‘FREE MANNING’ Bristol banner drop case comes to court

Update: Tuesday 15th October. See also additions to this indymedia article.

Seems to have been a lot of disinfo passed out to people by the police this last weekend. I knew from Sat night on arrival at the police station that I’d be held til Monday in Wrexham then transferred to North Avon Magistrates court in Yate near Bristol. My understanding is that I should have been informed about anyone enquiring after me so I could give permission (or not) for info to be given to them. Rather, I had no idea that ANYONE was asking after me, including Gay who turned up at the police station with vegan food, which would have been nice since the cops were manifestly failing to provide for my dietary needs.

So, yesterday, 14 October, I finally got to Yate after a 5 hr journey taking in a number of other courts en route. I was still not given an opportunity to study or even read the police evidence against me, even though the duty solicitor (who I had not at that point instructed to act for me) had been given it and had already discussed it with the prosecutor. I was told that both agreed the evidence didn’t support the charge but that the prosecutor was unwilling to drop the case without taking further advice from the CPS/police. So I pleaded not guilty, elected for a Crown Court trial with jury, was released on unconditional bail and have to be back, this time at Bristol Crown Court, on Monday 4 November. The prosecution is supposed to let me know by 2 November if it’s going to discontinue its case against me so I don’t have a wasted journey if that’s the plan. Watch this space…

Update: Monday 14th October. Getting info that Genny is due to appear (or has appeared) at Mold Magistrates Court today, having been arrested at her home on Saturday (12th October) night for the non-appearance explained below, which she had notified to the court in advance and had good cause for (see below).

It seems she was held overnight in anticipation of a transfer to cells near North Avon Magistrates Court on Sunday to appear there on Monday 14th (today). Instead, however, they transferred her to cells ‘near Mold’, held her again Sunday night and scheduled her to appear at Mold Magistrates Court today.

Other info is that someone who twice tried to get to see her at the police station ‘near Mold’ was refused access, which is pathetic. As of course is the whole ridiculous, childish and vindictive pantomime. What a waste of money and resources. Stupid spiteful state – think what good could be done with the money and time expended on transport, arrest and detention for two nights of someone who plainly has done nothing wrong and obviously has no intention of absconding.

More to follow including any corrections to the info above – hopefully from Genny.

Lindi

Latest: Monday 7 October. At the end of last week, it turned out that the documentation for this case would not be available until just before the hearing, although I had asked to have it well in advance. The court refused my request to adjourn. I’ll write up later the detail of the exchanges that ensued, but the upshot is that I refuse to be put at the disadvantage of not seeing the case against me until the day of the hearing, especially as I don’t have legal representation, so I have entered a written plea of ‘Not Guilty’ and will not be attending court on Tuesday. Watch this space for future court dates.

This is an adaptation of an article originally posted on indymedia uk.

NB Venue for court hearing has now been changed to North Avon Magistrates Court. See the end of this post for full details.

by Genny Bove

04 sm  pinkbanner and new

These banners were seized by Bristol police at the end of May, at the start of a Bradley (Chelsea) Manning solidarity tour of Bristol and Wales and on the eve of the Manning show trial in the U.S.

The banners were up on the Gatton Rd footbridge over the M32. Read my account of what happened.

I’ll be at Bristol Magistrates Court, Marlborough St. on Tuesday 8 October at 9.15am to answer an alleged offence of ‘causing danger to road users contrary to section 22(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988’.

Support (and banners!) welcome.

02 SM pinkbanner

Background

By the time this incident occurred, at the end of May 2013, the pink FREE BRADLEY MANNING banner had already been displayed all over the place, including Wrexham (see also here and here), Cardiff, at NSA Menwith Hill, Chester, Liverpool, London and the summit of Snowdon.

05 albert dock

It was the first outing for the TRUTH ON TRIAL banner I’d just spent two days painting and sewing.

truth on trial banner

Complaint and subsequent charge

At the beginning of July, I wrote a letter of complaint to Somerset and Avon Police about the behaviour of the two officers who had

(a) damaged and seized my banners

(b) arrested me for daring to insist that they shouldn’t walk away unaccountably with my property having told me they were going to destroy it.

On 6 September, over three months after the incident and nearly two months after logging the complaint, I received a written summons to answer an alleged offence of “causing danger to road users”, followed by a letter from the Roads Policing Unit stating that my complaint will not be concluded while court proceedings are ongoing.

The charge sheet reads:

Causing danger to road users

On 30/05/2013 at Gatton Road overbridge, in the City of Bristol, intentionally and without lawful authority or reasonable cause, caused canvass banners to be over a road, namely M32, Fishponds, Bristol, in such circumstances that it would have been obvious to a reasonable person that to do so would be dangerous.

Contrary to section 22(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.

H.O. 5/11 Local None CJS RT88042

04 free brad banner

FREE MANNING! END THE WARS!

