A campaign to establish the facts around the death of Sheku Bayoh who died in police custody in Kirkcaldy on Sunday 3 May 2015 is growing. More than 100 people from a variety of campaigning organisations highlighted the need for clarity, truth and Police Scotland accountability at a conference in Glasgow on Saturday 25 July 2015.
Organised by the Justice for Sheku Bayoh Campaign and Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC), others supporting the day were the Ethnic Minority Civic Congress (EMCC), Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees and the STUC Black Workers’ Committee.
They aim to work together on the central issues of Sheku’s death in police custody to obtain justice not only in his case but in others across the UK.
Sheku, a British Gas employee and a black man, was surrounded by police who claimed they had received reports of a man carrying a knife. They used batons, CS spray, handcuffs and leg restraints. Aged 31 and father of two, Sheku, was dead on arrival at the local Victoria Hospital. He had no history of violence.
Born in Sierra Leone and brought up in London before moving to Kirkcaldy when he was 17, Sheku has lived and worked in the town since then.
His family’s lawyer, human rights champion Aamer Anwar, opened the conference with a detailed account of the events before and after Sheku’s death. He said there had been 11 deaths in police custody in Scotland in 2013 – more than double the number recorded in England. ‘Police officers are not above the law,’ said the lawyer. ‘It is a disgrace that it took 32 days before the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) got statements from the officers involved. If PIRC is not to be seen as a toothless body, it must be capable of exposing the truth.’ He also said that Sheku’s family had been given five different account by Police Scotland of the events leading to Sheku’s death. He concluded that the family were not prepared to wait years to find out who was responsible for the man’s death.
Richard Haley, Chair of Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) said: ‘We still don’t know the full facts. But it is beyond reasonable doubt that the police response is unacceptable. Police Scotland has a responsibility to us, the people of Scotland and so does the Scottish Government.’ He also said: ‘Race is the missing word. I believe racism in the police is institutionalised and has to be confronted. Far too many people die in police custody.’
Ade Johnson, brother-in-law of Sheku posed the question: ‘Who polices the police? Who are the police accountable to?’ He said the family were still waiting for apologies for the way they were treated after Sheku’s death and they needed details of what exactly happened in the last minutes of his life. ‘How hard is it to tell the truth?’ he asked. ‘It is very hard for PIRC to tell police officers to tell the truth. Will we still be asking these questions ten years from now when Sheku’s sons will be old enough to ask these questions? Every time a police officer passes, we ask those questions. We know it will be a long time before we hear the truth. But we are prepared.’
Sheku’s sister, Kadijata Johnson told the conference: ‘Police told us lies. We are still waiting for the truth. We want justice. All of us in Scotland should get justice.’
The other major speaker in the conference morning session was Deborah Coles, co-Director of Inquest. The organisation supports families whose relatives have died in all forms of detention. Its core principles are Truth, Accountability and Justice. Inquest was in touch with Sheku’s family within two days of his death and was the first organisation to offer support, for which the family thanked Inquest publicly.
Said Deborah Coles: ‘When I first read about Sheku’s death, I recognised that he was being demonised in an attempt to distract from the actions of the police.’ Any family has limited resources against a body like the police, so it is a struggle.’
She emphasised that in law, international and UK law, there is a ‘right to life.’ She said: ‘Where a person dies in the hands of the state, this death cannot be treated lightly. It must be treated under the law as the human right to life.’
She added that a disproportionate number of those who died in custody were black or from the ethnic minority communities and said that almost 1000 people had died in police custody in recent times in England and Wales. ‘There has never been a successful prosecution,’ she commented.
‘We have to ask questions of the state – why has there been no action by the state in these circumstances?’
She also underlined the need to remember those people whose cases were not high profile who had died, and the resulting impact, emotional and physical on their loved ones. ‘Sheku’s family are at the beginning of a long journey. I am deeply concerned about this case and implore the Scottish Government and the Crown Office to set up a public inquiry.’
