Boris Johnson’s decision to close Parliament Square to Occupy Democracy to be challenged in High Court tomorrow

  • All previous 17 cases relating to Occupy Democracy protests acquitted or dismissed
  • Policing operation costs exceeded £2 million
  • Case is a litmus test of our democratic freedoms
  • Mayor of London argues the rights of grass should take precedence over human rights
  • Hearing coincides with trial of the Occupy Gandhi 3, for their peaceful protest in Parliament Square

George Barda, one of the organisers of Occupy Democracy, [1] is to argue that the Mayor of London broke the law in a Judicial Review hearing due to be heard at the High Court on Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th November. The Mayor is called on to justify his use of metal fences to exclude protest from Parliament Square in the months leading to the general election. 

The Greater London Authority (GLA) argue that their initial closure of the square was “to provide protection for the grassed area” [2] implying that the rights of the grass should take precedence over our fundamental rights. Barda, who instructed human rights lawyers Liberty, will argue that the erection of large mental fences has more to do with the exclusion of protest, alleging that the Mayor in closing the square acted beyond his legal powers and failed to have regard to his legal duty to facilitate protest.

The Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson has previously acknowledged: “The importance of the freedom to protest in Parliament Square is not in doubt” [3].

Occupy London’s legal advisor, Matthew Varnham, said;

“When people around the world have a problem with their government they take their grievance directly to the seat of power. Parliament Square is of equivalent significance in the United Kingdom as Tahrir Square is to Egypt or Tianenmen Square is to China. It is a test of the democracy of the country itself how the authorities choose to respond to protests in these spaces.”

“Not only were the Occupy Democracy movement denied access to Parliament Square, they were met with a heavy-handed policing operation involving up to 500 police per day [4] and numerous arrests – and yet all cases have resulted in acquittals, dismissals or a finding that there is no case to answer. The policing operation was found to have cost the public over £2 million.” [5].

“It would appear that the authorities wanted to suppress the Occupy Democracy movement in order to avoid a discussion of the country’s democratic deficit [6] in the run up to the general election in May 2015.” [7]

George Barda said:

“It is disappointing yet unsurprising that the law of the land seems to provide no means of judicial review that is able to address the kind of blatant, chilling and systematic phenomenon of political policing of the kind the Occupy Democracy movement was faced with, starting with the cynical prohibiting of public access to the square the day before our protest for supposedly unconnected reasons. I am however very pleased that we have the opportunity to challenge some of the most blatant aspects of it, such as the decision to erect metal fences for months around the entirety of parliament square, supposedly in the name of maintaining access to Parliament Square! As so often George Orwell would no doubt be spinning in his grave.”

“We’re faced with the combination of an increasingly cynical, corrupt, anti-democratic and outright mendacious government, and global challenges on an unprecedented scale. The importance of principled protest movements that help restore sanity to our national conversation has therefore never been greater. Consequently the role of the courts in protecting such movements is vital to our increasingly undermined democracy.”

Ends

Notes:

[1] Occupy Democracy is a social movement for democracy free from corporate influence that works for people and planet. Occupy Democracy formed in March 2014 as a working group of Occupy London. Working by consensus decision-making, we have a safer spaces policy and are dedicated to non-violence. 

Occupy Democracy’s six core demands are as follows:

  • reform of party funding so that members of parliament act in the interests of those who elect them rather than the 1% who bankroll them
  • major democratic reform of the media to break the stranglehold of vested interests
  • a fundamental overhaul of lobbying and the way powerful economic interests inhabit the corridors of power within government
  • the introduction of proportional representation so that everyone’s vote counts
  • that MPs should not have conflicts of interests from either paid employment or corporate shareholdings
  • a citizen-led constitutional convention for real democracy https://occupydemocracy.org.uk/demands/

[2] Skeleton Argument of the Mayor of London at paragraph 4.

[3] Judgement of Lord Dyson MR in R (Gallastegui) v Westminster City Council [2013] 1 WLR 2377.

[4] From a response by Metropolitan Police to a Freedom of Information request by Donnachadh McCarthy (Reference No: 2014110000865) concerning the initial ten day occupation in October 2014:

“The numbers of police officers involved in policing the Occupy Democracy Protest for the period 17/10/2014 to 27/10/2014 broken down into daily totals. 

