Former LUSU President, Laura Clayson, stands on trial at Chelmsford Crown Court with fourteen other defendants charged with ‘terrorism related charges’; ‘endangering an airport’. The group known as the Stansted 15 are facing potential life sentences after grounding a charter flight on which 57 people were being deported to Nigeria and Ghana. Many of those on board have since been granted leave to remain through legal challenges to their deportations.
Many of the activists are affiliated with the End Deportations Now movement, which aims to stop the inhumane practice of deporting people at a moment’s notice to potentially unfamiliar and unsafe places – places that, as recent press stories have highlighted, they may have never even seen as an adult. The deportees are often asylum seekers, many of whom have fled dangerous and hopeless situations and have built a life in the UK. Many people consider the deportation of these people a violation of human rights and a number of organisations, including Amnesty International, are calling for an end to the practice. Amnesty consider the Stanstead 15’s charges to be political in nature and are monitoring their case. (https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/stansted-15-amnesty-observe-trial-amid-concerns-anti-deportation-activists)
Although it may seem that the charges against the defendants are disproportionate and thus unlikely to hold, the recent case of the Frack Free Four, three of whom were sentenced to fifteen or sixteen months each in prison for non-violent direct action, sets a scary precedent for harsh and extreme sentencing of peaceful protesters. One hopes the case in question does not follow suit. In a democracy much shaped by positive social changes brought about by peaceful protest, these recent rulings are an unwelcome insight into the current attitude of the justice system. The ‘hostile environment’ which Theresa May initiated for people from outside the UK now extends to their defenders and peaceful protesters in general. To tar these protesters with the brush of terrorism and threaten them with life imprisonment is absurd and cruel. As one of Laura’s friends observed: ‘Can you think of anyone less akin to a terrorist? The lass vomits unicorns and rainbows.’
The Stansted 15’s trial started on Monday 1st October and is scheduled to last six weeks. You can find out more about the End Deportations Now movement, and keep up to date with the trial via http://enddeportations.com/. Please show your support by sending messages of solidarity to End Deportations Now, contacting your MP (e.g. was anyone from the Windrush generation on board?) and spreading the word about the #stansted15 on social media. Please send solidarity messages to the 15 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read about the Frack Free Four here: https://reclaimthepower.org.uk/news/support-the-frack-free-four/