December 10 ended a two month trial with a verdict. More than a year and a half after the Stansted 15, as they have come to be known, locked themselves around a deportation flight at London’s Stansted Airport, preventing it from taking off. They were convicted of intentional disruption of services at an airport, a terrorism-related offense that carries a potential life sentence, seen by many as a disproportionate response to peaceful protest.
Activists say the verdict has sent a chilling message to those who intend to follow in the Stansted 15’s footsteps. Amnesty International tweeted, “The rights and freedoms of all of us are being eroded. The UK should not be targeting human rights defenders in this way.”
The defendants wrote, “We are guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm. The real crime is the government’s cowardly, inhumane and barely legal deportation flights and the unprecedented use of terror law to crack down on peaceful protest. We must challenge this shocking use of draconian legislation, and continue to demand an immediate end to these secretive deportation charter flights and a full independent public inquiry into the government’s ‘hostile environment.’”
The 15 activists were members of anti-deportation groups ‘End Deportations’ and ‘Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants.’ They cut a hole through the fence at Stansted Airport and climbed through, they headed toward the plane, broke into two groups and locked themselves around the plane’s front wheel and under the plane’s left wing.
Photo: “Give me your tired, poor, huddled masses – protester at a London anti-Trump rally.” by Alisdare Hickson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0