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Defend Alfie Meadows – end police violence

Alfie Meadows is being victimised by police, reports Luke Cooper

The case of Alfie Meadows highlights the injustices being inflicted on anti-cuts protesters. Back in December 2010, Alfie was part of the huge protests of students against £9,000 fees, and was attacked at the protest outside parliament on the day of the vote. Hit so hard with a police baton that he required three hours of brain surgery, Alfie was quite literally lucky to be alive.

Despite an ongoing investigation from the Independent Police Complaints Commission into the near-fatal incident, Alfie was charged with violent disorder only a few days before the Royal Wedding last year. The Royal Wedding itself was to see some of the most severe repression to date. The police took “pre-emptive” action against a series of protesters, including through dawn raids on squats, under the pretext of “preventing public disorder” and a “breach of the peace”. Those like Alfie who now had charges hanging over them were given exclusion orders to keep them out of central London.
With cuts tearing apart the fabric of our communities, the government and police feel compelled to ratchet up repression, curtail civil liberties, and make use of “deterrent sentencing”, so that those considering taking direct action are aware of the “costs” involved. Indeed many students who protested last year have been given sentences that are totally out of proportion to the offence on “deterrence” grounds. One such student, Zenon Mitchell from the University of Sussex, received a fifteen-month sentence for violent disorder after throwing a small placard stick.

As John McDonnell MP put it, “Zenon’s sentence, like so many others handed out to protesting students, was disproportionate to his actions. At most he and his lawyers were expecting a community service order. Why was the sentence so heavy? Well it’s fairly obvious that the courts, whipped up by the statements from politicians and the outrage in the right wing press, wanted to make an example of Zenon…. The message from the courts to young people was pretty clear. Join in the protests and this is what you could get. Your future will be put at risk.”

At Sussex some 250 students turned out to a Right to Protest meeting in solidarity with Zenon, and the student union has passed unequivocal statements of support.

The cases of Alfie and Zenon encapsulate the political and often violent nature of British policing in an age of austerity. They both deserve and need our solidarity. It shows the fight against the cuts is also about democracy; we need to stand firm to defend our civil liberties and our right to resist.

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