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Posted on 27 February 2013 at 15:58 GMT

Anti-cuts protester arrested for using his right to free speech

Support Michael Macdonald!

Rory Jobe

Saturday 16th February saw a massive demonstration against cuts in Newcastle with protesters turning out in their thousands.

However one unlikely face to walk past the demonstration was Nick Forbes, Labour leader of Newcastle council.

Upon his unexpected arrival, local youth worker and anti-cuts activist Michael Macdonald saw the opportunity to peacefully oppose the brutality of the cuts this man was attempting to implement against the people of Newcastle.

Michael ran over with two placards from the demonstration and stood in front of the disgraced councillor asking: "Have you seen this?"

In no way did he attempt to intimidate or threaten the councillor; he merely used his rights as a citizen to raise awareness of an issue that has massive effects on the city's people.

Indeed Michael had attended numerous budget consultation meetings with the Labour council and despite there being mass support for a no-cuts alternative he felt that the councillors had completely ignored public opinion.

Upon being shown the placards, Forbes' acquaintance asked: "Should I ring the police?" Michael continued to stand his ground despite this and in an attempt to appeal to the humanity of careerist Forbes, told him: "You have been made out to be a saviour in the press today when you've actually left us out to dry" (referring to the minimal concessions Forbes had made to his 90 million budget reduction on the eve of the protests).

Feeling that his point had been made Michael left the councillor to return to the demonstration. As he left, Forbes' acquaintance shouted "who's the big man now?" and Forbes commented "don't worry I know who he is", referring to the protester's employer.

Police arrive at house

Later that night at 10:15pm as Michael was at home with his six year old son he received a knock at the door from police informing him that he was being arrested under section 4 of the public order act.

They stated that he had "come across as threatening" when attempting to highlight the devastation Forbes was causing to the people who had elected him to represent their needs.

After four hours of questioning in the police station during which his son had been in the care of friends, his charge was lowered to a breach of section 5 of the public order act (causing alarm, harassment and distress).

He was issued a fixed penalty notice which he has returned to the court and will be fighting.

This sort of political policing is usually associated with authoritarian states, not with a party that according to its website represents "social justice, strong community values, decency and rights matched with responsibilities".

Therefore it is important for comrades to back the campaign not only for justice for Michael but to ensure we live in a society where we are free to disagree with authority and participate in the democratic process.

To back Michael's campaign or to read further about your rights please visit www.defencecampaign.wordpress.com where there is a link to the original article from the local press which sensationalises this "attack" on savage cutter, Forbes, and links to how you can help with this campaign.


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 27 February 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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