A long lost painting of Glasgow Fair has been acquired by Glasgow’s Museums and will go on show at the beginning of February in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
The exquisitely detailed picture was painted by John Knox, a famous artist of very big canvases, around 1819- 1822. It shows around 1000 people in fine detail on Glasgow Green attending the annual Glasgow Fair.
There are booths, sideshows and rides with people having a good time in and around the stalls and activities. The figures show rich and poor, soldiers from different regiments, street vendors, beggars, merchants, pick pockets, men watching a cock fight and a woman trying to drag her drunk husband away from a seller of alcohol. There are twins in matching clothes and a sign for Mr Taylor’s Olympic Circus which advertises slack wire, tight rope dancing, theatrical and horsemanship displays. A travelling menagerie called Wombwell’s Grand Collection of Beasts, is also seen. An anti-slavery booth is included in the fun of the Fair.
The painting was thought to be missing for more than 100 years. Then, in 2013 in Sotheby’s in London, it was sold as depicting a fair in Aberdeen by an Irish artist William Turner de Lond. Later it was recognised as the work of John Knox because of the landmark Nelson Monument on Glasgow Green which is seen in the background.
No purchase price has been revealed but it was bought with generous support of the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Trustees of the Hamilton Bequest and Friends of Glasgow Museums.
Said Councillor Archie Graham, Chair of Glasgow Life: ‘John Knox’s Glasgow Fair is a painting that belongs to Glasgow and we are delighted to welcome it home. It shows Glaswegians enjoying themselves at the Glasgow Fair in the city’s oldest park. It also helps us understand the historical importance of a holiday many of us still enjoy every July.’
The acquisition is supported by the Showman’s Guild of Great Britain. They recognise the importance of the painting in demonstrating the contribution of the history and heritage of travelling Showpeople to the development of the city.
The display will be complimented by a programme of events and activities including storytelling, creative writing, multi-sensory workshops, school visits, specialist talks and family weekends. For more information visit: www.glasgowmuseums.com
As the number of ballot papers was first checked, interested parties were able to meet and chat and compare notes of experiences during the canvassing processes.
Glasgow City Councillor Alison Thewliss brought baby Kirsty to the count and was determined to see the night through at the Emirates Arena. ‘But I’m nervous about the outcome,’ she admitted. Richie Venton of the Scottish Socialist Party said he was delighted at the number of people who had been ‘educated,’ during the campaign. ‘This was mass political education. That cannot be stripped away or reversed now. These people will make demands and we’ll have a different kind of Scotland either way the vote turns out.’
Labour Party member Ghulam Nabi, a Southsider who writes for a London based Asian paper, was non-committal about the outcome. ‘We’ll need to wait and see.’ Joe McCauley one of the Labour team leaders said: ‘We’ve had three sessions a day for two and a half years of solid slog. We owe a great deal of gratitude to the people who’ve done this work. What is really pleasing is the number of new people who have joined and who have been inspired. We’ll keep the momentum going and show that politics really does matter.
Political consultant and African Caribbean expert, Graham Campbell reported with pride how by 11am on Thursday 18 September, the number of voters in Alexandra Parade where he was based, had equalled the number who cast their votes at the last Scottish Government election. ‘By 5pm 60% of the electorate had voted and it was 70% at 9pm. We’re confident, even in a staunch Unionist area like Dennistoun, that the vast majority were voting YES.’ He too commented on the ‘poll tax refugees’ who had never voted since that debacle and young people who had become interested in important local issues simply because of the referendum campaign.
Marah Louw, the singing sensation who famously danced with Nelson Mandela when he received the Freedom of the City in 1993, will sing in Glasgow again on Friday 4 April, at the start of Aye Write! book festival.
Marah – a former judge on South Africa’s Pop Idol – will perform at the ‘Glasgow Celebrates Mandela’ event in Mitchell Library. Chairing the evening will be Brian Filling, Chairman of the Scottish Anti-Apartheid Movement and now Honorary Consul for South Africa.
Said Marah: ‘That event in George Square in 1993 was a turning point in my life and career as an artist. The invitation from Brian Filling and the Anti-Apartheid organisation to come to Glasgow and perform in front of thousands of Glasgow people was a huge honour. The crowds were happy and excited at seeing Mandela for the first time. For me to have been part of that historic moment has been priceless.
