How to build a defence campaign, some notes



Open public campaigning is the most powerful means to challenge police frame-ups and violence. We will subject the police to the law and public scrutiny, just as they subject us to illegal harassment and abuse of law.

The advice offered below is not exhaustive. The necessary struggle to defend rights will debate many ways and approaches to building peoples campaigns to defend democratic rights and oppose injustice. The point is to fight back!

An organised defence campaign has two main elements: legal and public

Legal: if the police arrive stay calm and get the cameras out. Choose someone, preferably beforehand, to deal with them.  Note badge numbers, names and ranks. The police must tell you this information. Ask them to explain why they are there and under what laws they are acting. The police must tell you this information. Note and record as many details as you can and record all you can as clearly as you can. Try to have just one voice talking, police threats are sometimes obscured by angry voices!  This witness evidence will be crucial in court. Organise those with you for witness statements and testimony. Appeal to the public for support and witness statements there and then. Get clear contact details.

Those who have been arrested need immediate legal support. Get in touch with a solicitor. Get details of charges, where the arrested are being held. You may consider going up to the police station to register complaints, seek information and to publicise the arrests.

An arrest list is a listing of friends, supporters, legal and public figures and representatives such as councillors, MP’s, MSP’s, MEP’s, community figures, trade union, socialist, progressive and liberal organisations and figures. They should all be contacted immediately to ask them to ring in and ask about the arrestee’s wellbeing, charges and release arrangements at least. Those on the arrest list should be encouraged to at least ask but preferably, complain, about the arrests and that the contact and complaint is noted and logged. Insist on this. Experience has shown that the police are more likely to behave properly when they know that their behaviour is now under public scrutiny.
Start compiling an arrest list now.  Retain this and add as you go. Keep copies.

Contact the arrested on release if possible. Discuss legal support for any charges and discuss what they want to do about the arrests. A defence campaign can only proceed with agreement and support. Brief the arrestee on the situation since their arrest, witnesses, press coverage, photographic and video evidence and public reaction. Do they want to put out an immediate statement?

Now is the time to organise the first campaign meeting as quickly and as widely as possible. Give time though to allow people to participate. Secure a large venue, not a committee room and aim for the fullest involvement of all in discussion and most importantly the campaigning. Do not allow figures or groups to re-assure you that they will take the campaign forward through respectable channels while you go quiet. Be wary of such forces! The point is to make as much noise as possible!

This first campaign meeting has to draw up the way forward. It should aim for the broadest possible support from the people, public figures and organisations. No suggestion should be excluded. Complaints from pensioners groups, community councils and organisations, councillors, witnesses - all add to the pressure on the cops and procurator fiscal. Record and log all complaints.

Facebook, website or blog, the most effective way to publicise and build support through the internet has to be organised here. Decide on a campaign name, its immediate demands and clear contact details. The aim is to let people know what happened and that their support and activity is very welcome and very necessary.

An initial statement announcing the campaign has to come out of this meeting. It must include the campaign demands and appeal for support. This statement then has to be given the widest possible publicity: in the press, at meetings and events, across internet forums and social networking sites. In newspaper letters page and in radio phone-ins. Then leaflets and a support list - a petition - need to be produced.

Councillors, MP’s and MSP’s, should be contacted and support solicited. Protests at surgeries and offices should be considered if they are not prepared to support democratic rights.

The left and trade unions should be contacted for support and involvement. Motions passed at union branches, trades union councils should be sought, along with messages of solidarity and support and donations to fund the cost of leaflets, posters, and rooms.  

Issued by the Glasgow Defence Campaign 21 March 2013