Bristol Defendant Solidarity has recently been supporting defendants in court who are facing charges and prison as a result of the riots in Stokes Croft last April. Several people have been convicted over the last months and most are receiving prison sentences of 14-16 months. In the face of the revenge of the state, we restate our commitment to effective, lasting support and solidarity with all those arrested and imprisoned after the unrest.
Presently the main focus of our work is supporting defendants facing court, and providing support to those good people who have been imprisoned. We’ve seen numerous local people convicted by the lies of the police and the sham “justice” meted out by the courts. Even, as we’ve seen, when the stories put forward as evidence by the police are clearly shown up as not convincing at all, judges more often than not take sides with authority. Good arguments and truth don’t really come into it. When it comes down to the word of normal people versus the word of the cops, you know which way it’s going to go in their courts. Witness statements for the defence are still really important and can mean the difference between a guilty or not guilty verdict, and between prison or freedom. Too many good people get imprisoned because they only had overpaid, disinterested and not fit for purpose barristers to speak for them and no witnesses to speak up for them. If you saw any arrests or police attacks during the unrest in Stokes Croft, please contact BDS (see below).
The authorities, fully aware and fearful of widespread and escalating unrest and anger, are attempting to subdue our resistance with punitive sentencing that is only matched in it’s harshness and brutality by police batons on the streets. Through the use of their judicial system, they intend to set an example of people like you and me, to the rest of their subjects. The message is simple: conform or feel the wrath of our justice. Step out of line and we will come down on you hard. The police are quite up front about it, in any number of their proclamations after the riots, instilling collective paranoia and fear of punishment. All of this is designed to keep us from taking to the streets, joining with others to resist, to confront authority and to fight for a better world.
But people are rightly angry at the state of the world around us. We will continue to challenge their control of our lives and their plans for our future. We won’t let ourselves be divided into “good” and “bad” demonstrators and nor will we be intimidated to the point of staying safe indoors. So expect more mass arrests, routinised police violence and prisons bursting (or perhaps burning?) with prisoners of the class war. Let’s not forget, as hysterical media leads calls for more weapons for the police, that the recent riots erupted after a young man was murdered by armed cops and 1400 people have lost their lives in the U.K. since 1991 at the hands of the “keepers of the peace”. Next time it could be one of your friends, family or you yourself on the receiving end of the law. Let’s be clear: their judicial process is a sham and has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with protecting a system based on extreme violence and looting on a massive scale. Guilt or innocence are not important to lying, violent cops, rulers or lawmakers and people will be imprisoned for little or nothing more than going on a demonstration, saying the wrong thing on facebook, questioning authority, being politically active, being in the wrong place at the wrong time or stealing a few packets of fags. It’s times like these, when the gloves are coming off, that we really get to see the state we’re in.
We send respect and solidarity to all of those awaiting trial, in court or imprisoned after the riots this year. We want them to know they are not alone and certainly not forgotten. We will continue to support anyone arrested or imprisoned as a result of demos, riots, direct action and escalating class war. Rulers and their tools of repression don’t always have it all their way: many people evade “justice”, don’t get caught, win in court, get cases dropped, successfully challenge punitive bail conditions and sue the police for abuse of power. We believe that real solidarity between us gets results and can keep us all safe and strong, free and fighting on.
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