“People standing in the rain, cheering, touching him, touching me, was magical. Not a lot of artists from my country have had that opportunity. I kept pinching myself in disbelief that I was on the same stage with this great man. I felt blessed, I still feel blessed.’
Nelson Mandela – South Africa’s first democratically elected president – died last year aged 95. Marah shared special moments with her country’s leader, including performing at his freedom concert at London’s Wembley Stadium, as well as his Presidential inauguration in 1994.
The singer will share her memories of her time with Mandela, as well as her affection for Glasgow, with the Aye Write! audience.
Marah said: ‘I’m filled with mixed emotions of remembrance, sadness and the humble responsibility of keeping the memory and legacy of Tata Nelson Mandela alive. I also feel joy. My reason for joy is that I am honoured to take part and be able to come to Glasgow and celebrate the memory of Tata Nelson Madiba Mandela. I just love Glasgow, the warmth and hospitality of the Scottish people is amazing. The audience at our Celebrating Mandela event can expect to be entertained with some of the music that Madiba used to enjoy and which I always had the opportunity to perform in his presence.”
Scottish Anti-Apartheid activist Brian Filling campaigned for Mandela’s release from prison and became firm friends with Madiba. He was a guest at Mandela’s inauguration in 1994.
Brian will also share some of his memories with the audience. He said: ‘Nelson Mandela was well aware of the support he had in Glasgow before arriving in 1993 and he went on to have a special relationship with the city. I met with him a number of times after his visit and he always expressed his thanks for that support.
‘I’m delighted Marah will be joining us at Aye Write! on Friday. She’s a very good entertainer and I’m sure the audience will have an enjoyable night.’
Scottish hip-hop group Stanley Odd will also be appearing at Glasgow Celebrates Mandela, adding a whole new dimension to the event. The group has been commissioned to produce a song on Mandela’s life and achievements and will perform the track live for the first time at the evening event. There are still a few tickets left for this event.
Aye Write, Glasgow’s book festival, runs from Friday 4 April till Saturday 12 April. It will bring more than 150 famous authors and speakers to the city for a huge celebration of books and writing.
For the full programme of events see: www.ayewrite.com
Tickets can be bought via the website, by calling 0141 353 8000, or in person at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.
Allan King, Head Chef at Jurys Inn Glasgow beat off five finalists in a live event to win the first ever ‘Jurys Inn Best Chef Competition’ at Unilever’s Knorr Kitchens in London. He collected a £1,000 cash prize and will see his dish included on restaurant menus across the group from May 2014.
The competition, which was run in conjunction with sponsors Unilever Food Solutions, PSL, Reynolds and Fairfax was judged by John Brennan CEO Jurys Inn; Shaun Watling Executive Chef, The Berkeley; Ian Shaw, Director of Key Accounts, PSL and Paul Hawkins, Culinary Development Chef, Unilever.
Head Chefs and Sous Chefs from across the hotel group were asked to submit a recipe containing chicken and at least two Unilever Food Solutions products, suitable for a Jurys Inn Bar or Restaurant menu. Each entry was scored based on creativity, planning, suitability and presentation as well as the capability to replicate the dish in any Jurys Inn kitchen. The six finalists competing in the live final had two hours to prepare their signature dish plus a dessert using only items from a ‘secret ingredients box’. They were judged on technical skill, presentation and taste, hygiene and food waste management among other things.
Said Bobby Fitzpatrick, Group Purchasing Manager, Jurys Inn: ‘Over the past two years we have been very focused on our food and beverage. We set up a Chefs’ Circle – a think tank – dedicated to sharing best practice and creativity and to developing new dishes and menus.
‘The Best Chef Competition takes it to the next level and enables us to tap into the great pool of talent we have across the group while raising the standard of our food and beverage offering.
‘It has also allowed our chefs to showcase their talents while enabling us to identify and recognise the exceptional people we have in our company.’
The competition will become an annual event and Jurys Inn is considering running a Young Chef of the Year Event in 2014.
