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Charlie Gilmour: another example of political sentencing

Another outrageous prison sentence has been handed down to a protester, writes Rachel Brooks

Charlie Gilmour, son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, has been jailed for 16 months for violent disorder at last year’s student protests.

His ‘crimes’ were sitting on the bonnet of a car carrying Charles and Camilla, and for a throwing a bin, an act that he may or may not be responsible for. Gilmour was singled out by the media for a litany of other supposed ‘offenses’ too; swinging on Canotaph flag, alegedly taking drugs prior to the protest, and most of all for being a Cambridge student, the son of a Pink Floyd, who appeared to be ungrateful for his privileged upbringing.

Images of a 21 year hanging off the union jack at the Cenotaph fuelled right-wing rags during the great student uprising against the proposed tripling of university fees. The tabloid media relished in portraying the Cambridge student’s apparent disregard for the patriotic statue, and played up his background, suggesting he had no good reason to protest.

Gilmore’s sentence follows a series of harsh sentences on other activists designed to make an example of protesters and intimidate others from joining demonstrations. On nearly every occassion involvement in civil unrest has been cited by judges as reason enough for the use of ‘deterrant’ sentencing – increasing the length of prison terms, in order to discourage others from resisting the system in the future.

At January’s National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts conference, John McDonnell MP gave a speech in which he said, “If you’re looking for political prisoners, you now have them.” McDonnell was alluding to the two-year and 8 month sentence given to 18-year-old Edward Woollard for throwing a fire extinguisher from the roof of Millbank Tower during the first student protest last November. Alfie Meadows, the Middlesex student who was hospitalised with a serious brain injury after being beaten by police, has received charges, while Frances Fernie, a student at University of York, has been sentenced to 12 months for throwing two sticks at police on the 26 March protest.

Taken alongside the disgusting arrests of the UK Uncut occupiers of Fortnum and Masons and the pre-crime arrests of protesters at the Royal wedding we can see a pattern emerging. These sentences have been explicitly dished out to warn students against taking action against the government. It is paramount that the fight against tuition fees, cuts to education and outrageous sentencing continues, and that we don’t let the courts, police and politicians do not win.

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