A statement from Bristol Anti-Repression Campaign
Today Charlie Pitman was sentenced to three years for her part in last year’s Kill the Bill demonstration in Bristol.
Charlie has been sentenced for simply standing her ground near the front of the crowd, in the face of a police line in full riot gear. The evidence against her amounted to a few kicks toward officers and throwing a small object. Video played in court by the defence clearly shows that – at the time when Charlie fought back – the police were using extreme violence against the crowd, bringing their riot shields up above their heads and thrusting them down at protesters (in a practice known as blading), kicking demonstrators while they were on the floor, and striking people on the head with long batons.
The jury in Charlie’s case took just over an hour to come back. They couldn’t have properly discussed the evidence in Charlie’s case in that time. The jury was majority white and middle-aged. On the day of the verdict, one jury member came to court in a union jack t-shirt.
Charlie’s defence barrister said that Charlie had gone to the demonstration on 21 March to pay her respects to Sarah Everard, who was killed by a serving police officer. She said that Charlie went out to “to protect the right of women to be on the streets.”
Bristol Anti-Repression Campaign (BARC) stands with Charlie, and with all of those who are in prison or going through the court system.
So far, 20 people have been sentenced to prison time for their role in Bristol’s 21st March 2021 uprising against police violence, that began outside Bridewell Police station. Five more people will be sentenced this summer, and at least 20 people are still awaiting trial. Two others have been found not guilty of riot.
Most of the sentences have been for between three and six years, but Ryan Roberts was given a massive 14-year prison sentence last year.
We are full of anger at the government which is enacting laws to take away our freedom, and at the police who use violence to brutalise those who speak out. We are full of rage at the so-called ‘justice’ system that helps to hold this system in place.
We are also full of inspiration at the spirit of rebellion that poured out onto the streets outside Bridewell. We are proud of the rebels of 21st March, we will not forget our comrades who are in prison. Their resistance, and the draconian sentences they are facing, are already inspiring a new generation of people in Bristol to fight.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act is now law, despite massive public opposition. The government is now enacting new repressive measures, such as the Public Order Bill and the Nationality & Borders Bill. These pieces of legislation are a massive assault on all of us, and we must resist them by making ourselves ungovernable. We will do this by building up our communities’ capabilities to support one another, to defend ourselves, and to fight back.
The mainstream media has focused on how the new powers in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act will affect demonstrators. But we know that the police and the ‘justice’ system use their violence disproportionately against working-class people and people of colour. This unequal treatment can be clearly seen in the death of Oladeji Omishore, a Black man who drowned in June 2022 whilst trying to escape the violence of the Metropolitan Police.
The Act also aims to destroy Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities’ nomadic lifestyle, and it’s up to us to stand with them as they face the oppression of the state.
BARC stands with all of the communities experiencing the violence of the police and the court system. We feel absolute love and rage for Charlie. We stand with each and every one of the defendants who stood up for us all last year. We hope that we can connect with others who are struggling right now, to support each other, and to fight.