17 October 2014 – 141 

18 October 2014 – 73 

19 October 2014 – 142 

20 October 2014 – 46 

21 October 2014 – 92 

22 October 2014 – 180 

23 October 2014 – 509 

24 October 2014  – 233 

25 October 2014  – 236 

26  October 2014- 233 

27 October 2014 – 235″

[5] From a written response by the Mayor of London to a question by Jenny Jones: “Question No: 2015/0830. The total estimated cost to the MPS of policing the Parliament Square Demonstrations from mid-October to mid-February is £1,945,279 of which £1,588,316 are opportunity costs. The additional cost relates to overtime, £327,567 and equipment, transport and catering costs, £29,395.” Please note this figure does not cover the period from March-May when Occupy Democracy continued to be active around Parliament Square, nor the cost of pursuing unsuccessful prosecutions through the courts.

[6] “Unelected Oligarchy” by David Beetham for Democratic Audit, for example, lays out the ways that corporations have increased their control over government over the last couple of decades. In terms of the democratic deficit due to the First Past The Post voting system see: “Why this year’s general election was the most unfair in Britain’s history and “Sixty per cent of people want voting reform, says survey.” 

[7] The occupation outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in 2011 and 2012 had previously succeeded in bringing issues of inequality and democracy to the national conversation after the financial crash of 2008.

EVICTION RESISTANCE CALL OUT ISSUED AS RUNNYMEDE APPEAL FALLS

  • Judge says “You’ll have to use other methods to advance your cause”
  • Private property rights of company trump human right to a home
  • Rights to commons not fully explored by judge

A call-out for help to build the resistance to the imminent eviction of the eco-vilage on the historic Runnymede site of the birthplace of modern democracy has been issued following a judgement at the Royal Courts of Justice on Friday which denied the right to appeal.

The judgement

After considering a day’s worth of evidence Mrs Justice Simler ruled that Mr Justice Knowles in Guildford County Court was essentially correct when he ruled against the eco-villagers and in favour of the tax haven registered, luxury property developers Orchid Runnymede Ltd. [http://www.artestates.co.uk/magna-carta-park/].

Her judgement reaffirmed the priority given to companies whose property rights trump the qualified right to private and family life of the Applicant, as enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. A possession order was granted and eviction could now take place in the next two to six weeks.

The Judge ruled that none of the following factors were sufficient grounds to give the eco-villagers a “seriously arguable case” in relation to their right to stay on the land:

  • the historic nature of the site
  • the large and established community that has done so much for so many people who have been damaged by mainstream society
  • the beautiful, creative low-impact dwellings that had been built
  • the fact that the landowner had not been actively using the land since it acquired it in 2007 and was unlikely to develop the wood itself
  • and the educational covenant on the land

This was despite the fact that the Judge noted there was no pressing social need for Orchid Runnymede’s development; that members of the eco-village may face difficulty finding other accommodation; and that the community had provided respite and sanctuary for people who had had difficulties in mainstream society.

The Judge recognised that the Magna Carta provision for the right to a fair trial was still on the statute books and was relevant to the case. The eco-villagers were clearly at a disadvantage in terms of access to proper legal representation and up against a six-strong team of corporate lawyers. However, the judge determined that the fact that the eco-villagers were unable to get legal aid did not affect the fairness of the case.

Judge repeatedly pointed out that she was bound to put aside any natural sympathies she may have and deal with the law as it stands and she drew on recent case law in particular.

Rights to the commons

The eco-villagers had raised strong and serious points in relation to their rights under the Magna Carta, Forest Charter and common law but the Judge said that these had all been repealed apart from three clauses of the Magna Carta the only one of which was relevant in this case was the right to a fair trial.

In fact, rights to the Commons, originating in the Charter of the Forest, continues by virtue of a clause in the act that repealed it: The Wild Creatures and Forest Act 1971. Section 5 states  that: “no existing right of common or pannage originating in the forest  law shall be affected by the abrogation of the forest law or by the  repeal by this section of any enactment giving or confirming that  right.” [http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1971/47/section/1]. The judge ruled that the appellants had not established that the land was common land even though we made the point that people and their dogs had been walking on footpaths through the site since Saxon times.

The consequences

In answering points raised by the appellants at the end of her judgement Simler said: “You’ll have to use other methods to advance your cause.”

