On Monday 23rd May, Fleur Moody pleaded guilty to affray at Bristol Crown Court.
However, Fleur’s guilty plea should not detract from the police violence she faced in Bristol that night.
Fleur, a vulnerable young woman, suffering from PTSD and complex mental health problems, attended the protest on 21st March in solidarity with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities whose way of life is criminalised by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.
Any actions that Fleur took that night pale in comparison with the violence she, and countless others, faced on the streets of Bristol.
Fleur was knocked unconscious by police before being sprayed with CS gas. Harrowing footage shows Fleur screaming in pain, her hair covered in blood, after a fellow protester carried her into the police station for treatment. Police officers are seen standing by, doing nothing, as she loses consciousness again on the floor of the police station.
Like other defendants, Fleur was charged with riot. She has spent over a year facing the prospect of up to ten years in prison for the crime of being beaten up by the police.
Just a week before trial, the Crown Prosecution Service, presumably shaken by recent acquittals and hung juries, dropped the charge to the less serious offence of affray.
The decision to charge people with riot was a political decision. Prosecution requires the consent of the Attorney General. And this overcharging is designed to scare people and send a clear message that dissent, and defending yourself from excessively brutal policing, will not be tolerated.
Avon and Somerset Police were slated in an All Party Parliamentary Group report into the events of 21st March and subsequent Kill The Bill protests in Bristol. In what was described as “revenge policing”, the APPG report found that the use of force was “often considered disproportionate” with the police “fail[ing] to distinguish between the (small minority) engaged in violence and peaceful protesters, journalists, medics and legal observers”.
With the PSCS Act now law, and the proposed Public Order Bill, it is likely that we will see even more repression of dissent and the criminalisation of protesters. What happened in Bristol is a clear example of the police abusing the powers they already have.
We all need to extend our solidarity to the KTB defendants in Bristol. We all need to #DefendDissent.