Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/552/6494
Political protest in Liverpool will not be silenced!
THE SOCIALIST has reported the continual harassment by the police of political campaigners in Liverpool's Church Street, a centre for stalls and campaigners for decades. This has included the arrest of a number of activists, including Socialist Party member Tony Aitman.
To protest against this harassment, a further "mass stall" was held last Saturday. Even more campaigners turned out: Socialist Party, CNWP, SWP, Stop ID Cards, Animal Rights, Stop the War, CND, Defend Cuba, Nerve (a Merseyside radical journal), Anarchist Federation, and many other groups and individuals.
The last "mass stall", despite a small police presence, went off peacefully. This time, though, the police were letting nothing pass. Within minutes of the stalls setting up, two police vans and three cars turned up. All the stalls, papers, leaflets and campaign material was seized, allegedly as evidence of an "illegal incident"; they even took the chair used to sit on by Socialist Party disabled member Lynne Wild who cannot walk.
Individuals were picked on by the police and their names taken, again including Tony Aitman. We now understand that 12 of these are to receive summons for "wilful obstruction".
If the police action was to prevent obstruction, they were sorely mistaken. A huge crowd of around 200-300 gathered to watch the arrests; at one time it was almost surreal - the whole of Church Street jammed, activists walking through the crowd, selling those papers that had not been seized, getting signatures, while a well-known Hollyoaks actor stood on one of the concrete flower pots addressing the crowd through a megaphone calling for a protest at the police action.
For reasons yet to be ascertained the police formally arrested one campaigner and dragged him off to the van. Very soon after, another campaigner - Carol Laidlaw, like Tony Aitman a Unison shop steward in the voluntary sector - was arrested and thrown in the van to accompany him. We tried to get them out, but only managed to get the back doors open, not the inner cage. We had to make do with passing them in papers to read!
Incensed, campaigners - and passers-by shocked by the arrests - stood in front of the van to prevent it moving, with some sitting in the road. Even more protests came from the crowd when these - including Clara Paillard, a member of the Campaign for a New Workers' Party (CNWP) National Committee - were dragged off by the police and pushed into the crowd. Clara was threatened with arrest for dropping her cigarette - we always told her smoking was dangerous!
Eventually, the vans drove off through the hundreds gathered around them; a police car driven by a Chief Inspector managed to drive over Tony Aitman's foot. Not surprisingly, Tony told him what he thought of him.
When the Inspector got out of the car to arrest him, Tony used the opportunity to inform the crowd he was a Unison shop steward who had been campaigning on that spot for years and called on them to protest to the council and the Police Authority.
Although he was not taken in, Tony can expect another summons over this. As Tony said, you wait years for a police summons, and then three come at once!
Not prepared to leave our arrested comrades on their own, we then marched down to the police station to await their release later that day. So great was the public indignation at the events that, while we were at the station, an ordinary member of the public came in to lodge a formal complaint at the police methods!
We will not take this lying down. We will be back with even greater numbers next week. Socialist Party member and ex-councillor Tony Mulhearn 'thanked' the police - the biggest crowds we have ever had, with people coming up and signing the petitions and buying papers in droves! If they do this every week, we will have to double our order for The Socialist!
The only people to benefit from this harassment will be the campaigners (and the shops selling paste tables, as we replenish our seized stocks).
We call on all Socialist Party members and supporters, CNWP supporters, trade unionists and campaigners on Merseyside to come to Church Street on Saturday - meet outside News from Nowhere on Bold Street at 12.30pm - to have another mass stall.
Merseyside Socialist Party
In The Socialist 15 October 2008:
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party women
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis