Newcastle 14 Celebrate and Launch the Next Stage of the Campaign

On 7 August the Newcastle 14 (N14) Defence Campaign paid a visit to Etal Lane Police Station, to celebrate the campaign’s victory following the issuing of No Further Action notices to all of the 14 anti-racists arrested in 25 May, indicating that no charges will be brought because there is no evidence for the allegations of ‘conspiracy to commit violent disorder’, and to reclaim property that was seized during their arrests and in the subsequent raids on their homes. For the circumstances around the arrests see the statement here.

Victory_While some of the 14 had personal visits from Northumbria Police detectives in the last week to return their belongings, others had to phone the police repeatedly to ask for their things to be returned, and were incorrectly told the case was still ongoing. When these comrades and other N14 campaign supporters entered the police station to demand their belongings, they were repeatedly fobbed off and kept waiting. The campaign responded by settling in for the long haul with a picnic in the station grounds.

Picnic_

Evidently pannicked by such a violent and disorderly picnic, within minutes the police came out to say that everybody could now collect their things.

Property_

The protest was followed by a well-attended and productive campaign meeting, where concrete plans were made to expose those behind the arrests and hold them to account, through a series of legal and campaign actions. The campaign is calling for:

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Victory to the N14! Now, We Want Answers!

 The Newcastle 14 (N14) will have no charges brought against them. On Thursday 1 August, the defendants received no further action (NFA) from Northumbria Police. The campaign has fought continuously since the arrests on 25 May and would like to thank you all for the support it has received. On Wednesday 7 August there will be a celebration outside Etal Lane Police station at 12pm.

This is a huge victory against political policing, which would not have been possible without the Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign (N14DC). However, as there have been no charges brought, the question must be asked: on what grounds were the N14 arrested?  In the lead-up to the arrests, what role did Newcastle Unites play? Who can be held to account for the unjustifiable arrests of 14 anti-racist-protestors?

These questions must be answered. Join us and campaign to hold those responsible for the arrests accountable.

Victory to N14! No to political policing!

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Report and video of N14 march to deliver petitions to Vera Baird

On 20 July supporters of the Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign organised a defiant march through Newcastle city centre to protest against the arrests of 14 anti-fascists prior to the Newcastle Unites march on 25 May (see the campaign’s statement on the arrests for more details).

Marching2The demonstrators assembled at Haymarket, where the arrests had taken place, and set off down Northumberland Street, accompanied by music from a mobile sound system, and carrying banners saying ‘March Against Political Policing, Defend the Newcastle 14, Defend the Right to Challenge Racism’ and depicting activists being gagged with police tape.

Haymarket3Some chants on the march were directed towards the Northumbria Police Commissioner:  ‘Vera Baird, hear us say: political policing, no way!’ Others – which had been thought up for use on the Newcastle Unites anti-EDL march - highlighted the EDL’s support for the British government’s warmongering foreign policy: ‘EDL, British state: United in their racist hate! They support the war in Gaza, we support the Intifada!’

The march ended at Market Street police station, where a lively open mic rally took place. Meanwhile, a few campaign supporters entered the police station, where they found that Vera Baird, who we had asked to meet with us, had failed to show up. Nevertheless, the rally persuaded Police Inspector Brotherton to come outside and accept petitions on her behalf.

The Newcastle 14 have still not been charged with anything but most of the items of property that were taken from them at the time of their arrests have not been returned.

Our next protest will be an all-day picket of Etal lane police station on 7 August, when those who were arrested have to report to answer police bail.

Fight political policing! Defend the right to fight racism and fascism! Support the Newcastle 14! Get involved, join the campaign!

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Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign on the streets building for the 20 July march

Join the march this Saturday to say NO to political policing:

Saturday 20 July, assemble 2pm, Haymarket, Newcastle

Sign the petition: http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/defend-the-newcastle-14-no-to-political-policing

Donate to the N14 Defence Campaign

Donations can be made by sending a cheque or postal order made out to ‘May 25 Fund’ to:

N14DC Box 107
58 Low Friar Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 5UD

Any donations not used for the N14 campaign will be kept for future defence campaigns of progressive activists.

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Policing the Police? – Vera Baird Responds to N14 Complaint Letters

Below, we publish two letters. The first is a response from Vera Baird QC, police and crime commissioner for Northumbria police, to the standard letter published on this blog on 7 June. The second is a letter template, responding to Baird, which can be sent if you too receive this response.

In her election campaign for police and crime commisioner, Baird committed to seeing an end to political policing. Hold her accountable to this claim and support the Newcastle 14.

Letter One – Baird’s Response:

BairdLetter Two – Respond to Baird:

Dear Vera Baird QC,

I would like to thank you for replying to some of the letters myself and fellow supporters of the defence campaign have sent you with regards to the 14 arrested, shortly before the EDL protest started on the 25th May. First of all, I would like to reassure you that all of those arrested and the groups they may be affiliated with had no intentions to cause violence and were acting peacefully promoting the Newcastle Unites counter demonstration at the time of the arrests.

I understand that, as you have informed me in your previous letter, legally any complaints must be made to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) or Northumbria police professional Standards Department. However, I do feel that much of this case is relevant to you as our police crime commissioner; a role which you yourself described as, being to ‘represent the people of Northumbria and relay their needs to police officers’. Concern about the arrests has been expressed a significant number of the citizens of the North East, as can be seen from over 1000 signatures in support of the defence campaign. These signatures demand ‘a transparent, democratic and accountable enquiry into the exact nature and extent of collusion between specific members of ‘Newcastle Unites’ and Northumbria Police, leading to the arrest of 14 anti-fascists’, which I hope you will support in your duty as a police crime commissioner to ensure ‘accountability of the police force to the electorate’.

