Thursday, July 18, 2013

Organising mutual forms of legal support: in the street, at the police station and in court

Some examples from London and the US

The police, the courts and prison clearly play a crucial role in controlling and repressing working class and migrant communities. During the student movement in the UK in 2010 for example individuals taking part in demonstrations against the tripling of tuition fees (from £3000/year to £9000/year) and the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance were subject to aggressive public order policing designed to intimidate people, create divisions in the movement and criminalizise protest. Pretty much everybody going on demonstrations was observed and filmed, stopped and searched, contained (‘kettled’) for hours in freezing temperatures without access to toilets and water, and many were assaulted by the police with batons and shields. Many people were arrested and charged with often very serious charges (eg 'violent disorder’). While in many cases these charges ended up not sticking in the courts simply being charged and having to deal with the court system is a terrifying experience for most. It is also a very useful way to keep activists busy over long periods of time and stop them from doing work.