**IF YOU SAW EITHER OF THESE ARRESTS OR THE EVENTS AROUND THEM, PLEASE WRITE A WITNESS STATEMENT AND SEND IT TO firstname.lastname@example.org, ALONG WITH ANY PHOTOS OR VIDEO FOOTAGE YOU HAVE. THANK YOU!**
A defence campaign is being launched in Newcastle to oppose the charges against two demonstrators who came out on 18 December 2010, to demonstrate against government cuts to education and other public services, benefits and jobs. The campaign also stands in solidarity with all the other demonstrators being criminalised for taking part in actions against the cuts.
The demonstration, called by Students Against the Cuts as part of a UKUnCut national day of action, was supported by many other groups and individuals, including Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism, Coalition of Resistance and Tyne and Wear Left Unity.
The message was clear: ‘We are not going to pay for the capitalist crisis’.
While public services are being savagely cut, the banks carry on their parasitic role unimpeded; businesses like Vodafone dodge billions of pounds worth of tax; billionaire businessman and owner of Top Shop and Burton, Philip Green advises the government on the cuts whilst dodging hundreds of millions of pounds of tax and directors of companies like M&S pledge their full support for the cuts.
As one young demonstrator commented:
“People have seen that no matter what party you vote for, no matter what policies politicians promise, they always act in the interests of the banks and the finance sector and stab the working class in the back time and again.”
Demonstrators marched first to Vodafone on Grainger Street, chanting ‘Attack the rich, not the poor! Welfare cuts no more!’ and ‘Vodafone: pay your taxes!’. As in other parts of the country, Vodaphone promptly shut up shop.
Over the next four hours businesses and banks were targeted for their involvement in tax-dodging, government bail-outs and support for the cuts, including Boots, Fenwicks, BHS, Topshop, M&S, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, Next and Dorothy Perkins. There were sit down protests, many shops were forced to close their doors and the longer it went on the more people joined the protest. Numbers of demonstrators grew to several hundred and other members of the public showed their support, signing petitions, clapping and beeping their car horns. As the protest went on and attracted more support, the police became increasingly aggressive. During a sit down protest in Marks and Spencer police started to get more physical, dragging people up and violently pushing people on top of those who were sitting down.
The demonstration carried on, heading back into Eldon Square, chanting ‘Education for the masses, not just for the ruling classes!’ and ‘Labour, Tory, same old story! Stop the Fees! Stop the Cuts!’
At HSBC around a hundred people entered the bank, speaking on the megaphone about why they were there and handing out leaflets. When police arrived and threatened arrest, everyone willingly left the bank and continued to protest outside, chanting: ‘The banks got bailed out! We got sold out!’
Once outside the bank, two demonstrators, Mark Pearson and Patrick Reay, were picked off by police, surrounded and violently arrested. This film shows one of the arrests:
After being marched to Market Street Police Station, they were then transferred to another station outside the city centre.
Over a hundred fellow demonstrators marched to Market Street Police Station to demand the arrested demonstrators’ immediate release:
They kept this show of solidarity and strength going for hours, with chants of ‘Whose Streets?! Our Streets! Whose Police?! Their Police!’, while supporters from around Britain phoned Northumbria Police to demand their release. The police refused to tell other demonstrators anything about where Mark and Patrick were being held, their well-being, or the charges against them. They were eventually released ten hours later at 1.30am. Releasing people in the middle of the night, when public transport has stopped running and it is difficult to get home, is a common punitive tactic used in political policing. Fortunately, family and comrades were there waiting for them.
Mark and Patrick have been bailed to appear at Newcastle Magistrate’s Court on 7 January. Their bail conditions restrict them from entering Newcastle city centre and a large part of the surrounding area except to go to their jobs. This is a political use of bail, intended to obstruct Patrick and Mark in exercising their democratic rights at further demonstrations. Mark has been charged with failing to comply with conditions, allegedly imposed by police, which said that demonstrators must not enter shops or other businesses premises. Patrick has been charged with obstructing a police officer as he was arresting Mark. These charges will be fought. Mark Pearson explained why it is so important that all those arrested on such political charges are defended:
‘The banks are robbing the world and getting away with it, yet the police are trying to make it an offence to peacefully enter a bank and express opposition. The government and police have made it clear whose side they are on: they will do everything in their power to protect the banks and businesses, while savagely attacking our living standards and our freedom to protest. We have to stand together and fight back.’
Join the campaign to defend Mark and Patrick from these phoney charges, which are a blatant attack on all of our democratic rights and a political defence of the banks and big business by the police. The HSBC 2 Defence Campaign is demanding that the charges be dropped immediately and the bail conditions lifted. Join the solidarity demonstration outside Newcastle Magistrates Court, on Market Street at 9.30am on Friday 7 January, and contact email@example.com or 07858 346276 for details of other actions and ways you can support the campaign.
Justice for the HSBC 2! Stop the Cuts! We won’t pay for the capitalist crisis!