As you have explained in your response to my previous letter, the 14 arrests are classified as an operational matter and therefore outside of your control. A major concern of mine is that these arrests are indicative of a wider problem within the police force. This seems to be an increasingly common police tactic of them making political decisions particularly after previous, seemingly purely politically motivated, arrests, such as that of Michael MacDonald.  In this aspect it very much concerns the governance of the force. Within your role as police crime commissioner, I trust that you will use your position to  ensure Northumbria police are not used as a political tool and that the circumstances leading up to the 14 arrests is investigated at the first possible opportunity.

As someone who desires to ‘improve community safety’, I am sure you understand the devastating force of racism in dividing communities. I fear that after the events of 25th May people may be more hesitant about vocally opposing racism. When people, purely with the intention of opposing racism and attempting to make our city a more tolerant and encompassing place for us all to live are prevented from doing so with arrests, this sends out a damning message to people trying to oppose racism in their own communities. I sincerely hope that you will follow your ‘proven track record in standing up for ordinary people, fighting injustice and championing equality’, in your role as police commissioner by supporting the Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign and ensuring  that policing and politics in Newcastle do not become intertwined.

Whilst you were campaigning for election to the Post of Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Police you attended a North East Feminist meeting, during this you promised to hold the Police to account. The EDL marching in Newcastle caused distress for many sections of society including women, and included in the arrests were 3 women who were trying to exercise there right to protect women from such fears. I hope especially given the bottles and other missiles thrown at women by the EDL during the EDL march that you consider the importance of the women arrested at the Haymarket in their opposition to such actions on behalf of all sections of society including women.

I strongly believe that in order to oppose racism in Newcastle we must be united against it. To be able to do this the motives behind these arrests must be investigated and the people responsible exposed.

I hope you will investigate and act on the concerns I have raised in this letter and I look forward to your response.

Regards

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An open invitation to PCC Vera Baird, Councillor Dipu Ahad and Council Leader Nick Forbes to attend the rally on 20 July to receive petitions

The following invitation has been sent today:

To: Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird; Newcastle City Council Leader Nick Forbes; Elswick Councillor Dipu Ahad

From: Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign

Dear Commissioner Baird, Councillor Forbes and Councillor Ahad,

On Saturday 25 May 14 anti-racist protestors, including supporters of FRFI (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!) and other anti-racists, were arrested prior to the Newcastle Unites against the EDL demonstration. Police stated that the organisers of Newcastle Unites had told them FRFI were not welcome on the march. When FRFI said they considered they had every right to join a public demonstration, they were arrested and are currently on bail.

We would like to invite you to join us at the Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign rally on Saturday 20 July, at 3pm outside Market Street Police Station. At the rally representatives from the campaign will present you with a petition, signed by over 1000 Newcastle citizens, calling for no charges to be brought against the Newcastle 14 and an end to the political policing we have witnessed in Newcastle in recent months.

We are calling on the three individuals named above to attend because:

  • Councillor Ahad is the main figurehead of Newcastle Unites. On 7 May he stood and watched as three FRFI supporters were threatened, assaulted and thrown out of the building when they tried to join a Newcastle Unites organising meeting. The reason given for their exclusion was that they had heckled another Labour politician, MP Grahame Morris, when he spoke on the platform at May Day 2012, because he had voted in favour of the assault on Libya that claimed 60,000 lives. Councillor Ahad told FRFI supporters he would only support their involvement if they agreed not to mention state racism, and issued a public statement on Facebook threatening to call the police on committed anti-fascists. We hold him responsible for the arrests.

  • Council Leader Nick Forbes is the leader of the council Dipu Ahad is part of and has also had the police protect him from criticism for the devastating £100 million cuts he and other Labour councillors are inflicting on Newcastle. After another FRFI supporter, Michael ‘Don’ MacDonald, verbally challenged Councillor Forbes when 1,500 people marched through Newcastle on 16 February 2013, police came to Don’s home in the middle of the night and arrested him on spurious allegations of threatening behaviour, which were dropped before they even made it to court.

  • Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird is responsible for strategic policing issues, and during her election campaign committed to oppose political policing. The arrests of Don MacDonald and the Newcastle 14 are part of a pattern of political policing to protect Labour politicians from criticism, a strategic matter for the Police and Crime Commissioner as well as the councillors concerned.

We call on you to attend the rally on 20 July at 3pm outside Market Street Police Station to receive the petitions, and look forward to your reply.

Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign

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Have you had a phone call from Northumbria Police?

We have received information that Northumbria Police have been telephoning various individuals asking for information about the Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign (N14DC) and the march on 20 July. This is a simple act of intimidation: the N14DC have notified the police of the details of the march as required under Section 11 of the Public Order Act, and the police know how to contact the campaign if they wish to.

If you are contacted by Northumbria Police about the Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign,  you can tell the police they can contact the campaign directly at defence.campaign@gmail.com. If they persist in wanting to speak to you, you can tell them that you would prefer not to answer any questions without a solicitor present. The campaign recommends contacting Singleton Winn Saunders solicitors (phone 0191 265 8817 or email enquiries@sws-solicitors.co.uk), who are representing the defendants. Let the campaign know that the police have contacted you so that we know how widespread this is and we can organise to support you.

We encourage all supporters of the Newcastle 14 to stand strong against these attempts at intimidation – Together we are stronger!

Information on your right to protest and links to relevant legislation and other sources of advice is available at: http://www.revolutionarycommunist.org/index.php/campaigns/know-your-rights.

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