Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Voices from the Occupation - Ms Mendoza's Feeling for Snow


Voices from the Occupation
Ms Mendoza’s Feeling for Snow

Tuesday 22nd November was the big day in court for those arrested for standing outside parliament on 5th November, and for Occupying Trafalgar Square on 9th November 2011.  While none of us were looking forward to this day, we had no idea 11 of us would be spending any time in the cells.  This article, written by one of the defendants, recreates the experience of this awful day for justice, under the misguided and abused authority of District Judge Michael Snow.

On 26th March this year, a group of UK Uncut protesters, occupied a Fortnum & Masons store.  Why?  Because while government is falling over itself to privatise and slash our public services under the guise of austerity, it is giving enormous tax breaks to very powerful corporations.  Fortnum & Masons are one such company.  The UKUncut crew danced, played music, held banners and handed out leaflets to customers and staff in the store to make them aware of the scandal which does not get discussed in mainstream media.
The onsite police called the demonstrators ‘sensible’ and ‘polite’ – a very British demonstration.  In this civilised air the protesters were asked to leave the store, together and they would not be arrested.  This was a lie.  Once they left the building they were kettled, arrested, banged up and charged with Aggravated Trespass.

Just last week, District Judge Michael Snow, despite all this evidence and a Crown Prosecution Service request to reduce the charge, decided to find the protesters guilty.  This means a criminal record, a conditional discharge, each had to pay £1000 towards the prosecution costs and a fine.  Not to mention the emotional impact from arrest to trial and beyond.  All this for daring to stand in a department store and ask why it wasn’t paying taxes.  There has been limited but impassioned retaliation to this verdict across the liberal and social media sources, but most people still are not aware.

It is seen as portentous of the death of peaceful protest.  Law makers and law enforcers seem hell bent on making anything but the most benign and ineffective protest illegal, to all intents and purposes making peaceful protest illegal by default.

So, walking into Court 7 at Westminster Magistrates Court, I was particularly unimpressed to see District Judge Michael Snow presiding over my own appearance for Illegal Protest.

The list caller called the 11 guys arrested at Trafalgar Square first.  Dukes wore an ill fitting suit he’d bought from a charity shop; ‘I saved a life by coming to court!’ he joked with me before we went in.  EC however was wearing a sleeping bag.  He hopped into court and was almost immediately set upon by Snow.  He was told to remove himself from the sleeping bag, to which he retorted ‘Under which law?’  After some minutes of debate and gruff exchanges he was locked into the plexi-glass dock with the other 10.

Judge Snow continued to goad the men in the dock.  Making them repeat themselves, berating them for not standing and sitting at the right time, when they were 11 men in a dock with 5 seats in it.  While talking with Van Eck, Judge Snow demanded he remove his hands from his pockets.  Van Eck looked at him questioningly and said ‘why?’  Judge Snow continued to demand he remove his hands from his pockets.  At this point, a clearly upset Leon Pike couldn’t take his eyes off the Judge.  Judge Snow noticed this and accused him of 'glaring'.  Leon took a step back, looked upwards and said he was just looking – at which point Judge Snow addressed the Court Clerk.
“Can we get the jailers up here now please?”
An audible ripple of shock crossed the public gallery and the dock, with mumbled voices saying ‘this is outrageous’ etc.  At this point, a door opened in the back of the dock, several large officers came through and all 11 of the defendants were seized and taken to the cells.

This was a case of simple, good old fashioned bullying.  Leon was no threat to the Judge.  He was locked behind plexi glass in a dock.  Judge Snow had done everything he could to provoke the merest glimmer of a response from the defendants…and when he felt he got it, he revelled in it.  It is stressful enough being taken into a dock, worse still to be crowded into one.  You are locked in, it’s cold, you can barely hear the conversations happening about you in the courtroom.  You are dealing with a lot.  What you don’t need, is a bully on top of that pushing your buttons.

With that, it was our turn.  Me, Pedro and James wondered into the dock where we were locked in.  To our stunned disbelief, the door in back of the dock opened and three guards came through and circled us.  It’s bad enough being locked in a box, without being kettled at the same time.  We looked to the guards and asked why they were there.
“We’re just doing our job, you don’t need to ask us any questions” responded one. I turned to him and responded.
“What you need to understand is that we are in a really stressful situation here.  Our friends have just been sent to the cells, we’ve been locked in a box.  It’s incredibly dehumanising, and now, on top of that I’m feeling really intimidated by your presence.  So I might have some questions about that.” 
He shrugged his shoulders and the three of us looked at each other and our supporters in the gallery, frankly, open mouthed.

