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Press Release: Spartacus Defendants in Court

October 10, 2011 Comments off

Fortnum and Mason 145 Campaign

Tel: 07771850963

Email: [email protected]

Embargo: 10/10/2011

FORTNUM AND MASON ‘SPARTACUS’ PROTESTORS DUE IN COURT

1300: City of Westminster Magistrates Court,NW1 5HB

At 2pm on Monday, Westminster Magistrates court will hear an unprecedented case involving 21 ukuncut activists who have asked to be taken to court, taking a popular cultural reference in declaring themselves as ‘Spartacus’ in the process [1].

This follows on from the sit-in protest at the luxury Fortnum and Mason store in March of this year, in which the police controversially arrested 145 protestors for ‘aggravated trespass’ and held them for 24 hours in a police cell [2].

However, in July this year, the protesters received a letter from the CPS stating that they would only be continuing to prosecute 30 individuals, and would be ‘discontinuing’ the cases against 109 protesters [3].

However, shortly afterwards, the 21 activists in question used their right to ‘revive’ a criminal prosecution by sending a letter back to the CPS asking to be re-trialled in solidarity with those 30 protesters still face prosecution [4].

The 21 risk a maximum sentence of 3 months in prison and a maximum fine of £1,500 if prosecuted and found guilty.

Thomas Pursey said “I’m sparticus! The attempted prosecution of 30 individuals for simply sitting in a shop protesting about unncessary cuts and disgusting tax avoidance by the rich is a farse! I’m standing up and saying the CPS should drop all charges!”

Robert Johnstone, one of those who was arrested at Fortnum and Masons said “It is clear that we were all arrested in an attempt to scare people from protesting, and the police have already admitted that arrests were made for ‘intelligence gathering’ on UK Uncut [5]. I had to spend 24 hours in a police cell for a legitimate protest about the government’s unfair and unnecessary cuts to public services. It is supposed to be our democratic right to protest!”

The outcome of the court hearing on Monday – in which the 21 will be entering plees ahead of the first full trials in November – is unclear given the unprecedented nature of the move.

The courts may prosecute, adding more names to an already bulging post-riot court schedule and budget. Or they may offer ‘no evidence’, thereby formerly finding the 21 ‘not guilty’.

Read more…

Support the remaining defendants

August 4, 2011 Comments off

On 19th August, the second half of the defendants remaining from the occupation of Fortnum and Masons will appear in court to enter their pleas and have their court dates set.

Our support is both an incredible morale boost for those facing the daunting prospect of the courtroom and also sends a clear message to those few that want to quash the right to protest.

Meeting place
City Of Westminster Magistrates Court, 70 Horseferry Road, London
Date
Friday 19th August 2011
Time to meet
1.30pm

You all know the story by now…

The F&M occupation was described by a senior police officer on the scene as ‘sensible’ and ‘non-violent’. Another description of the sit-in reads: “the perfect accompaniment to my tea and scones” – a sit-in to draw attention to the £10m/year tax-dodge by Wittington Investments, the owners of Fortnum & Mason while the rest of the country faces deep cuts to public spending and services.

After being assured that they could leave safely and unhindered, the protesters were kettled by riot police. They were then arrested one by one – some none too gently! despite the lack of resistance on the behalf of the protesters – handcuffed and flung all across London for detention. The arrestees had their clothes and property confiscated, their DNA and fingerprints taken and stored. In possible breaches of arrest protocol, the arrestees were not intereviewed and some went without food for the 23+ hours that they were held. Protesters were finally released after up to the full maximum 24 hours detention in all white tracksuits/paper suits in unfamiliar areas of London – a sizeable number of arrestees being from far outside London.

Lynne Owens, the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has admitted that the arrests were made for intelligence purposes.

The arrests have been universally condemned – as ‘confusing political anger with criminality’ and ”threaten[ing] the right to peacefully protest’. A coalition of unions and NGOs released a statement of support for the protesters saying that they ‘were treated in a political and deceptive manner by the police which sends an ominous message about the right to protest’.

Tax avoiders should be on trial, not protestors who raise awareness of their scams so please come and support the second half of the remaining defendants.

