly much less able and willing to go after their friends. As the extent of police complacency over the phone hacking scandal at news of the world is revealing.
It seems like with so many things in our society, in our justice system it is increasingly not the public good, but the interests of a few, the 1% not the 99% that is prevailing.
It is important that we defend the right to protest, by protesting more. In coming weeks we will have many chances to take action – there is a lot going on. To name few, the fun “week of auctions”, the occupy the stock exchange movement and the likely large student march on the city of London on November 9th, whichever is your style it is time to get on it!