Press Release 1

A defence campaign has been launched in Newcastle to oppose the charges against two demonstrators, Mark Pearson and Patrick Reay, who came out on 18 December 2010 alongside hundreds of others, 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 defence campaign is focused on the arrests, which occurred at HSBC bank. Mark Pearson explained what happened:

‘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!’

However once outside the bank, two demonstrators, Mark Pearson and Patrick Reay, were surrounded by police and violently arrested. The arrests were partly captured on film and are now being displayed on the defence campaign blog.

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, while supporters from around Britain phoned Northumbria Police to demand their release. They were eventually released ten hours later at 1.30am, by which time all buses had stopped running. Fortunately, family and comrades were waiting for them.

Mark and Patrick have been bailed to appear at Newcastle Magistrate’s Court on 7 January. 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. Their bail conditions restrict them from entering Newcastle city centre and a large part of the surrounding area except to go their jobs.

There will be a solidarity demonstration outside Newcastle Magistrates Court, on Market Street at 9.30am on Friday 7 January and other activities are also being planned by the defence campaign, which will be publicised on this blog.

Quotations:

Ewan Brown, a member of Students Against Cuts, who witnessed the arrests said, ‘I could not understand why they were arrested. This happened towards the end of a peaceful protest; no one had acted physically beside the police and security guards that day. Because of the police’s actions, it would seem they were trying to antagonise others, I didn’t see Mark or Patrick do anything different from everybody else’

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’.

Patrick Reay, says:

‘The police’s attempt to isolate and intimidate protesters that believe in direct action -such as myself- has only made me more determined. Under this capitalist system, the most oppressed sections of the working class are denied a voice and these latest austerity cuts make the right to protest more vital than ever’.

Annie Rutter, who joined the defence campaign as soon as she heard of the arrests said, ‘This is political policing and must be opposed. I can’t see any other reason why they were held for so long. It doesn’t take ten hours to charge two people, this was a punitive tactic to make it more difficult to get home. Their bail conditions are political and entirely unwarranted, they are intended to obstruct Patrick and Mark in exercising their democratic rights at further demonstrations’

Sacha Rose, a school student on the demonstration said, ‘I went to the protest because I want to be a nurse and with the amount of debt I am going to have to pay off, I will not be able to afford it. Also I think the protesters should not have been arrested as everyone was together’.

To report on this story please contact Annie at defence.campaign@gmail.com and she can link you up for interviews.

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