Good News! CPS Drop 109 Fortnum & Mason protest cases

July 18, 2011 Comments off

Today the CPS have announced that they will be dropping 109 cases of the 145 arrested at Fortnum & Masons during anti-cuts demonstrations on March 26th. There remains 30 people who the CPS still plan on prosecuting, 13 of which have a trial set for November .

But questions remain as to why the decision was taken to arrest 145 people staging a sit-down protest against tax dodgers and why they continue to prosecute 30 individuals with the same charges as the 109 dropped today.

Lucy, one of the protesters who today had her charges dropped:

I’m relieved that the CPS finally sees sense that prosecuting those fighting unjust cuts with sit-ins is a complete waste of money and time. But if its not in the public interest to prosecute me, why is it in the public interest to prosecute another 30 simply because they had leaflets in their bags. It’s ridiculous . All the arrests were politically motivated, designed to try and scare ordinary people from building a movement against the unjust unnecessary cuts. The charges against the remaining 30 must be dropped immediately .

Robert, one of the 30 remaining defendants:

I’m delighted that most people have now been let off but I am annoyed, frustrated and angry that I will still have to face a very time consuming and stressful trial when not only is it totally ridiculous that we were all arrested for sitting in a shop in the first place, but after the CPS have now admitted it is not in the public interest to prosecute such people, they are still prosecuting 30 of us based on having leaflets and flags ! This is clearly an attempt to make an example of us and put people off from protesting, all within our so-called ‘justice system’. Criminal charges against protesters must be dropped immediately.

May 10, 2011 Comments off

For Immediate Release,  fortnum145.org

The first Fortnum and Mason 145 hearing takes place as our campaign continues to grow.

Yesterday morning, around 70 people gathered outside the court hearing of Fortnum & Mason occupiers as well as others arrested on March 26 and the student demonstrations. The court have decided to hold a case management hearing on the 27th June, it’s a high possibility that a test case involving 10-20 defendants will take place shortly after. We have to make clear that this decision is not fully confirmed and may be different in some cases.

The Fortnum145 campaign was established for the 145 protesters who were controversially arrested after staging a sit-in at Fortnum & Mason called by UK Uncut on March 26th.

The protest, that took place on the day of the TUC ‘march for alternative’, highlighted the £40million tax dodge by Associated British Foods which is majority-owned by Fornum & Mason’s parent company Wittington Investments. The figure of £40 million of tax avoidance has been calculated by fours years of operation of a £9.7 million dodge exposed by Tax Research UK. See here

Footage which emerged since the protest shows a senior police officer at the scene, describing the protest as ‘non-violent and sensible’ and promising that they would all be free to leave. In oral evidence from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lynne Owens to the Home Affairs Committee stated the motivation for the mass arrests was for intelligence gathering.

She said: “Do we now need to build on that intelligence picture? Yes, we do. It is why the fact that we arrested as many people as we did is so important to us because that obviously gives us some really important intelligence opportunities. … We do need to improve the intelligence picture, but our ability to arrest over 200 people at the weekend gives us a very good starting point in terms of building that picture”

Sophie Stephens, a supporter of the Fortnum 145 said: “The treatment of the protesters has been a clear attack on the right to protest and civil liberties. The mass arrest happened amidst calls for the police to be given more rights spy on protesters. The police have even told parliament that this was an opportunity to gather intelligence about protestors. This is political policing clear and simple.”

The Fortnum 145 campaign is independent of UK Uncut and was established by family and friends for the 145 protesters who were controversially arrested after staging a sit-in at Fortnum & Mason called by UK Uncut. It aims to counter inaccurate reporting in the media that property was damaged inside Fortnum & Mason by these protesters and to highlight the criminalization of legitimate protest.

The campaign has been running for a short amount of time but has already generated huge interest. Since the launch, their website, Fortnum145.org, has had over 14,000 views and on Facebook alone, 3,500 people have liked the campaign.

ends

Keep up-dated – follow us on twitter @FM145

LINKS:

Lynne Owens evidence to the Home Affairs Committee is available at:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmhaff/uc917-i/uc91701.htm

A video of the police officer inside Fortnum & Mason is available at:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/mar/28/cuts-protest-uk-uncut-fortnum

Today’s protest was organised by Defend the Right to Protest Campaign:
http://defendtherighttoprotest.org/

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