END THE CRIMINALISATION OF PROTEST
On 26 September 2012 Trenton Oldfield was found guilty of the ancient and largely unused law of 'public nuisance'. He was charged for his direct action protest against the rising and unjust inequalities being exacerbated by government cuts and the culture of elitism in the UK.
A conviction for Public Nuisance can result in a sentence of life in prison. Read more on this very unusual situation in a recent blog post by John Cooper QC.
Trenton will be sentenced on 19th October 2012 at Isleworth Crown Court.
Trenton should not have to face criminal charges for exercising his right to protest.
Bear witness to the sentencing by attending the court itself and/or sign up for campaign to refuse the criminalisation of protest and protesters. See how below.
1. Bear Witness to the Criminalisation of Protest
Trenton is to be sentenced at 10am. He may be 'sent down' there & then.
10am | Friday 19th October | Isleworth Crown Court | London
email firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm you attendance
2. Sign the letter of support which also calls for the end to the criminalisation of protest. Early signatures include John Carlos and John Pilger. Email email@example.com for a copy of the letter. *Signatures - by individual or groups needed by Monday 15th October 2012
3. Sign and share the petition on Change.org 'End the Criminalisation of Trenton's Protest'. Coming soon.
See below for more information about Trenton's action and the charge against him.
On the 7th of April 2012, Trenton Oldfield undertook a direct-action protest at the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. The aim of his protest was to focus attention on the longstanding and entirely unjust inequalities in British society that are being severely exacerbated by government cuts. Trenton chose the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race because it is a symbol of class, privilege and elitism in Britain.
An astonishing 70% of the cabinet in the current government are Oxford or Cambridge graduates. This government is protecting the privileges of the wealthy while cutting the essential necessities of the majority and the poor and reducing people’s rights and freedoms.
In the three days before Trenton’s protest, the coalition government (1) received royal assent for its bill to privatise the NHS, (2) introduced the Communications Data Bill to legalise surveillance of all digital communications of UK subjects, and (3) called on people to 'shop their neighbours' if they suspected they might protest at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Trenton’s protest aimed at drawing attention to these injustices. He swam into the course of the boat race. The race was halted and restarted 25 minutes later. The action was seen by an international audience but it affected just 18 rowers and a handful of event organisers on a closed river, on a long weekend. The direct-action protest was wholly consistent with Trenton’s decade+ work in London addressing this city’s unnecessary poverty and inequalities. The audience for the free event experienced a minor delay of 25 minutes. The BBC coverage ended at its pre-scheduled time-slot. Not a single complaint was received from the public by either the Metropolitan police or the BBC.
Trenton was initially charged with Section 5 of the 'public order act'. Hansard reports reveal that government ministers asked the police commissioner to increase the charge so that a custodial sentence could be achieved. On the morning of his first court appearance (23 April 2012) Trenton’s charge was significantly increased via the ancient common law charge of 'public nuisance' under which conviction can result in life in prison. On the 26 September 2012 Trenton was found guilty of causing ‘public nuisance’ for undertaking his protest.
The recent conviction and sentencing of Russian feminist rock collective Pussy Riot to two years in prison for their protest was rightly met with shock and anger for the lack of tolerance towards dissent under Putin. The very same lack of tolerance towards dissent seems to be happening in Britain as Trenton waits for sentencing on the 19th October 2012.
There is concern about the change in the original charge seemingly due to political and media pressure. This protest against inequality and elitism does not warrant a custodial sentence, least of all possibly years in prison. It is alarming that this charge might be levied against protesters in the future. The only motive we can see for the CPS selecting this outdated legislation is that it offers courts the chance to hand down sentences up to life in prison.
After Wednesday’s verdict Trenton made the following statement: "As inequalities increase in Britain and across much of the world, so does the criminalisation of protest; my solidarity is with everyone everywhere working towards more equitable societies.”