The following scene can only be characterised as pathetic, shambolic and ridiculous.  The senior prosecutor present announced to the court that he had not read the brief.  The full burdensome extent of the case against us is two one and a half page police statements.  So, we have paid travel fares to come in from York, Finsbury Square and Farnborough, for the prosecutor not to have read 3 pages of information in advance.

Each time Mr Hall, the senior prosecutor spoke, he was actually laughing. 

We had reasons to be optimistic about this day.  The Prosecutor was completely unprepared.  The SOCPA Law which we are being tried under was repealed in February this year and is simply awaiting removal from the statute.  We are in possession of the letter of authorisation provided by the Metropolitan Police sufficiently in advance of the march.

In short, we are three people of good character who have a clear case that we didn’t break a dead law. Where is the public interest in pursuing this to trial?

District Judge Michael Snow disagreed.  We are now going to trial on March 28th-29th 2012.  The Trafalgar boys were bailed from their cells to return for trial April 4th-6th 2012.  District Judge Michael Snow requested he sit both trials.  We have been informed we have no case under law to request an alternative judge as we can’t prove in law that he is biased against us personally.

So, inside of what I can only assume, is Judge Snow’s personal penchant for criminalising peaceful protest, we are now next in his sights.  We have no jury to appeal to as it is a Magistrates Court.  But I know what we do have.  We have clean consciences.

Judge Snow may well get his day in court with us, he may very well find us guilty of a crime.  But it won’t stop there.  I make this promise.  I will appeal this with every recourse open to me, and I will refuse to let it impact upon my stand to protest for a world based on contribution, equality and compassion over one motivated by profit. 

To be clear, Judge Snow, you may well be finding me in your court more and more in the near future, because we are all sick of bullies like you.  In our parliament, in our courts, in our workplaces, in our media, telling us what to do, when, how and with whom.  We are sick of sky high prices and gutter wages.  We are sick of the language of freedom being used to cloak the policy of oppression.  We are sick of corporate welfare – of privatised profits and socialised losses.  We are done.  We’ve had it.  To put it in the words popularised by the movie The Network – ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!’

The thing is, for every Judge Snow, there are ten Leon Pikes, EC's, and you's.  People who stand FOR people and not against them.  People with big hearts, creative minds and the courage to bring both to bear on the world.  What we are creating now is a tidal wave of humanity; the force of which will sweep away the detritus in our system and reshape the world in ways that right now, we can but imagine.  The first thing, is for apathy and cynicism to be put aside - replace it with an unflinching commitment.  You can change the world, you do so simply by existing.

22 comments:

  1. That sounds horrible. What those people think about themselves is just making me sick...but their time will come. Nicely written, thanks for that. Going to share so more people know.

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  2. Excellent work. I will be there at the trial. As I have said before, I am sad for humanity. I am choosing to post as 'Anonymous' because this is my right; but please don't take it that I am a member of ANONYMOUS. Because I'm not. My name is Ceri Lowe-Petraske and I am with you 100% x

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  3. Beautifully expressed - thank you for having such passion and using it so creatively in opposition to frightened bullies everywhere :-)

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  4. Why on earth did you turn up? You're protesting a system, then being spanked by the same system and then lamenting about being spanked by the system you're protesting. The system is corrupt people. You don't need any more confirmation of that, surely?

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  5. Shocking! I wonder how much crap like this has to happen before the general public fight back? I hope the media start to take some responsibility and actually report the facts of cases like this, instead of asking leading questions to sell a few papers taking the mick out of anarchists and hippies. I'd much rather read about this than Jordan's latest conquest but sadly, most people just don't give a damn about the raping of our rights.

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  6. Your ability to describe and share the experineces that you and your peers endure is exceptional - you are a brave woman and everyone should take a step back and note your extraordinary commitment

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  7. Be sure , my friend, when I say I am not being patronising.
    Your unpleasant experiences are a rite de passage, a fast track to wisdom and maturity.
    Many people never taste the sharp end of our legal system. They speak from ignorance. Unlike you.

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  8. Ms. Mendosa...may the warmth of your beautiful, big heart melt the snow. Love.

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  9. It used to be that the judges in England had those big hearts. They have shrunk year by year as the consumerist bloat overtakes this country. I am sorry that this has happened to you, but rest assured people are watching. Thank you for writing.

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  10. The Bald Eagle (NoToMob)23 November 2011 13:39

    You are righteous.

    Snow is a very small cog in a very big wheel that grinds exceedingly slowly. He deserves only the respect he can command, and if he continues his bullying ways he will command none.

    You will ultimately win because if he is allowed to get away with this by his peers, it is they who will be held to account, and they have a lot more to lose than Snow.