From my earlier report:

This account has all been about me. It’s really all about Bradley [now Chelsea] Manning, imprisoned without trial for three years, tortured, facing possible life without parole or the death penalty for exposing the crimes of empire and the facts about the real people imprisoned, abused, injured and murdered in the empire’s endless wars, along with abuse of power and influence around the world… Please find ways to show your support and solidarity.

Welsh and Irish roots

Pvt. Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning) has Welsh and Irish roots and has close family living in south-west Wales. She was sentenced in August to 35 years in jail for being courageous enough to tell the truth, for blowing the whistle on war crimes. Manning presented us with hard evidence about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the so-called ‘war on terror’, exposing the lies, speaking truth to power.

A trial the US tried to keep from the public gaze

The Manning solidarity tour was part of national and international actions before and during the trial at Fort Meade, Headquarters of the NSA. Worldwide actions aimed to alert the public to proceedings and issues that the US was doing everything in its power to try to keep out of the public gaze, denying most of the defence witnesses, restricting the scope of the defence case, frustrating the efforts of independent journalists to report accurately by withholding court filings, placing unreasonable restrictions on those attending, and with a complicit mainstream media that – apart from the odd day – largely ignored what was going on in one of the most significant military trials in US history.

Independent journalist Alexa O’Brien, who comprehensively covered the trial and pretrial proceedings, talks about these issues on Triple R news.

No Justice

Manning’s conviction on 20 of 22 charges including several counts of espionage is a travesty of justice. Read more about the revelations, the case, the verdict and ongoing solidarity efforts on the WISE Up blog and at privatemanning.org.

In the words of Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):

[A] legal system that doesn’t distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability.

Donate to support the family’s prison visits

If you aren’t totally skint, please consider making a donation to support Pvt. Manning’s Wales-based family to visit her in prison at Fort Leavenworth, US, in the coming years. The family have already made four visits to the US during Manning’s pre-trial detention with no financial support.

Back to the banners: Exercise your rights!

Don’t let this prosecution and outrageous cop behaviour stop you from getting out on the streets with yer banners! Defending our fundamental right to freedom of expression is of paramount importance in a world where the corporate mainstream media continues to silence our voices while reporting government lies as fact and where so many of our previously public spaces have been privatised and commodified. I’ll be defending my rights in court this time but the best way to defend rights is by exercising them, loudly and often.

05  smpurple banners

We made temporary and much smaller replacement banners the same night the others were seized to use for the rest of the solidarity tour (in Cardiff, Carmarthen, Haverfordwest and Wrexham), but I later made another full size one.

00 new free brad and dog

Here’s an account of one of three banner drops with that new banner in London, this one on 22 August, the day the Manning sentence was handed down:

Early evening, I head off to a footbridge over the North Circular that my brother and I have identified as a suitable location for a banner drop. At the start of this trial, Bristol cops interfered with my freedom of expression by seizing my banners and embarking on a pantomime of refusing to give them back and threatening their destruction. This culminated in my arrest and the threat of a charge that has yet to materialise, the banners became ‘evidence’ and I lodged a complaint that so far hasn’t resulted in their return. I thought that was bad but this time it’s worse. As I approach the steps on foot, my jaw drops. Someone’s taken the bridge away! (The steps without a bridge can be seen on the left of this picture).

banner hang new sgate 1

That’s a lot of trouble to go to just to stop me putting up a couple of banners. It doesn’t work anyway as I choose a nearby road bridge and display them on there instead.

banner hang new sgate 3 sm

UPDATE: 3 OCTOBER

I received a letter today from North Avon Magistrates’ Court:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
NOTICE OF CHANGES TO HEARING

The cases listed below were to be heard on 8 October 2013 at 9.15am at Bristol Magistrates’ Court. The court will now hear them

on 8 October 2013 at 10am
at Courtroom 01, North Avon Magistrates Court, Kennedy Way, Yate, South Gloucestershire, BS37 4PY.

The defendant MUST come to court or a warrant will be issued.

This is:
because the offence was committed within the jurisdiction covered by North Avon.
NB. Your letter regarding the reasonable adjustment has been forwarded to North Avon Magistrates’ Court.

R Davies
Justices’ Clerk

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

As one of the tenets of British justice is supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty”, it’s way out of order for a letter from the court, pre-hearing and pre-trial, to state “because the offence was committed…”

… alleged offence… Surely?

The explanation offered for the change of venue doesn’t add up, since there has never been any doubt where the incident occurred and presumably this has always been in the North Avon area of jurisdiction. So why was it listed at Bristol Mag. court to begin with and why has it been changed?

The bit about reasonable adjustments is weird too. The letter is supposed to be from North Avon Magistrates Court, but states that my request for reasonable adjustments “has been forwarded to North Avon Magistrates’ Court.” If you were writing at N Avon Mag. Court, surely you’d say “We have received your request for reasonable adjustments.”

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