Activists, tree climbers and tunnellers are being called upon to defend Runnymede eco-village by building defences in anticipation of the imminent arrival of bailiffs and police.

Single parent, Alexandra Rose, who has two young children and now faces eviction from the eco-village as well as from her other residence as a result of the bedroom tax said:

“If this is democracy and justice then it’s absolutely disgraceful. You are penalised for being poor and if you stand together as a community then you are victimised even further. Our community has been stamped all over. There is no democracy.”

Eco-village resident Lilias Rider Haggard Cheyne who is now facing eviction, said:

“The eco-village has given people a wonderful opportunity to express themselves by building beautiful buildings in the wood. The occupants live in harmony with nature and the village should be a national heritage site as it is an exemplary model of communal living in historic surroundings in the heart of England.”

Appellant Peter Phoenix said:

“This case illustrates how land rights and civil liberties have been diminished by successive governments. The judge ignored the evidence that we still have rights under the Forest Charter to subsist on disused and common land. There’s no justice so now it’s just us. Join us in the fight for homes and land for all!”

ENDS

Notes for editors:

Some images of Runnymede dwellings can be found here:
http://www.runnymede.community/photos/

For background on this case, see previous press releases:

RUNNYMEDE APPEAL JUDGEMENT AT 2PM TODAY (Friday 11th September)

  • Luxury property developers want to evict families living sustainably at the birthplace of modern democracy
  • Tax-avoiding company armed with six-strong legal defence team
  • Heartfelt plea from single mum facing bedroom tax heard by judge
  • Developers argue company property rights trump human right to a home
  • Case hinges on whether requirement for “proportionality test” has been met

At 2pm today Mrs. Justice Simler will give her ruling in the Runnymede eco-village eviction appeal case at Court Room 12 at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand.

OutsideRoyalCourtsOfJustice

The judgement will determine whether the tax haven registered, luxury property developer Orchid Runnymede Ltd can proceed with the immediate demolition of some 40 eco-homes and the eviction of the community of precarious families and children in order to build homes for the super rich. The respondents argue eco-vlllagers are simply trespassers on what they repeatedly described as “trophy land’. 

Acting for eco-village resident Anthony Seanor, lawyer Michael Paget argued yesterday that the judge in the lower court set too high a bar for a “proportionality test” which is required to ensure that – when there is a strongly arguable case such as the Article 8 Human Right to a home, that applicants are not summarily dismissed, but that their case is given proper consideration in court.

Paget suggested the case was “strongly arguable” rather than “an ordinary trespass” for reasons which included:

  • the village had been established for over three years, and people had their homes on the land
  • the landowner was not actively using the land
  • the land was historically significant because of (i) its proximity to the Runnymede site and (ii) the fact that the land had been used historically for educational purposes and the eco-village activities more in line with this than the private developers’ plans

Paget said:

“Justice has to be seen to be done, as well as being done. The first judge failed to undertake a proper review, which is the least the eco-village deserves.”

Eco-villager James Hampson who was representing himself asserted that the case was exceptional due to the economic duress that members of the village community would otherwise be facing. He asserted the village’s common right to provide for themselves by living off the land, and that the law ought to recognise their right to act as custodians on the land, acting for the common good.

Peter Phoenix who was also acting as a litigant in person argued that the judge in the lower court did not take into account substantive arguments advanced by the eco-villagers in relation to the Magna Carta, the Charter of the Forest and common law rights. These were foundation stones of our constitution not merely “esoteric” matters as the respondents alleged.

Ongoing common rights, originating in the Charter of the Forest, gives people the right to provide for themselves from the land. The eco-village is located in Coppers Hill coppice which has a long tradition of being open to the public. 

Phoenix said:

“This site is an important part of our common national heritage and should be saved for the enjoyment of all.”

ENDS

For background on this case, see previous press releases:

Historic appeal case could set precedent for right to low-impact living

Runnymede eco-village get stay of execution in eviction proceedings so high court can consider whether they were given an adequate hearing in exceptional case

Festival of Democracy ends under the Ankerycke Yew tree with call for citizen-led constitutional convention

HISTORIC APPEAL CASE COULD SET PRECEDENT FOR RIGHT TO LOW-IMPACT LIVING

  • Runnymede eco-village High Court eviction appeal starts Thursday
  • Right to subsistence enshrined in Magna Carta companion Charter of the Forest
  • Eviction granted to luxury property developers on exact day of 800th anniversary of Magna Carta
  • Case supported by constitutional experts
  • Eco-village, Occupy Democracy and allies call for citizen-led constitutional convention

Runnymede eco-village are appealing against their eviction at the Royal Courts of Justice (Queen’s Bench Appeals Division) in an historic case that starts 10am, Thursday 10th September and could set a precedent for the right to low-impact living on disused land.

