Personal Blog 22/5/2018
First and foremost I want to express my infinite gratitude to all my friends and family for putting up with me these last three years or so. In particular, singular thanks to my excellent solicitor, Anna Thwaites of Bindman’s LLP. for helping me successfully pursue restorative justice. These are my personal reflections on getting nicked, being vindicated at trial and successfully pursuing legal action against the police, who have not accepted liability but have paid a reasonable settlement out of court.
I am overwhelmingly relieved to discover that there is not only just us, there is sometimes also justice. I feel very privileged to have been born in a country where institutions like the Legal Aid Agency and solicitors like Bindmans LLP exist.
It has been extremely difficult not being able to talk about ‘my case’ these last three years. Ironically now that it’s been settled, I don’t really want to talk about it. I feel obliged and compelled to share my experience though, for my own sanity, for those who care and for those who are interested.
Almost Three Years Ago, I was arrested while livestreaming from Runnymede Eco Village who were hosting the Festival for Democracy, which was a folk gathering of peace activists, environmental activists, students and hippies. The event was intended to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta being signed. I was there to learn some history, to relax, to perform some music with friends and move in for a bit. Runnymede eco-village was an amazing place, which was later shamefully destroyed by bailiffs. I’m gutted that I didn’t get to spend time there before it was demolished.
As far as I understood it, the organisers of the festival had permission from the local council and the police months in advance of the festival but when we arrived there was a heavy police presence. They had cordoned off the eco-village and were preventing people from attending what they were calling ‘an illegal rave’. I think it’s most likely that the ‘illegal rave’ was a simple ruse to shut down the festival.
I started livestreaming immediately, to let people know what was happening and to seek advice from comrades online. I was able to broadcast a transmission from Phoenix who reassured people that it was all a misunderstanding and the festival for democracy was going ahead. We did some more broadcasts of Phoenix showing us around and liaising with the police at the entrances.
They arrested me while livestreaming Phoenix in discussion with a police officer at the main entrance to the site. The officers who arrived were overbearing and rude. They offered me no opportunity for discussion. They handcuffed, fingerprinted, DNA swabbed and detained me in a cell overnight. They confiscated my phone and refused to return it for months. They released me with conditions to leave the area and not return. I could not collect my belongings from the eco-village. I had just over £1 to my name. If it wasn’t for the comrades who waited all night to help me out, I would have been absolutely fucked.
I was the only livestreamer broadcasting from the site. I later discovered that the broadcast of my arrest had put people off attending – because the over-policing of what was intended to be a peaceful political gathering was so frighteningly disproportionate. It cannot be proven at this stage whether or not it was their intention to discourage people from coming by singling me out for arrest midway through a broadcast but that was the effective outcome.
They took me to court several months later under threat of a prison sentence. I was found not guilty by a prosecutor who expressed their discomfort at my having been brought to trial, let alone arrested. My vindication apparently came by virtue of the footage I had livestreamed before and during the arrest. (Bambuser’s free livestreaming service is sadly offline now but I have saved the footage).
When used effectively, livestreaming inverts the traditional, ‘top down’ technological paradigm. It is ironic that the Orwellian surveillance state now feels so threatened by it’s own technology. “They” clearly don’t like it. Unfortunately, “they” still hold the monopoly on the use of force.
Amongst various other factual inaccuracies in the information the police had on me, they had placed a marker for ‘weapons’ on my custody record. I was not then and do not carry weapons. Understanding how livestreamers are now routinely picked off at protests, demonstrations, actions and peaceful assemblies, I wonder if they categorised my livestreaming phone as a ‘weapon’ in the information war. It’s not that implausible.
They also placed markers for ‘psychosis’ and ‘schizophrenia’ on my custody record. I have never been diagnosed with either of these conditions.
After three years of asking them to correct the inaccuracies on my custody record, they finally agreed to add an amendment. On page 20 something of that document.
Does the State Now See Me As An ‘Arrestable’?
In my few years on various frontlines of UK activism, I have often wondered what happens to all the people who get arrested. A few people I know and know of seem to be in a continuous cycle of getting nicked and then being prosecuted (dragged through the courts) for protesting, demonstrating, occupying, blockading etc. A few have even done time in prison for peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience.
These brave few ‘arrestables’ seem remarkably at ease with the risks they take on a seemingly regular basis. I admire them all for their courage, for the strength of their convictions and for their determination to use their lives to help unfuck the world. They inspire me to do all I can to help. I also wonder which of them are political, corporate, or state plants. I wonder which political parties, which corporations, which states…which agendas…
Many more of the people who get nicked simply vanish from public view altogether. They either burn out and fade away, or go incognito as I have done to some extent recently.
It’s for this reason that I had never voluntarily been an arrestable. I would take part in mass actions but I’d always been too scared to put my hand up for cracking the squat, or doing the lock-on, or the lorrysurf, or the blockade. The unknown was scary. Being arrested was scary. Being taken to court and prosecuted was scary.
The last three years have definitely taken their toll on me physically and mentally. I’m not going to detail all of the fuckery that’s gone on because I don’t think that would be very useful or helpful but it has all been very taxing. I’ve struggled to sleep. My physical and mental health have suffered. The legal chicanery was nauseating. My solicitor was cautious about me discussing the case publicly, which was extremely frustrating. By the end of it, the cost budget if the case proceeded to trial would have been six figures. Despite being protected to some extent by the Legal Aid Agency, this was a huge privilege, responsibility and pressure to bear. Channelling the anger and fear, balancing the paranoia and caution has been extremely difficult but…
It was well worth it. I was not only vindicated at my criminal trial but I got justice afterwards. I feel great now. I’m sleeping better. I’m in a much better place psychologically and materially than I have been for a long time. I’ve got an opportunity to properly recuperate healthwise, to square up with all the people who’ve helped me and to pay some forward to comrades who need help now. That’s also what I’m trying to do here with this bit of scribbling, in a non-materialistic sense…
Perhaps most significantly, I’m a lot less scared of it all. Arrest, trial and litigation are not as unknown and scary as they were. I don’t especially want to go through it all again, but I’m much better prepared if I decide that I must voluntarily or if I’m involuntarily forced to again.
As difficult and counter-intuitive as it was, I now believe it was the right move to self-censor about the litigation. Regardless of the impact on my case, it would have had a detrimental impact on people’s perception of the ‘scary unknown’. Being arrested and prosecuted. Facing trial, possibly prison. Pursuing restorative justice. It was all scary and I was very freaked out by it. I kept a personal blog for my darkest moments, which became thousands of words long. I don’t think any of it would be of much use to share now, though I’ve boiled down some of it here so as not to sugarcoat it.
Three years was a long time to wait, but it is extremely satisfying to have walked this road to the end. I’ve learned a lot about myself, the people around me and about how another pillar of the prostitute state operates.
I feel very privileged to live in a part of the world that still enjoys freedoms that would see you assassinated elsewhere. I’m looking forward to getting stuck back in to using this privilege as effectively as I can to help unfuck the world.
Lastly, again, I am overwhelmingly grateful to Bindmans LLP’s excellent solicitors, Samantha Broadley and legal counsel, Owen Greenhall who helped to vindicate me at my criminal trial, to Anna Thwaites who helped me get restorative justice and to the Legal Aid Agency, without whom I would not have been able to get legal representation at all.
Thanks to everybody who’s helped me out materially and emotionally.
You know who you are and you’re awesome.
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The Extinction Symbol represents extinction. It is quite important to raise awareness of the 6th Mass Extinction, particularly as corporate power invests so much pretending that it isn’t really happening…