Newcastle: Labour attacks protesters

On 6 March Labour-run Newcastle City Council passed a devastating package of £100 million cuts over the next three years. Every Labour councillor supported it. Council leader Nick Forbes, as ever, blamed the ‘unfair’ government and complained that he passed the cuts ‘with a heavy heart and much soul searching’. Forced to respond to calls by campaigners to set a budget based on the needs of the city’s population rather than follow government dictates, Forbes said the council would be regarded as a ‘civic basket case’ if it did so.

In the weeks before 6 March, local communities organised a series of protests which culminated in a 1,500-strong march on 16 February with an open mic rally at the end demanding ‘Stop the Cuts, Save Our Services’. Unexpectedly, Forbes, who had been noticeably absent from many of his recent ward surgeries and every one of the council ‘consultations’ over the cuts, appeared. Seeing him, one of the protest organisers, Michael ‘Don’ MacDonald, marched up to him and told him that ‘you’ve left your city out to dry’. Forbes took immediate fright at the prospect of having to justify himself and instructed his minder to phone the police. At 10.15 that night, police raided Don’s home while he was alone caring for his six-year-old son and took him away. While supporters went to the police station to demand his release, others took care of his son. Don was held for over four hours before he was served with a with a fixed penalty charge under Section 5 of the Public Order Act.

Don rejects Forbes’s bogus allegations of threatening behaviour. He is fighting the charge and is making a formal complaint to the police. It seems that Labour politicians now regard the police as a personal security force – they may well need more frequent recourse to this service as anger against Labour council cuts mounts.

More information on the defence campaign is available at defencecampaign.wordpress.com

James Bell and Thomas Vincent

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013