An eviction order was granted to luxury property developers Orchid Runnymede Ltd on June 15th – the exact day of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta [2]. At the time of the hearing the eco-village in collaboration with Occupy Democracy was holding a Festival of Democracy which the authorities kept members of the public away from by imposing a five mile exclusion zone [3].

Mr Justice Knowles, adjourning the case prior to this appeal hearing, suggested the High Court did not take into account many of the arguments the eco-village residents put forward [4]. He recognised the powerful symbolism of the land and the competing interests in this “exceptional” case, noting;

“The exceptional location and the history associated with the site, and the competing and directly differing interests – one seeking possession of ancient forest for development and the other side seeking to remain on a site occupied for three years.”

He further recognised; 

“One of the criticisms of the applicants was although the judge dealt with some issues, such as licensing matters, other issues were dealt with either not at all, or hardly at all.” 

The appellants now have the opportunity to argue, amongst other things, that the Magna Carta and its companion Charter of the Forest gives ordinary people the right to subsist on unused land. Other arguments relate to common law, proportionality, sustainability and human rights [5].

This historic appeal case has the potential set a precedent over access to disused and wasteland for the purposes of growing food and the creating of low-impact off-grid homes.

Eco-village representative and appellant Peter Phoenix said:

“This historic appeal case will raise awareness of the erosion of our civil liberties, rights to a fair trial, access to land, the Magna Carta, Charter of the Forest and common law. Whatever the outcome of the trial the Eco-village, Occupy Democracy and allied groups will continue to push for a citizen-led constitutional convention as our democracy is facing a clear crisis.”

Last month Caroline Lucas MP called on Jeremy Corbyn MP to call for a citizen-led constitutional convention should he become leader of the Labour Party on 12th September [6].

CASE SUPPORTED BY CONSTITUTIONAL EXPERTS

A number of constitutional experts are lending their support to the case including openDemocracy founder Anthony Barnett and Professor Guy Standing of University of London whose books include A Precariat Charter.

Barnett said:

“Once again Runnymede is witnessing a historic confrontation, as the Court of Appeal considers the case of the eco-village settled in the woods above the meadow where the Magna Carta was sealed versus luxury property speculators registered in the Isle of Man, seeking to expel them and enclose the woods. 

The developers aim to dissolve history for short-term profit by privatising access to the woods while the eco-settlers claim its leafy spaces for the common good, in a tradition once protected by the Charter of the Forests that accompanied the more famous ‘Greater’ Charter of 1215. We can be confident that if not now in today’s courts then later in tomorrow’s the rights to the commons will be recognised and the woods of Runnymede will become an open space.”

Standing said:

“There is cultural and economic substance in this case. Britain has a long proud tradition of defending “the commons”, giving our lower-income citizens free access to public land for subsistence, habitation and the “right to roam” as enshrined in the Charter of the Forest of 1217. 

“Today we are at a crisis point of accelerating commodification of the commons, which is eroding our heritage. In this symbolic case, on the land above where the Charter of Liberties was drawn up in 1215, the plan is to turn it over to private property developers to sell, in all probability, to rich foreigners. It was planned for parts of Sherwood Forest, until public protests forced a change of mind. Runnymede is as significant a part of the commons. Please keep it public and part of the commons.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

[1]  Occupy Democracy is a social movement for democracy free from corporate influence that works for people and planet. We formed in March 2014 as a working group of Occupy London. Working by consensus decision-making, we have a safer spaces policy and are dedicated to non-violence. Our six core demands can be read here: https://occupydemocracy.org.uk/2014/10/28/occupy-democracy-current-demands-list/

[2]  https://occupydemocracy.org.uk/2015/06/16/runnymede-festival-for-democracy-ends-under-the-ankerwycke-yew-tree-with-call-for-citizen-led-constitutional-convention/

[3]  https://occupydemocracy.org.uk/2015/06/14/magna-carta-vs-runnymede-eco-village-eco-villagers-call-on-police-to-stop-over-reaching-powers-and-respect-the-law/

[4]  https://occupydemocracy.org.uk/2015/06/24/runnymede-eco-village-get-stay-of-execution-in-eviction-proceedings-so-high-court-can-consider-whether-they-were-given-an-adequate-hearing-in-exceptional-case/

[5]  The full skeleton legal argument is available on request.

