After being remanded on October 7, anti-cuts activist Omar Ibrahim, of Glasgow, was finally sentenced today in a London court room. Omar recieved 18 months for trumped up charges of 'violent disorder' at the TUC demonstration in London on 26 March this year.
Before being remanded in custody last month, Omar wrote the following statement:
Being tried for violent disorder and now preparing to be sentenced by Justice Price of Kingston Crown Court I can fairly say he is an unjust man. I came to this firm conclusion when he informed me that I would serve an immediate custodial sentence, despite having a letter offering immediate employment, even if I accepted the lesser charge of affray. A decision that tore apart any potential employment opportunity for me and left me no choice but to go to trial for violent disorder. Such is the contempt that the judiciary displays towards the commoner. One wonders if Justice Price has any idea how difficult it is to secure a firm contract of employment in this economic climate.
Despite being found guilty by a jury of my peers I maintain that I am not guilty of violent disorder in an incident on London's Oxford Street during the March 26th cuts protests.The crown's case is that I am to be incarcerated for throwing a child's toy that I picked up from the kerbside, a smoke bomb from a joke shop, in the direction of Top Shop and then struggled with police officers during arrest, alleging that I squeezed an officer's testicles. I maintain that I have a weak shoulder and was wearing a backpack. My shoulder has been dislocated over forty times, due to an epileptic condition that is now under control, meaning the joint is deformed. This was operated on to clean up bone fragments and tighten up ligaments in 2009, but the joint can slip out of place if forced. As I was apprehended from behind and forced towards the floor I tried to maintain my balance. My arm was grabbed and was being twisted behind my large rucksack, causing my shoulder to slip a little so I tensed my lateral and deltoid muscles to to keep it in place. I was again forced almost to the floor, the officer was under my rucksack, beneath me. It is in getting in this position the officer maintains I grabbed and squeezed his testicles. I do not believe this happenned and maintain this incident was a complete accident if it did. On getting to my feet a second officer came and the pair dragged me to the side of Top Shop by my legs and arms. All the while I was either trying to hold my shoulder in place or tell them about my shoulder. This was not acknowledged by the court, despite one officer admitting he heard me in his report whilst the other denied any knowledge, and this is how I am to blame for the charge of violent disorder: where three or more people engage in violent or threatening behaviour that may cause a person of reasonable firmness to fear for their safety.
The crime of violent disorder and its misuse in political policing goes back to 2001, where a man was incarcerated for ten months for shaking his fist and shouting "Kill the Bill", and is being enforced more and more as the protests themselves continue to go on as we head towards recession. The crown wishes my case to be seen as one of a mob of hooligans who broke off from the TUC demonstration against the cuts to charge around London causing chaos and destruction. I see a carnival of protest full of colour, noise and rebellion which wished to highlight those that are at fault in this economic crisis. I was not there simply for the TUC demonstration but also the UK Uncut demonstrations on Oxford Street. I sought to challenge men like Philip Green, who outsources his production at Top Shop to the Mauritius and then funnels his profits out to Monaco, leaving the taxpayer purely the chance to consume or distribute. He recieves a knighthood for his disservice: I throw a discarded jokeshop smokebomb and I am not only deprived of contracted employment but sent to prison. Thus is the demonisation and criminalisation of the 21st century protestor.
When I look at my case in context I see a system where the relations between the state and the individual protestor have been twisted to such an extent that they have now passed breaking point. First the state tries to challenge popular and peaceful demonstrations such as that of the dearly missed Brian Haw. Then there is the demonisation of popular protest by prosecuting those who have committed minor offences, eg Breach of the Peace, and charging them under the vaguely defined charges such as violent disorder. One recent example is Francis Fernie. Then there is rampant harassment of poltiical protestors, wasting police time in raiding their homes, making cross-border raids and acting in an intimidating aggressive manner that is almost oblivious to anything but its own voice. A friend of mine was taken from his home and down to England to face a police questioning which ended up a case of mistaken identity. He was excluded from their enquiries this week, months after an incident where his friends and family were intimidated in an overenthusiastic political policing campaign.
The press and state love to blame political protestors, and especially anarchists, for all the trouble. So much so that the street I live on was published in the national press on my arrest back in March. I am a committed anti-fascist activist and this publicising of my address led to me being threatened by the organiser of a group associated with a proscribed terrorist organisation and the National Front. I asked he not approach my family should I be imprisoned and was immediately told that they would be left alone as long as I didn't cause him any trouble. A big deal was made in court of the fact that I wore shinpads to this demonstration, but I have been at demonstrations where I have not been arrested but my shins have been scarred and bloodied by over-enthusiastic riot squads. I have spoken to and dealt with the police calmly in high pressure situations and in situations when they have requested my assistance. I wore shinpads in case policing got heavy handed, as it proved to be later on that evening and has been on many occasions in the past. If the riot police are dispatched with full on kevlar and carry on booting away at protestors, putting them in chokeholds when they are kettled, shinpads become necessary protection. The wearing of shinpads is not an indication of violent intent but a matter of personal safety.
Still the state continues to blame society for the ills of the state. The most apparent symptom of this ignorance broke out this summer in Tottenham when a protest that merely asked for the ear of a ranked officer of the law was ignored and responded to with increased police presence resulting in the beating of a 16 year old girl when there could have been a simpler, community minded response to the protest.That incident broke out into the most widespread incidence of looting and vandalism on the streets of England in years, for 5 nights running. It is important to highlight that anarchists, including myself via social media, promoted and participated in the riot clean up campaigns across the UK to regain some sense of social cohesion amongst this symptom of a sick state with a market that needs investment and growth not deprivation and inflation. Society is not sick. Society responded to the infantile riots not as playground bullies charging around with body armour and blunt instruments, muttering about water cannons and rubber bullets. That was the state response. Society demanded a clean up. Society applauded Tariq Jahan as he called for an end to the tit for tat violence after seeing his own son die in his arms.
However, this society is not an impressive high roller and has diminishing options for employment. It is not exemplary enough for those who looted en masse this summer. Society is having its services cut and its options for education and retraining denied with a growing debt to default on to fund its higher education. Society looks like a loser to those with higher ambitions. Banks get bailouts, corporations avoid tax, parliamentarians fiddle expenses, police officers inform journalists for money whilst investment bankers pray for the recession to cut deeper for long term rewards. High rollers reap the profits of corruption whether the market is booming or bust. Justice Price is not one of those high rollers in my eyes. He is a well intentioned man carrying out the full rigour of the law to a strict conservative agenda. It is for him a time to gain a legacy as a comic book villain who deals a strong whip hand towards any voices of descent. He is a child of the hang em and flog em generation. One who perhaps feels he missed out on donning the black cap and dishing out corporal punishment by just a few years.
I am not a hero like Mr Jahan and neither am I a qualified servant of the crown like Justice Price. I am a silly man, with a bad shoulder, who threw a child's toy at Top Shop, revelling in a carnival. For this I will serve an idiotic prison sentence, this much I can take as read. This does not worry me, my main concerns are my parents and my elder brother and sisters who will spend the time I am imprisoned sick with worry and my inability to comfort them beyond a phone call or prison visit, aswell as my nephews and nieces. I hope they are not targets of scorn and ridicule. No doubt they will feel that pain and to them I give my humblest apologies. To those who compare our justice system to those of corrupt regimes I wish to remind you that many have been served prison sentences far longer than my sentence, by this system, for doing absolutely nothing. Men like Paddy Hill and Gerry Conlon. Their lives were ruined by this system, despite any recompense they may have recieved. I do not claim that level of innocence. At the very least I know that I did throw a child's toy at Top Shop.