Campaigners gather on Buchanan Galleries Steps to protest the conviction of Stansted 15 activists last Tuesday.
The group of anti-deportation campaigners had prevented a charter flight from take-off, scheduled to deport 60 migrants to Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone in March 2017.
The conviction – “endangering safety at aerodromes”, announced the day before, marks the first time in the UK a non-violent direct action is charged with a terrorism related offense.
Outrage among activists motivated several demonstrations across the UK.
Elisa Gerit, Glasgow protest organiser and member of the Glasgow School of Art stand up to racism society said: “The Home Office are the ones that are guilty, not the Stansted 15 – peaceful protest is not terrorism.”
“If charged with the highest offence, the Stansted 15 could face life imprisonment. They haven’t harmed anybody”, continued Gerit.
“We don’t find charter flights and these brutal deportations acceptable here in Glasgow and we are going to fight that practice,” the student continued.
Chants, placards, the colour pink and Say it louda song by activist and musician Lorna McKinnon grabbed by-passing evening shoppers’ attention.
Toni Bruce, student at the Glasgow School of Art, said: “I see this as a dystopian ruling that the court has made against the Stansted 15, I don’t want to live in a world where this just becomes part and parcel of our society”.
“We need to actively stand up, we cannot let our right to peacefully protest, be taken away from us”, she said.
Bruce blames the political leadership behind the events: “What this shows is this complete, barbaric lack of compassion in the ruling class.”
“This culture of red tape and neoliberalism puts profit before human lives, … our government runs essentially on profit before people!”, Bruce said.
Also Amnesty Internationalraised concerns with the verdict, which was first introduced in response to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people. Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, expressed concern with the new trend:
“Public protest and non-violent direct action can often be a key means of defending human rights, particularly when victims have no way to make their voices heard and have been denied access to justice.”
“Human rights defenders are currently coming under attack in many countries around the world, with those in power doing all they can to discourage people from taking injustice personally. The UK must not go down that path.”
Stansted 15 activist Ben Smoke, observed a wider issue behind their legal case: “Our actions struck at the heart of Theresa May’s legacy as home secretary – the hostile environment. It’s the creation of a racist, brutal set of laws and policies, and a toxic culture within the home office.”
“This isn’t just about whether or not 15 people lying in a cold, remote part of an airport, somehow magically endangered the entire airport, it’s about the Home Office and striking to the heart and legacy that was left behind by our now Prime Minister Theresa May”, said Smoke.
Out of the 60 individuals booked onto the charter flight last march, 10 are still in the asylum process and one has been granted indefinite leave to remain. Many others have since been deported.
Solidarity protests with the Stansted 15 continued the following Tuesday up and down the country, a verdict will be decided in February.
By Titilayo Farukuoye