[6]  http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/my-message-to-jeremy-corbyn-i-can-help-you-build-a-progressive-majority-10469934.html]. The Green Party MP said: “A convention has the potential to energise even more people than your leadership campaign, or the Green surge, and to inspire the kind of feeling across the UK that swept Scotland in 2014.”

Assemblies for Democracy [http://assembliesfordemocracy.org] are organising an event in London on 14th November featuring John McDonnell MP with a view to holding a constitutional convention in Spring 2016.

LIVESTREAMER ACQUITTED AFTER BEING DENIED ACCESS TO “FESTIVAL OF DEMOCRACY”

  • Police used powers relating to rave festivals in attempt to shut down “Festival of Democracy” during Magna Carta 800th anniversary celebrations
  • Livestreamer acquitted after case against him collapses
  • Prosecutor expressed dismay that case had even come to trial

The trial of citizen journalist Ben Kidd, who was arrested while livestreaming [1] from Runnymede eco-village’s “Festival of Democracy”, collapsed in Staines Magistrates court on Monday 24th August.

http://embed.bambuser.com/broadcast/5586063

On Friday 12th June, the police had drafted officers in from seven different forces around southern England.

The police claimed that the festival, which included workshops and speakers on a range of pro-democracy topics, was, in fact an ‘illegal rave’. Festival organisers believe the move was designed to prevent residents of the eco-village hosting an alternative celebration of the 800th sealing of the Magna Carta

The festival had been organised by Diggers2012 and Occupy Democracy.

Runnymede eco-village is situated 500 metres from where the Queen and Prime Minister Dave Cameron were taking part in the official celebrations.

Police enforced Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994) to prevent people from attending the festival [2]. This piece of legislation explicitly defines illegal activity and powers in relation to music “characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”.

At the time, Surrey Police force said:

“The force will not tolerate unregulated, unlicensed events… officers will direct people preparing, gathering or waiting for the rave to leave the land. In addition the act gives police powers to seize property in relation to an event.”

This gave the police an excuse to routinely deny members of the public access to a series of discussions and talks relating to democracy and the contemporary relevance of the Magna Carta. Speakers included OpenDemocracy founder Anthony Barnett and Guy Standing a professor at SOAS and the author of A Precariat Charter.

Kidd was stopped by police after approaching the village and given a dispersal order, stating that he must travel 5 miles from the site. He was later arrested while livestreaming after police accused him of ignoring the order.

In court the prosecutor began by expressing his dismay that the case had even come to court. Kidd was acquitted when the magistrate accepted that police had not given the dispersal order correctly.

Former Liberal Democrat deputy chair Donnachadh McCarthy, a supporter of Occupy Democracy wrote in The Ecologist at the time of the Festival [3]:

“Surrey Police chiefs disgracefully abused their powers and declared the democracy festival to be a “rave”, a claim faithfully relayed by the BBC along with police claims that they were “committed to ensuring the safety of the public”, acting only “to prevent any disturbance, disruption or distress to the local community”, and concerned about”increased crime”.

He continued:

“Both those arbitrary arrests, and the threatened seizure of the property of those attending the Festival – another power accorded by Section 63 – run completely against the guarantees of the Magna Carta itself: an irony no doubt lost on Surrey Police and their political masters.”

This trial is the latest in a succession of failed attempts to prosecute pro-democracy activists by the Crown Prosecution Service. So far, a string of trials following Occupy Democracy protests in London have collapsed or resulted in acquitals.

