A belated report regarding the arrest and trial of two Huddersfield anarchists at a bedroom tax protest last year.
THE BATTLE FOR BARCLAYS & the HUDDERSFIELD 2 exonerated.
On a clear spring morning on the 6th of April 2013 sixty or so people gathered in Market Cross to poorest against the Bedroom Tax, the Tory governments latest attempt to pauperise further poor people on benefits.
After a rally at the Council Chamber a few days earlier, where the concerns of a delegation of protestors had been shrugged off by Labour Councillors, socialists in the town had got together and a campaign had been formed.
The demonstration began with the usual march round town which passed off without note except for a stand-off outside top shop where protestors halted chanting ‘pay your taxes, pay your taxes’.
Things changed however when on returning to Market Cross anarchists led an occupation of Barclays Bank. Famed for insider dealing, tax evasion and arms deals, this was one of the banks that caused the financial crisis that we are all paying for; Barclay’s was a legitimate target.
The intention for a peaceful protest, that was against the institution of the bank and not the staff was made clear, but that didn’t stop the Manager Mr George, a surly brute of a man from getting reet shirty and ordering the ‘mob’ out. When he was told by protestors that they would leave when the cops came he said he ‘could get them here quicker than that’ and proceeded to set off the alarms that made the bank fill with dry ice.
Chaos ensued and the protestors left as the cops pulled up in their van to find a crowd of hundreds now outside viewing the spectacle and applauding speakers.
After 10 minutes or so of this with bro Von Mickwitz playing ‘a las barricadas’ on his violin a shout went up that bro Brooke the Elder was being lifted.
Then in the great English tradition of direct action a chunk of the crowd tried to snatch Alan back and then surrounded the van and refuse to let it leave the square.
The cops pleaded with the crowd who refused to budge so that it took 15 minutes before the van could leave. If more people had joined in the situation would have been impossible for the cops.
Minutes later bro Robin had been bundled roughly into the back of a van, earlier he had said that once when he was threatened whilst busking the cops never showed up, but when we occupy a bank ‘and money is involved’ then the cops come in force. Was he lifted for this comment or for his violin playing?
The two were charged with the public order offence of causing alarm harassment and distress. That’s rich !! How much alarm, harassment and distress have the banks caused over the past few years? How much alarm do the unemployed suffer when they get their Council tax bills through, yet we don’t see the cops pilling into leafy Edgerton to arrest Myboob Khan on the charge?
Non-the less behind black and red flags protestors and enraged by-standers marched to the cop shop, by this stage there were only about 20 of us crowded into the police station reception, now if it had been 2000 again it may have been a different matter.
Then began the legal battle and with both of accused pleading not guilty and with Alan representing himself (Lillburn fashion) it was bound to be an interesting trial.
The first hearing on the 26th July (anniversary of Castro’s attack on the Monacada barracks), had to be adjourned since one of the main prosecution witnesses simply failed to turn up. The prosecution and the bank had cocked up at great expense to the tax payer.
When the court re-convened on 22nd of November the trial ran over two days partially because Alan as well as the other two solicitors had to cross examine the witnesses.
In a sublime moment the prosecution tried to get Alan stitched up by saying that he had broken bail conditions by entering the bank three days after the fracas to give a bunch of flowers to staff. Alan persistently cross examined one witness about this who swore it was Alan. Many of us in the know however knew that this act of conciliation was committed by Rene, so how the witness could confuse a white haired bearded older white guy with a young gentlemen of west Indian appearance and spiky green hair we will never know.
Another humorous aside occurred when the prosecution played the tape of Alan’s interview in nick. The tape was fucked and sounded so slow a bit like like Barry White on ganja. This led lead to a cerpufal when they had to send to the cop shop for a tape that worked, (more time wasted). It would have been quicker to get brother Kipling on the blower and for him to bring the Satan’s Willey sound system to blast the scintillating interview out of; or even get Mikron theatre to act out the interview with Gerry Adams starring as the voice of an actor.
Alan on the stand was like a verbal fist fight between the prosecution lawyer and Alan who made salient points both legally and politically. When the lawyer suggested that we had crossed the line between political and criminal activity Alan got a smile out of the Judge when he said “Politicians do it all the time”.
By the time of his summing up the fat bull neck of the prosecution lawyer was getting redder and redder and he stumbled his words more and more.
The banks on trial
Indeed when on the stand, being cross examined by Alan, the bank manager Mr George was forced to concede that Barclays had been guilty of bad practice and that it was at times embarrassing working there.
In his summing up the Judge also commented on the bad practice of the banks. Indeed we had succeeded with putting the banks on trial.
In the end Robin who was hardly mentioned throughout the trial (cos he’d done nowt wrong) was acquitted and Alan given a conditional discharge (slap on the wrist) and only £160 in expenses despite the prosecution asking for £600.
The attempt by the authorities to intimidate us from using direct action had backfired and the two were let off.
One of the positives about the whole escapade has been the fact that this was an example of left unity in action. When Alan and Robin were lifted anarchists, Labour Party, Socialist, and Socialist Workers Party members and others all blocked the police van. During the trial the support from all sections of the left was solid; and this must be the first time in history that anarchists have been defended in a trial by an ex-policeman and a tax inspector.!!!!!!!!!!!
Many of us believe that these arrests were an attempt by the authorities to crack down on protest. For two years anarchists have run rings round the cops in many instances of direct action including occupying the job centre, ATOS and the siege of New Street......and considering that direct action blocked in the cop van in Market Cross for 15 minutes maybe the authorities will think twice in taking us on and judging by the amount of cops that were present on the first few days of the trial at court they are worried by us.
Non violent direct action will continue but what is needed is for ordinary people in their thousands to show courage, inventiveness and self organisation to take to the streets and oppose the authorities to protect our people from the attacks of the rich.