The winning dish by Head Chef, Allan King was a lemon-marinated chicken breast with a ginger and herb sausage, rosti potato and braised winter cabbage. From the “secret ingredients box” he prepared a rhubarb and apple cheesecake with fresh raspberry coulis.
All six finalists received a set of chefs’ knives, Best Chef jacket and Best Chef plaque.
Rod Stewart will NOT be the first to perform in the SSE Hydro which opens on Monday 30 September 2013 in Glasgow. Two musicians and SoundSational Community Choir took the opening honours when they sang at the preview night for those who steered the venue to the on-time, on budget launch.
Singer songwriter Murdo Mitchell was busking when he was spotted by an SSE Hydro organiser and hired to entertain the crowd arriving for the preview. ‘It’s just fantastic to be here,’ said the teenager.
The other singer songwriter who has beaten Rod to the SSE Hydro first spot is Pete Westwater.
A seasoned performer, he was playing a gig in a Glasgow music spot when he was heard by another organiser of the venue opening events and hired on the spot. ‘It’s a great privilege to be here,’ said Pete.
The choir was followed by Admiral Fallow a group forecast by music pundits to be heading for stardom.
The venue seats 12,000 and is the only one of this size purpose built for world class concerts such as Rod Stewart. Even before it opens, it is ranked among the top five busiest venues in the world alongside Madison Square Gardens in New York and The O2 in London because 140 major entertainment and sports events are scheduled. Glasgow’s latest Waterfront building will also host the 2014 Commonwealth Games gymnastics and netball sports.
An iconic building which glows blue and green at night, it is expected to inject around £131 million into the local economy. It is part of the SECC complex and sits well alongside the Clyde Auditorium (the Armadillo) and the SECC.
The only off-note is that the cost of parking a car in the adjacent, purpose-built car park is £7.
While the Liberal Democrats started contemplating their Fairer Society and Stronger Economy inside Glasgow’s SECC on Saturday 14 September 2013, a variety of protest groups rallied outside.
Organised by the STUC and Scottish CND, the protesters raged against the unfairness of the bedroom tax and of Trident being located on the Clyde.
Falun Gong silently showing their support for people in China they believe are being killed for their body organs. SheBoom women drummers pounding out their message loud and clear. And political musician Alan Smart of Beat the Bedroom tax added telling new verses to an Adam McNaughton song to make: ‘You Canny Have a Spare Room in a Pokey Cooncil Flat.’ He said: I’ve been writing and performing political songs for more than 30 years but have never felt so motivated to do so than now through the bedroom tax.’
Corralled in a car park, the crowd of a few hundred was continuously monitored by CCTV through Glasgow Community and Safety Services’ mobile services. This limited company, which has charitable status, is a collaboration of Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Police.
And while the rally proceeded – with police helicopter drowning out several speeches – Lib Dem delegates strolled into the SECC at a safe distance.
The protesters gave a big cheer at the arrival of Alan Wyllie who had walked ten miles from his home in Foxbar, Paisley to highlight the fact that a ‘NO 2 bedroom tax campaign’ march was banned by Glasgow City Council.
Instead, campaigners met at Glasgow Green and held a rally there before boarding a bus to the SECC to join the crowd already gathered. They had been severely warned by the authorities that they would be observed all the way and if anyone was found to be marching they’d be arrested.
Top line speakers all condemned the Westminster Government policy which reduces benefits to people who have an extra bedroom. Others condemned the continued locating of nuclear weapons on the Clyde.
Kate Hudson, General Secretary of CND came from London to address the rally. George Potter, a delegate to the Lib Dem UK conference in the SECC whose motion to scrape Trident will be heard on Tuesday was listened to respectfully. Arthur West, Chairman of Scottish CND said he was pleased at the success of the rally and hoped the Lib/Dem conference delegates would ‘see sense’ and adopt the motion. Dave Moxham, Deputy General Secretary of the STUC said that Trident was a moral issue for the STUC. ‘ It isn’t just the harm this ultimate threat could cause; it is the threat to our spirituality. Every day Trident is on the Clyde, we are diminished.’
