Court report and thoughts from BDS

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Trial report – Direct action against Cardiff arms fair 2017.

A woman from Swansea who took direct action and made hoax calls to try and stop an arms fair in Cardiff was sentenced on 25.10.17 in Cardiff Crown Court. The judge gave her a 12 week suspended sentence for 18 months and she was ordered to pay £2000 costs and £115 victim surcharge.

Members of Bristol Defendant Solidarity joined with many other supporters to accompany D through the legal process and were there throughout the trial to show that she was not alone. A defiant demonstration of our solidarity took place on the first day on the steps of the court.

Here’s some of our observations and thoughts.

Firstly, it’s excruciatingly hard to sit through the patronising pronouncements and finger wagging words of a judge whose authority we do not accept or recognise. It’s infuriating that they have the power to decide the punishment we supposedly deserve and to take away our liberty. Everything in the court is designed to make us feel small, powerless, disciplined and fearful of the consequences of our actions.

So it was very inspiring to hear the defendant, D, clearly tell the judge and the jury that she was not sorry for her actions and that she remains committted to direct action against war and the arms industry. Her explanation of how she could not stand by while arms dealers furthered their profits by marketing mass murder was very powerful. She admitted making the calls, but argued that she was acting to prevent a greater crime by aiming to stop the selling of arms used for “mass indiscriminate killing of civilians”. The judge had ruled the previous week that such a defence is not admissible. Evidently they won’t allow their courts to be used as a means to turn the tables and put the arms industry on trial. But D had a good go at it anyway!

Her moving account of witnessing first hand the destruction wreaked by these weapons in Palestine and her motivations for doing all that she can to stop arms sales brought tears to many eyes. She told the court of her experiences driving an ambulance of medical supplies to Gaza after the Israeli bombing.

“I saw kids my grandchildrens’ age being teargassed on a daily basis” she said. “I saw with my own eyes the aftermath of war. Standing in the wreckage of bombed out homes, schools and hospitals brought home to me the utter destruction war wreaks on people’s lives. That strengthened my resolve to do everything in my power to oppose this awful trade.”

The jury, sadly, were apparently unmoved and clearly suffering from a case of too much respect for the law. They dutifully followed the directions of the judge and on day two their “Guilty” verdict was reached in fifteen minutes and was unanimous. A further reminder, as if we needed it, that what’s right and what’s the law are two very different things. Their courts are not places of justice, they are places of law and of punishment.

Forced to wait until the next day for the judge’s deliberations and sentencing (all part of the punishment!), D and her supporters made final preparations for prison. There was a lot of sadness at the prospect of D being locked up away from us all and her family, but also anger at the power being wielded over us and the stress and pain caused by the state’s legal attack on our comrade.

Day three and the tension was unbearable waiting for the judge’s sentencing. The public gallery was packed and there were plenty of raised fists for D as she looked back at us all from the dock, her prison bags packed and ready by her side. The judge took her time but eventually came out with it – a suspended sentence and an order to pay £2000 costs and £115 victim surcharge.

D was not going to prison. There was much elation and an impromptu demo outside the court. Celebrations (and fundraising!) will continue as will our resistance to the Cardiff arms fair, the arms industry and war.

Throughout it all D remained really strong, defiant and absolutely solid. She puts this down to the “amazing support” she received and knowing that she was not alone. We would do well to remember that there are thousands of people on the receiving end of the “justice” system who are not lucky enough to be able to access the solidarity and support offered to D. So many people fighting back in different ways will never gain the sympathy of the judge as seemingly happened in this case.

So when we get a “win” in court (which in this case was not going to prison!) let’s keep an eye on the bigger goal of doing away with the police and court apparatus of repression, the primary weapons of the state against us all.

The Cardiff arms fair:
The Defence Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportability (DPRTE) took place at the Motorpoint arena on 28th March this year. It is an opportunity for the arms industry and government representatives to conduct their murderous “business as usual”, leading to the arming of brutal regimes everywhere with all the latest tools for repression and wars. It was forced to move from Bristol in 2014 as a result of determined demos and actions and activists in Cardiff and beyond are aiming to do the same there. Get involved and help shut them down next year!

Lastly, supporting D, alongside several other comrades with impending trials, has used up a lot of much needed BDS funds. If you can help in any way with fundraising and/or donations for our ongoing solidarity work, please get in touch: