A leading anti-cuts campaigner was arrested in his home last Saturday night after verbally challenging Newcastle’s Labour council leader Nick Forbes about the cuts budget he is implementing. Mr MacDonald (known to most people as Don) was served a fixed penalty notice under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, but has returned this notice to the court and has stated his intention to fight the charge.
At 10.15pm Saturday night police seized Michael MacDonald from his home and held him for more than four hours at North Tyneside Area Command HQ, before releasing him at 2.30am Sunday morning. Mr MacDonald was given a fixed penalty charge under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1987.
Police told Mr MacDonald that they were acting on a complaint by Labour council leader Nick Forbes. Michael MacDonald approached Forbes to voice his opposition to the Labour leaders’s cuts budget, and its devastating impact on communities. Forbes was passing Grey’s Monument at 4pm, where an anti-cuts demonstration of 1,500 Newcastle residents had been held. Mr. MacDonald rejects the allegations by Forbes and will fight the charge.
It is not clear why the police saw it necessary to come to Mr MacDonald’s home in the middle of the night rather than waiting for the following day since Mr MacDonald was alone at the time with his 6-year-old son.
Mr MacDonald had been central to organising Saturday’s anti-cuts protest and is involved in ‘Save Our Services’, a campaign giving a voice to children and young people affected by the proposed cuts to play, youth, library and leisure services. Capital Radio interviewed him on Friday during which he condemned the cuts and appealed to people to support the ‘Stop the Cuts, Save our Services’ march. He was a press contact for the event and helped organize a feeder march from the west end of Newcastle, bringing dozens of children, young people, and adults to join the march.
Ms Annie Rutter, who is part of the Save Moorside Library campaign, said:
This is a ridiculous charge. Forbes is using the police in a crude and desperate attempt to intimidate opposition to his vicious cuts programme. We refuse to be intimidated: it will make us more determined to fight back.
Michael MacDonald said:
Nick Forbes and the Labour cabinet believe they have the right to take away all vital public services from citizens therefore there must be an acceptance that people have the right to challenge these policies and those implementing them. The 5 hour peaceful demonstration and rally brought together members of the public, unions, local and national campaigns and speeches representing the widely held views of both individuals and groups that the proposed cuts should not be implemented.