On the bedroom tax issues, the most constructive ideas came from Glasgow Trades Council when Chairperson Jennifer McCarey announced a public hearing on Thursday 31 October. She said: ‘We are inviting all community groups, housing associations, churches and others to give their testimony on how the bedroom tax is affecting lives. These voices must be heard.’ She added: ‘We will not forgive and forget Lib Dems’ part in bringing in this iniquitous tax.’
Mary Lockhart a former Chair of the Co-operative Party and the organiser of Mrs Barbour’s Army spoke up to have exemptions to the bedroom tax expanded. She said: ‘No family with someone serving in the forces should be paying tax on the room that person will come home to. No one who is disabled should have their benefit cut because of this tax.’ She said current exemptions must be made clear and unambiguous.
Chair of Ardenglen Housing Association, Maureen Cope, MBE, got loud support from the audience when she castigated police for preventing the march from Glasgow Green. She said: ‘We need to make the most of this rally and get our message across to the Lib Dems. Calling the bedroom tax ‘an insult, an injustice and a punishment of the poor,’ she told her listeners that those who brought in the tax were ‘not fit to govern us.’ She continued: ‘These welfare cuts are breaking down our communities. It is a human right to have a home fit to live in. People should not be freezing and going without food because of benefit cuts and this tax.’
She was followed by Unite trade union’s Community Co-ordinator, Jack Ferguson who said: ‘Make no mistake, this tax is part of a plan to destroy social housing. It is destroying the basic human right to a decent home. I hope the Lib Dems have some spine and a sense of what is decent and vote to stop the bedroom tax.’
Waving a Free Cornwall flag, Michelle Kent had travelled from her home in Cornwall to support the Glasgow rally. She said: ‘Six months ago I couldn’t walk. Now I’m so angry I can stand here and say what this Government is doing is wrong on so many levels. If I’d had to move out of my house, my son would have become homeless and had to live on the street. I’m not prepared to stay quiet.’ She then invited the crowd to observe a minute’s silence to remember people who’d died while fighting the bedroom tax.
Alan Wyllie, spokesman for the ‘No2bedroomtaxcampaign’ who walked many miles to the rally because a march was banned said: ‘I warned months ago that people would have to unite to beat the bedroom tax. All the political parties are the same. Labour wrote this script. Tories and Lib Dems have delivered it.’
Theresa Stirling, who organises benefits advice sessions in Penilee Community Centre said: ‘It is a shambles. We should get rid of the lot (of politcians) who brought the bedroom tax in. They are a disgrace.’
The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra (SFO) is renowned for enjoying itself while entertaining big audiences and raising funds for charities. ‘Even the Queen wanted to dance,’ reported the Sunday Post after one concert. So their concert on Saturday 14 September in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall in aid of the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) aims to give the same pleasure.
Conducted by Blair Parham, the SFO will be joined by the 1st Troon Boys’ Brigade Pipe Band – Scottish, British and European World Champions in 2012 – for a rousing performance of ‘Highland Cathedral’ as one element of the evening. A BB band members was such a hit with the SCO at their recent, first-ever, tour of China that he has been invited back.
Formed in 1980 to promote the best of the Scottish tradition of massed orchestral fiddle playing, the orchestra has performed in London’s Royal Albert Hall and regularly attracts capacity audiences in Canada, Australia and now China. It has raised more than £1 million for good causes and recordings have sold in 70 countries worldwide.
Tenor Jim Nicol, mezzo soprano Arlene Rolph and young dancers from the Myra Shuttleworth School of Dance in Castle Douglas will entertain on the night and popular compere Jim McColl MBE from the BBC’s Beechgrove Garden will be host. His pawky humour and endless supply of anecdotes keeps everyone laughing while the orchestra’s music keeps toes tapping.
Grace Wilson, Glasgow based fundraiser for CHAS said: ‘We’re so grateful to The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra for this opportunity to raise much needed funds for CHAS’s hospices at Robin House in Balloch and Rachel House in Kinross and for our CHAS At Home service. Our volunteers work very hard so it’s lovely they get the chance to attend such a fun evening to hear The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra.’ The volunteers will take the retiring collection at the end of the night.
