THE whole trade union movement must demand the immediate release of young protesters jailed over the Gaza demonstrations last year – and the dropping of charges against all those still facing trial – the Stop The War Coalition said yesterday.
The Stop The War Coalition condemned the jailing of protesters for terms of up to two and a half years as an ‘attack on civil liberties’.
Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop The War Coalition, told News Line yesterday: ‘Around 70 people are facing trial and seven have already been imprisoned and many are facing sentencing today.
‘All the people so far have pleaded guilty.
‘They’re nearly all Muslims and they’ve been told when they pleaded guilty that this would be the sensible thing to do.
‘We think there is an incredibly racist agenda here against these young Muslim people who were demonstrating.
‘And there were people arrested on four demonstrations, most of the protesters facing charges were arrested at two demonstrations on January 3rd and 10th last year.
‘The point is that on all four demonstrations there was a very highy level of police aggression and violence.
‘They were kettled on January 3rd and again on the 10th by police and on the 3rd they were trapped in an under-pass.
‘We think this contrasts very strongly with the way the English Defence League have been treated recently, where they don’t suffer this kind of harassment and arrest.
‘We are calling for all the charges to be dropped and we’re calling for an end to the police and the judicial system discriminating against Muslims, which is clearly what’s happening here.
‘It is clearly an attack on the right to protest.
‘This was an issue on which hundreds of thousands of people turned out in support of the people of Gaza, many of them were Muslims.
‘We believe this is a deliberae attempt to discourage people from demonstrating and discouraging young Muslims in particular from doing so.
‘The police repeatedly attacked the marches on January 3rd and 10th, they ignored all the agreements that had been made with them about demonstrating, and they made it very clear that they were protecting the Israeli embassy, which many people identified with a regime which was committing war crimes.
‘I think this is a very big issue. The slogan of the trade union movement is an injury to one is an injury to all and the trade union and labour movement has to get behind the campaign and stop these people being treated in this way.
‘The whole trade union and labour movement must immediately demand the dropping of all charges against the protesters and the release of the young people jailed.
‘This is an attack on civil liberties.’