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From The Socialist newspaper, 13 March 2013

Justice for Alfie? Defend the right to protest

Sam Morecroft, University of Sheffield Socialist Students

Alfie Meadows, who suffered brain injuries as a result of his treatment at the hands of the police during the 9 December 2010 student demonstration, has been cleared of violent disorder charges following his second retrial on Thursday 7 March.

Zak King, another student, was also cleared of all charges. The jury delivered a unanimous 'not guilty' verdict after hearing the two recount seeing police attacking protesters indiscriminately, using batons and shields to strike people, even in cases where they had already been beaten to the ground.

Their lawyer, Matt Foot, who has also defended four other student protesters, has described the increasing use of Section Two of the Public Order Act covering violent disorder as an "attack on protest."

Draconian policing

Alfie and Zak were the last of 58 young people to be charged with violent disorder in the aftermath of the 2010 protests against university fee rises, and their acquittal should be celebrated by anyone who values the right to protest.

Disgracefully only 19 of the 58 young people charged with offences following the 2010 student demonstrations have been totally exonerated, and 12 have received custodial sentences.

Even for Alfie, justice has not yet been done. Not one police officer has suffered any punishment for their actions that day, despite the fact that around 30 protesters were treated for head wounds and Jody McIntyre, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was filmed being thrown from his wheelchair by police.

Now that his trial is finally over, the Independent Police Complaints Commission must stop making excuses and deal with Alfie's complaint against the police. Will this lead to justice? Or just another whitewash?

The reaction of politicians and the police to the student demonstrations in 2010 was designed to send a clear message to young people that protesting against the vicious Con-Dem attacks on education would not be tolerated.

We must continue our struggle against fees and cuts, fighting for properly funded free education and the restoration of EMA.

We must also be prepared for the possibility of further police violence. We must stand in solidarity with the victims of police violence, defend the right to protest without exception, and campaign for the abolition of Section Two notices.

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In The Socialist 13 March 2013:

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