Tickets – from £9 to £19.50 – can be booked for this evening of traditional Scottish music, song and dance online at: www.glasgowconcerthalls.com or at the Royal Concert Hall. Or call the box office on 0141 353 8000.
Visit CHAS at www.chas.org.uk
See the SFO at: www.sfo.org.uk
A Scottish charity which supports asylum seekers has condemned a UK Borders Agency advertising campaign branding it ‘shameful and deeply offensive.’
Positive Action in Housing (PAiH) say a new poster campaign begun by the UK Borders Agency in Glasgow’s Brand Street where asylum seekers are required to ‘sign in’ often weekly, is racist and xenophobic.
Giant posters depict a destitute refugee and say “Is life here hard? Going home is simple”. On each chair in the waiting room, there are large stickers saying “Ask about going home”.
Said Robina Qureshi, Director of PAiH: ‘A similar London based poster campaign is being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority. “Go Home” is a well-known racist taunt that has been used for decades in this country by fascists and racists against those of us from immigrant communities. That a government agency should decide to take up the same racist and xenophobic refrain while “processing” would-be refugees to this country, is shameful and deeply offensive.’
She added that claiming refuge is a human right. ‘The reality is that refugees coming into the UK are caught up in the incompetent bureaucratic mess that is the British asylum system – a system that in November 2012 failed to deal with its asylum backlog, and left more than 100,000 items of post relating to asylum cases unopened. Some of the asylum seekers concerned have been left in limbo for an average of seven years.
‘This campaign is designed to harass and wear down those from refugee communities and undermine the excellent anti-racist work already being done in Scotland. I would urge people to write to their MP and MSP to call for this hate campaign to be stopped now and to raise the matter in Parliament’
James Dornan SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart has condemned the UKBA campaign and asked Home Secretary Theresa May, to stop it immediately.
He said: ‘There is no room for this type of abhorrent xenophobic campaign which will only serve to make already vulnerable people feel unwelcome and fans the flames of racial bigotry.
‘We only have to look at the terrible events in the Middle East right now to see what ‘home’ can be like for some of these people. There are upwards of 1300 Syrian asylum seekers in the UK – some of them in Glasgow – does the Westminster Government really think it is appropriate to be telling people like them that it is “easy” to “go home”?
Mr Dornan has also lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament pointing out that the UKBA tactic only fans the flames of prejudice and demanding the Home Secretary end the scheme at once.
He added: The UKBA clearly has absolutely no idea how modern Scotland treats vulnerable people. I strongly condemn this poster campaign by the UKBA and urge them to reconsider this so-called pilot and remove their extreme tactics from Scotland.’
Margaret Wood of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees said: ‘Asylum seekers have a legal right to claim asylum. People come here to claim asylum after experiencing the most appalling circumstance. They are traumatised especially in Brand Street where they have to go through difficult and stressful experiences in the process of making their claim. It is absolutely disgraceful that UKBA has run their campaign there. It should not be allowed. The phrases used are reminiscent of a period when people were hounded. Everyone hoped that time had passed.’
A Home Office spokeswoman told this website: ‘The posters are being piloted at reporting centres in Hounslow and Glasgow. They do not use the wording ‘go home.’ Information on our voluntary returns scheme is available in all 15 reporting centres across the country.
She added: Those with no right to remain in the UK should leave voluntarily. These posters are designed to ensure people know that we can provide sensitive advice and assistance to help them return home with dignity. The Home Office will continue to work closely with community groups who welcome the opportunity for someone who is not here legally to leave the country of their own accord.’
John Wilkes, Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council, said: ‘We are very concerned about the appropriateness of new signage in the Home Office reporting centre in Glasgow.
‘When vans bearing the slogan ‘Go Home’ appeared in London we shared the widespread concerns of many MPs and the Deputy Prime Minister that such hostile and aggressive language risked inciting racial hatred in our communities. We were pleased that the Home Office saw sense and immediately withdrew this inappropriate campaign.
