Anorak News | The Stansted 15 and the right to protest – don’t cheery pick your causes

The Stansted 15 and the right to protest – don’t cheery pick your causes

by | 12th, December 2018

Wind your neck back to March 28 2017. Fifteen protestors are attempting to prevent a plane chartered by the Home Office to deport illegal immigrants from leaving London’s Stansted airport. The plane is scheduled to drop its human cargo off in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ghana. Some of the activists have chained themselves to the plane’s front wheel. The plane never did take off. Predictably nicked, the group were charged with the crime of aggravated trespass. No biggie. The Crown Prosecution Service thought it not big enough and escalated the offence to one of “intentional disruption of services and endangerment at an aerodrome” – see: 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act; a law passed in response to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing that carries anything up to a life sentence. The CPS says the protesters “placed themselves, the flight crew, airport personnel and police at serious risk of injury or even death due to their actions on the airfield”. All 15 have been found guilty of this larger offence. 

Ella Whelan argues that the Stansted 15 “were not intent on harming anyone at the airport. All they wanted to do was stop the plane.” What of the people aboard the plane? Well:

One man on that plane was going to miss the birth of his daughter due to his deportation – and he has since been granted permission to remain in the UK. As we saw in the Windrush scandal, the government’s approach to immigration control is chaotic and cruel: several of the people on board the plane were being deported under the ‘deport first, appeal later’ policy, which was deemed illegal shortly after the Stansted 15’s action.

To date, 11 of the passengers who were to be deported “have now been given legal status in the UK”, reports Sky NewsSo the criminals did good, then. They helped people and prevented injustice. We should now help them.

The Guardian calls the 15’s treatment “chilling”. The New Statesman calls the verdict “a particularly cold blast in the increasingly chill wind blowing against public dissent in the UK”. But does your view on the Stansted 15 hinge on whether or not you believe in the right to peaceful protest or if you just support their cause? The Guardian gives much space over to the nature of Home Office deportations:

The protesters were highlighting a harsh and punitive system with which many are rightly and increasingly ill at ease. In June this year, Virgin airlines said it would no longer help deportations. Relying on charter flights (in several cases from an RAF base, following the Stansted protest) only veils the issue.

Slugger O’Toole notes:

Over 300 public figures have signed the open letter including much of the Labour front bench, filmmaker Ken Loach, activist Owen Jones and writer Naomi Klein. It calls for the Stansted 15 to be spared prison and calls on “the UK government to end its inhumane hostile environment policies and to end its barely legal and shameful practice of deportation charter flights.”

That’s Owen Jones who tweeted: “The right to free speech does not give you a right to a platform.” That’s the New Statesman that told us of a “Kosher Conspiracy”. That’s Ken Loache who backs the censorious BDS movement. That’s the Guardian in which you can read the inane argument “No platforming is not a threat to free speech, it is only a threat to hate speech.” Championing free speech and free expression is something we should all support – but let’s not only do it when we agree with the persecuted and support popular ideas. 

Posted: 12th, December 2018 | In: Key Posts, News Comment | TrackBack | Permalink