ENDS

[1] Arrest footage (filmed by bambuser.com/AnnNarkeh): http://bambuser.com/v/5586063

[2] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1994/33/section/63

[3] http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2908795/lets_turn_a_magna_carta_travesty_into_a_summons_to_defend_our_freedoms.html

Other references

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-surrey-33122629

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-surrey-32151822

http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/police-urge-people-stay-away-9446044

“PLINTHMAN”  ACQUITTED OF ALL CHARGES

  • Protester who stood on Winston Churchill’s statue for 48 hours acquitted of charges including performing a sex act on the statue
  • Judgement latest in a series of failed prosecutions by CPS of Occupy Democracy protesters
  • Police officer admits he “followed Freeman all afternoon” as part of intelligence gathering duties after his release on bail

Images of Danny Freeman outside court: http://www.demotix.com/news/8352073/acvitist-danny-freeman-trial-westminster-magistrates-court#media-8352057

The trial of a protester for his actions during the October occupation of Parliament Square by Occupy Democracy [1] ended today with District Judge Snow aquitting him of all charges at Westminster Magistrates Court.

danny-victory

Image copyright Josh Blakely. Danny Freeman celebrating victory outside Westminster Magistrates Court. 

Daniel Baker – also known as Danny Freeman, founder of the group Love Activists – was moved to climb onto the statue of Winston Churchill after he witnessed the heavy handed policing of peaceful pro-Democracy campaigners and remained there for 48-hours despite the police denying him food and water. 

Police arrested a number of people for providing or attempting to provide him with food and water including poet Martin Powell [2]. Green MP, Caroline Lucas, was threatened with arrest after attempting to feed Freeman an omelette [3].

Freeman initially faced charges of criminal damage to the statue of Winston Churchill caused by the residue from sellotape used to secure a placard in place. Additional initial charges included failure to comply with the by-laws governing Parliament Square Gardens and the theft of a policeman’s hat. However, no evidence was offered by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in court today for any of these charges.

The trial proceeded with two charges. A Public Order offence for behaving in a way likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress and criminal damage to a fence by climbing over it into the grassed area of the square.

The CPS alleged Freeman had bent down in front of Winston Churchill, simulating a sexual act.

Freeman stated that he was leading protesters in morning yoga sessions from his position on the statue with stretching and controlled breathing exercises. The routine culminated in a pose where he crouched down which is where the misunderstanding about his actions had taken place.

Witness testimony was provided by a Police Inspector who had been assigned to the demonstration who testified that he had seen Freeman simulate a sexual act. A second witness who works as a Heritage Warden for the GLA testified that she saw Freeman on the statue and that she had seen him lead an exercise session.

The prosecution asked if the Heritage Warden had a clear line of sight to the statue which she did, but did not ask the witness whether she had seen the alleged sexual act.

The failure of the GLA Heritage Warden to testify that she had seen the sexual act being performed on the statue gave District Judge Snow sufficient doubt that the act had occurred.

The second charge of criminal damage to a metal fence was alleged to have happened after Freeman had come down from the statue and was released on bail. He returned to the square where Occupy Democracy protesters had formed a human chain on the outside of the six-foot high fencing erected by the GLA.

Freeman admitted that he followed another, unnamed protester into the square after having been given a lift over the fence by fellow occupiers. He denied that he caused any damage to the fence and District Judge Snow accepted that he did not cause damage, or know that he would have by doing so.

Freeman was acquitted of both charges.

During the trial a police officer admitted he “had followed Freeman around all afternoon” as part of his “intelligence gathering” duties after the defendant’s release on bail.

Outside the courtroom Freeman said: 

“I am relieved that this trial was heard fairly. I wanted to protest after seeing how brutally other people were being treated by the police and I wanted to exercise my human right to protest”

Occupy London legal advisor, Matthew Varnham said;

“The CPS have serious questions to answer for their pursuit of yet another prosecution against a peaceful protester. So far all 16 cases that have gone to trial have been dismissed.” 

“I call on the CPS to reconsider their pursuit of upcoming trials on public interest grounds. Enough tax-payers money has been wasted, with a policing operation close to £2 million and many hundreds of thousands of pounds undoubtedly spent on taking peaceful protesters to trial. This should end now.”

Occupy Democracy held a ten day occupation of Parliament Square last October to highlight the democratic deficit in relation to issues such as NHS privitisation, austerity cuts and fracking. The Greater London Authority, led by London Mayor Boris Johnson, responded with a disproportionate and heavy-handed policing operation 

Before fencing off the square the Metropolitan Police the police arrested protesters en masse for the crime of sitting on tarpaulin. The subsequent trials of these arrestees resulted in either acquittals or the offences being dropped. A trial set to hear the crime of holding a banner in Parliament Square without prior written permission of the London Mayor was dropped by the CPS at the last minute and last week the former deputy chair of the Liberal Democrats, Donnachadh McCarthy was acquitted of assault charges.

