Imprisoned for walking down the road (we can’t possibly be living in a police state, oh no no no)

As reported by the Guardian, Stephen Gingell (father of three, proprietor of the Sandbar in Manchester city centre and friend of CEM) is the first person to be sentenced under the horrifying “public order” legislation brought in during the summer.

His “crime”? Walking down a road, holding a banner. Apparently this constitutes “interfering with national infrastructure”, but we all know the intent of the legislation was to have a chilling effect on the protest tactics of Just Stop Oil and other non-violent direct action groups.

What can we learn from this? That “the powers that be” know full well what climate (and other) horrors are coming, and are getting the necessary “legal” frameworks ready to be able to arrest people for more or less anything they like – the police powers are already alarmingly broad, and we have also seen in recent years how partial and heavy handed police forces can be.

It also tells us that if we were still hoping for “government” of any level from local, national or intergovernmental to save us, that clearly ain’t happening. Even with the likelihood of a change of government looking very possible in the UK in the next year or so, nothing about the Labour Party’s policy position or the noises they’ve made in opposition makes it look likely that horror show legislation like the Public Order Act will be repealed. And this is before we’ve got anywhere using the broad spectrum of climate action that remains ever more desperately needed.

So, what to do? Firstly, understand that we only get the justice we have the power to compel, which means effective and sustainable social movement organisations are fundamental to this, and very, very thin on the ground right now.

Secondly, solidarity with those affected by this sort of lawmaking is vital. The state of UK prisons is awful and we can only imagine how profound an effect Stephen’s incarceration will have upon him and his family. Keeping Stephen’s (and others!) morale up whilst they’re locked up is the absolute least we can do — we’re going to find out more about that and will keep you updated.


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