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Defend the Right to Protest

Thursday 9 February 2012 Citizenship

Alfie Meadows needed emergency brain surgery after being attacked by the police during the 9th December 2010 student demonstration, he is now being put on trial for violent disorder. Find out here how to support Alfie and defend our right to protest.

On the 9th December 2010 thousands of students demonstrated against the increase in tuition fees. Alfie Meadows was one of those students, committed to safeguarding his and future generations’ education. Alfie campaigned at his institution Middlesex University to save the philosophy department which was under the threat of closure under the Government’s higher education policies. He, along with friends joined the mass demonstration in London. Alfie’s experiences at the demonstration were some of the most distressing for anyone who believes in the right of citizens to use civil disobedience.

During the demonstration protestors were routinely the victims of aggressive tactics by the police. Kettling remained the preferred choice of police crowd control. Also there were many eyewitness accounts of police charging at demonstrators on horseback. A doctor from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary who set up an impromptu field hospital in Parliament Square spoke of her experience of kettling describing it as

“The most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen…the crush was just so great.”

She treated several people for respiratory problems and chest pains. During this melee, Alfie was struck with a police baton so hard that he needed emergency brain surgery. What happened to Alfie is shocking but not uncommon for instance disabled activist and journalist Jody MacIntyre was dragged from his wheelchair and beaten with batons. The right to protest is being eroded; this was made clear by the aggressive police tactics used against Alfie and other protestors and the fact he is now facing a charge of violent disorder. Alfie’s trial will be on 26th March and we are urging students to show their support for Alfie and the other students who were attacked and arrested by the police at the demonstration.

The events of the 9th December demonstration underlined a worrying trend of violence as a deterrent to the right to protest, we believe this is unacceptable. If you agree we are urging you to protect our right to protest in the following ways:

  • Joining the protest in support of Alfie Meadows at the first day of his trial, 26th March from 9am, Kingston Crown Court, 6-8 Penryn Road, Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey, KT1 2BB.
  • Signing the justice for Alfie Meadows e-petition here http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/justice-for-alife-meadows/.
  • Visiting the Defend the Right to Protest website and getting involved with current and upcoming campaigns, demonstrations and petitions www.defendtherighttoprotest.org.
  • Attending Stand Up For Justice: a public rally, 5th March, 7pm, Friends Meeting House, 173 - 177 Euston Road, London, NW1, 3BJ. Speakers will include Alfie Meadows and NUS President Liam Burns.

 For more information email Dannie Grufferty at danielle.grufferty@nus.org.uk