ENDS

[1] Occupy Democracy is a social movement for a democracy free from corporate control that works for people and planet. 

Our six core demands are as follows:

  • reform of party funding so that members of parliament act in the interests of  those who elect them rather than the 1% who bankroll them
  • major democratic reform of the media to break the stranglehold of vested interests
  • a fundamental overhaul of lobbying and the way powerful economic interests inhabit the corridors of power within government
  • the introduction of proportional representation so that everyone’s vote counts
  • that MPs should not have conflicts of interests from either paid employment or corporate shareholdings
  • a citizen-led constitutional convention for real democracy

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ_1OCEgtdw

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNsARFuuwLc

PROTESTER FACES TRIAL AFTER TWO DAY STANDOFF WITH POLICE ON WINSTON CHURCHILL STATUE

  • Peaceful protester faces multiple charges after sitting on Parliament Square statue for 48 hours
  • Defendant moved to protest after witnessing repressive policing of peaceful pro-democracy activists
  • Latest in a series of attempted prosecutions of Occupy Democracy protesters

The Crown Prosecution Service will make its fourth attempt to convict an Occupy Democracy protester this Thursday 20th August when the trial of Danny “Plinthman” Baker starts at Westminster Magistrates Court. So far 15 defendants have been acquitted or had their charges dropped.

lone-protester-after-spending-night-on-winston-churchill-statue_6074772Daniel Baker – also known as Danny Freeman, founder of the group Love Activists – climbed onto the statue of Winston Churchill and remained there during a 48-hour standoff with police. Despite police assuring him that he was in their duty of care they refused him food and water and threated with arrest anyone who attempted to provide him with any. Green MP, Caroline Lucas, was threatened with arrest after attempting to feed Freeman an omelette [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNsARFuuwLc].

caroline-lucas-with-omelette

At the time Caroline Lucas tweeted a picture of herself, writing: “For those interested to know, passing omelette to protester counts as obstruction (rather than refusing him food, which of course doesn’t).”

https://twitter.com/CarolineLucas/status/524986569472483331

https://twitter.com/CarolineLucas/status/524987545273528321

Poet Martin Powell was arrested for providing him with water [https://youtu.be/iJ_1OCEgtdw] but no charges were filed.

powell

Danny has been charged with failing to comply with a reasonable direction; engaging in behaviour likely to cause harrassment, alarm or distress; criminal damage; and theft of a policeman’s hat. He has entered a not guilty plea for all the charges.

Explaining why he was chose to occupy Winston Churchill’s plinth as a form of protest Danny said:

“When I arrived at Parliament Squarre I was met with TSG Police poised to remove protesters. I have never witnessed such a scene of aggression that had gone totally unchallenged by bystanders and members of the public. It absolutly infuriated me to see police officers grabbing peaceful people, forming a circle around them and then beating them before arresting them for exercising their basic human rights.”

“My aim in occupying the statue was to firstly reclaim Parliament Square for the protesters I had witnessed being brutally oppressed in a country that boasts to be so free. Secondly to express my freedom as an individual.”

lone-protester-speaks-to-police-before-handing-himself-over

Occupy Democracy held a ten day occupation of Parliament Square last October to highlight the democratic deficit in relation to issues such as NHS privitisation, austerity cuts and fracking. The Greater London Authority, led by London Mayor Boris Johnson, responded by fencing off the square stating that the grass needed to be protected.

The Metropolitan Police attempted to clear the square of protesters by making mass arrests. The subsequent trials of those arrested for sitting on tarpaulin resulted in an acquittal with a second trial for identical offences dropped. A trial set to hear the crime of holding a banner in Parliament Square was dropped by the CPS at the last minute and last week the former deputy chair of the Liberal Democrats, Donnachadh McCarthy was acquitted of assault charges.

Watch footage of Freeman coming down from the statue and being arrested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsA64KYGdMQ

ENDS

Notes for editors:

http://www.itv.com/news/london/2014-10-22/lone-occupy-protester-arrested-after-two-day-standoff-with-police/

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/protester-comes-down-from-winston-churchill-statue-after-28-hour-stand-off-with-police-9812540.html