Open Letter – Defend Don, Defend the Right to Protest

Defend activist Michael MacDonald (Don) – defend the right to protest

Defend activist Michael MacDonald (Don) – defend the right to protest

We the undersigned express shock and concern at the arrest of Michael MacDonald (Don) on the night of the 16th February. The arrest followed the successful mass protest which saw 1,500 people local people come out in a peaceful protest against huge local cuts. 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 accusation of causing ‘alarm, harassment or distress’. His arrest has serious implications for public protest and freedom of expression in Newcastle and nationally. We stand with him against this attack on the right to protest.

The arrest was based on an encounter between Don and Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes and his companion following the recent “Stop The Cuts! Save Our Services” march and rally in Newcastle City Centre.

Don’s description of the event is freely available at the Right to Challenge the Cuts website. Don was arrested initially for threatening behaviour and threatening the use of violence. It is clear from Don’s detailed and publicly available account of what happened that this is a complete fabrication – at no point did he threaten Nick Forces or engage in behaviour that could be seen as threatening. He criticised – as his right as a citizen – the huge cuts in Newcastle directly to the council leaders. We all absolutely have the right to this public criticism.

The charge is unjust and preposterous.

It is clear that:

1. A legal and peaceful protest has occurred.

2. A politician has been briefly confronted.

3. This politician has immediately used their authority to demand an arrest.

4. The police have removed a protester from his home in the middle of the night when he had sole responsibility for his six year old child, detained him for four hours on the basis of a minor charge, during which time he was encouraged to accept a fixed penalty fine.

These actions are not what we expect of our democratically elected leaders nor from the police force. We will continue to support Don through this trying time and stand in solidarity with him, Although a minor caution, it would leave Don with a criminal record and puts a black mark against the vibrant, active local anti-cuts movement. We hope that Cllr Forbes will withdraw this needless and self-serving allegation with immediate effect.


John McDonnell MP

Bob Crowe, RMT General Secretary

Jerry Hicks, Unite Grassroots Left

Dot Gibson, National Secretary Pensioner Convention

Bill Bowring, Haldane Society Socialist Lawyers

Bob Archer, President Redbridge Association NUT

Andrew Burgin, vice chair Coalition of Resistance

Kate Hudson, national secretary Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Tony Taylor, Co-ordinator, In Defence Of Youth Work Campaign

Ruth Cashman, Branch Secretary Lambeth Unison

If you would like to add your support, you can email defence.campaign[@]

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