If you would like to add a message of solidarity, you can send it in to defence.campaign[@]gmail.com.
Alexandra M, Manchester Activist:
This statement is written in solidarity with Don MacDonald of IDYW/SOS Tyneside and in reaction to the equally laughable and damaging accusations against him by Council Leader Nick Forbes.
Nick Forbes has exposed himself as an enemy of the people of Newcastle, once and for all. That he chose to target a known anti-cuts campaigner and front line services worker is cynical and malicious at best. The intangible nature of an accusation under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, makes it very convenient for a traitorous public figure like Nick Forbes to silence the community voices that challenge him, particularly at a time when the local media seem to be touting him as the city’s hero. How Don MacDonald can be fined for saying directly to Nick Forbes what 1,500 Newcastle residents had been saying en masse only minutes before or showing him the placards that those same people had been carrying all day without incident, is outrageous in the extreme. Council Leaders and politicians who implement these utterly degrading cuts should be expected to give comprehensive response to any verbal challenge that they may receive. Where Labour Council Leaders act as agents of the Con-Dem Coalition, they should expect challenge and have ready responses all the more. “There are difficult decisions to make” is not sufficient explanation or justification for the mutilation and eradication of vital services. These are the people we PAY and they must work for us or be prepared for the voices that defy them. Furthermore, Nick Forbes has wasted already stretched public funding in order to make an example of Don MacDonald and nurse his bruised ego.
However, the use of these sorts of flimsy accusations is not a new occurrence but it is very efficient at intimidating activists and breaking them with mental, physical and financial exhaustion. The manner in which the police removed Don MacDonald from him home late at night after a long day of community protest, without particular concern for the welfare of his child and refusing to revert to a more accommodating time is testament to this. Further, there is no doubt that he was pressured by circumstance into accepting the penalty in order to get the incident over quickly and return to his child. Considering all of this on top of any residual damage done to his reputation or his employability as a result of council, police and media mishandling and sensationalist misrepresentation, I daresay Don MacDonald has fairly solid grounds to his bring his own disupute against Nick Forbes. Indeed, the only thing more insulting, alarming, distressing than Don MacDonald’s treatment are the cuts themselves. This is a massive violation of his privacy, his home and his civil liberties on top of the jeopardy in which the police potentially placed his child’s welfare.
This is a warning-shot to activists across the nation, not just in Newcastle. This could have been any of us and without challenge soon this will be all of us – plucked from our houses in the night by the authorities on trifling accusations of a non-criminal nature simply for exercising our freedom of expression and fighting to keep what the community already owns.
I am pleased to hear that Don will be challenging this and has returned the penalty notice. I hope that anti-cuts activists and groups will take this campaign up with enthusiasm.