    However, this will take time and you can be sure that this ordeal will push you to your mental and physical limits. Please be careful my friend.

    It's an old saying, but in this case it bears repeating.

    "Don't let the bastards grind you down."

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  11. "Just last week, District Judge Michael Snow, despite all this evidence and a Crown Prosecution Service request to reduce the charge, decided to find the protesters guilty."

    The CPS asked to alter the charge, not reduce it. Disruption, obstruction or intimidation the charge is equivalent.

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  12. I've been out of the country for 12 years now. When did being locked in a plexiglass dock become accepted as a norm in our courts?
    It's not even denounced in and of itself in this account. Talk about creeping oppression. Will defendants be placed in chains, next? How long would that take to become unremarkable?

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  13. Observing this case was my first personal experience of the criminal justice system in this country. I was appalled at the inherent superiority of the court staff and the treatment of the defendents. This is NOT what I voted for....

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  14. Your written account is very revealing - Stay strong - many will read this now - you are not alone - The world is watching!

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  15. Very disappointed in the british justice system....I thought judges were meant to be impartial, that people were innocent until proven guilty. I also believed that it was our right to have freedom of speech, to peacefully assemble to protest............I think snow is mixing up rioters with peaceful protestors.....either that or he is a bullying idiot.
    As for the state of the british press......this is the sort of story they should be covering.....if there are any journalists out there that see their job as a vocation, then please work to cover issues like this in order to safeguard human rights, justice .........start uncovering the issues that are going to impact peoples lives....the tax evasion, the financial apartheid, the insidious erosion on liberty, the way powerful co-orporations & banks have brought our Government....the erosion of social services.....i could go on. The true journalists, the true heros fighting to reclaim our democracy are the bloggers like Ms Mendoza and all those that gather video footage from the front line. Thank you.

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  16. Elaine aka Momdoza, Kerry's mother in law23 November 2011 18:42

    This is beyond all reason - but why am I surprised. I suppose I do still expect the justice system to know the difference between peaceful, constructiive, protest and blatant rioting, and to act accordingly. Please take care about how you challenge this man he holds an unprecedented amount of power and could seriously harm you, even with the huge amount of love and support that we all have for you, those who know you personally and those who don't.

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  17. Suddenly you realise why so many ordinary people are in jails and why so many rich and powerful people get away with their crimes. You're right they are bullies. It's institutionalised bullying by people who don't want to share. They design this system. They run it.
    Keep going my friends. We support you and we will be joining you.
    "Fill All The Jails" as CND used to say.

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  18. What a superb piece. I salute you all (in a non-military fashion of course) ;-)

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  19. JUDGE MICHAEL SNOW SENDS PROTESTERS DOWN AGAIN http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMA4l-mqsAc

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  20. Hi I’m not anonymous I'm Scriptonite Daily’s father, a proud father which probably goes without saying. I have watched and waited with great interest reviewing all the writings in support of her stand, which were almost without exception an honour to read, thank you to everyone who cared enough to comment. However, what was I really waiting to see? I was waiting to see just how long it would be before the steam began to run out and the stream of support became a trickle before finally ceasing to flow. I think sufficient time has passed by, it is now the 28th November 2011 and three days have passed since the last message was placed. You might well ask why am I so interested in this particular issue and should I not be saddened by its passage into history. And if you asked such a question you are correct it does sadden me, but probably for the reason you expect. What is more important to me is the realization that the establishments stalling tactics will have the same isolating effect on my daughter and her fellow protestors come their day before the magistrate in March next year. The barbaric and dehumanising tactic known as the ‘Kettling Process’ to which the protestors were subjected during the protest and their subsequent appearance in court is now successfully being used again, only on this occasion it is more subversive in nature for it is TIMEthat is being used to divide and conquer. I’m no expert on the law, but would guess that my daughter and her fellow protestors would be allowed the benefit of people to bear witness to their rightful protest and the morally if not unjust manner of their treatment on the day, and the subsequent bias whims of a magistrates who has what appears to be a personal vendetta against those who seek the simplest of civil liberties, the right to peaceful protest. So I hereby request that those of you who were present on the day, also be present on their day of judgement and avail yourself to bear witness against this erosion of civil liberty, reminding the magistrate that this is what he should be protecting, not his ass.
    Remember, remember the fifth of November to ensure justice is done.
    Don't wait like me contact her now.

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  21. This is a complete abomination of your Civil Rights - I am sure there are some European Court rulings that would help you - I would get in touch with Amnesty International and have a representative there too.

    Well done for standing by your principles, I am hopeful that because of good people like you, my son may have a future in this country after all.

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  22. Thank you for what you are doing, you are an inspiration

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