‘Now we hear reports that information displays promoting the message to ‘go home’ are being used in the Home Office reporting centre in Glasgow. We understand that these posters are part of a pilot project being trialled by the Home Office to promote and inform people of the support scheme provided by the UK Government for those people who voluntarily choose to return home.
‘However, voluntary return is just not an option for many refugees who are from war torn countries such as Syria, Iran and Eritrea as they would face certain persecution and real threat to their lives. One young asylum seeker burst into tears when he saw the message about going home and seeing family and friends again. He has no idea if his family are alive or dead.
‘Asylum seekers who report to the Home Office have the right to a fair and unbiased decision on their claim for protection and many will go on to be granted refugee status and protection in the UK. Using blunt communications to suggest that going home is ‘easy’ is insensitive and inappropriate and can send the wrong messages to people about whether their claim will be treated objectively and fairly. We urge the Home Office to take on board concerns about the appropriateness of the language and communication style being used.’
Recent revelations about secret police who infiltrated activist groups were aired in Glasgow on Monday 19 August 2013 at a Glasgow Defence Campaign gathering.
Rob Evans, award winning Guardian journalist and co-author of ‘Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police’ was the lead speaker at a meeting in the CCA on Sauchiehall Street. Others at the top table were: Advocate Claire Mitchell who specialises in human rights cases; Niall O’Donnell from Newcastle’s Revolutionary Communist Group and Joey Simons of the Glasgow Defence Campaign. The latter two told of their experiences at the hands of police.
Ably chaired by Paul McKenna, the event brought out an audience of more than 60 people including – as the top table pointed out – ‘familiar faces of people we normally only see in court.’
They were referring to the city’s own version of undercover police officers who were not ‘in character’ as the top ten described in Rob Evans’ book were.
From his account, this special group of London based officers gave up their warrant cards in order to be untraceable. This clandestine unit’s job is to monitor ‘subversives’ from a wide range of campaigns. They use the identities of dead people, have fake passports, driving licences and bank accounts and remain under cover for years. They become trusted and key members of their selected campaign – or did, till Rob and co-author Paul Lewis ‘out ed’ the unit.
Said Rob: ‘Can we justify police spending £1million of public money to intrude in people’s lives this way?’
Advocate Claire Mitchell has fought for the human rights of her clients for 20 years. She said: ‘A person has the right to hold opinions and to speak out to express them. There is not a more apt time to listen to what Rob is saying. Freedom of expression in this country is not properly guarded compared to Europe. People are becoming criminalised.’
She emphasised strongly that each person should read the Human Rights Act so that they know their rights. And invited everyone to write to Police, MPs, MSPs, Councillors and anyone else they could to ensure the Human Rights legislation remained. ‘This Act is your protection and should be promoted. But Rob Evans’ book suggests it is being violated in the most terrible way.’
Both Niall O’Donnell and Joey Simons went into detail about their struggles against being criminalised by police.
Niall was one of 14 people arrested an hour before they started a protest march in Newcastle against neo fascism. After months of harassment, including having his home raid by police, he was told the police would take no further action. He said: ‘We want answers. Someone has deliberately stirred things up. This is unacceptable behaviour and we will continue to fight against it.’
Joey described how he and colleagues in the Glasgow Defence Campaign were first charged in the summer of 2010 with selling newspapers illegally outside a supermarket in Govanhill. Police harassment continued and in February 2013 he was charged with using a megaphone illegally at a public rally against ATOS. (see reports on this website).
He said: ‘We simply ask – ‘Why?’ – We are no threat to the British state. We are no threat to anything.’ He said it was crucial for each person in such a situation to know the law and know their rights. Of six people charged on 18 counts, they were all proved Not Guilty. ‘But it took three and a half years,’ said Joey. ‘We believe this was an attempt by police to criminalise us.’
Following that, the Campaign will hold a vigil outside Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday 1 October between 9am and 10am. ‘No one should be harassed in this way,’ said the chairman Paul McKenna. ‘Our strategy is – Don’t Panic. Organise!’