A jury in Bristol took under an hour to unanimously acquit Ailsa Rauh of violent disorder and affray on 25th August. Ailsa was the latest person to face trial following the uprising in Bristol on 21st March 2021 when people gathered to both remember Sarah Everard and to protest against the draconian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.

Those on the streets in Bristol on the 21st March, and at subsequent protests, faced sustained violent attacks from police. This included the use of ‘blading’ – using the edge of shields as weapons to hit people; CS spray, dogs, and baton strikes. A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and the Constitution found that Avon and Somerset Police “failed to distinguish between violent and peaceful protestors, leading to the use of force in unjustified situations”. It highlighted how multiple witnesses described this as “revenge policing”.

However, “revenge policing” extended beyond the night in question. Ailsa, like the most of the other defendants was initially charged with riot – the most serious public order charge.  This over-charging was designed to frighten people from protest and deter them from fighting back against violent policing operations. 

“I just wanted it to stop”

Giving evidence, Ailsa said that:

   “The poice were a lot more threatening [than us]. I wish I could have worn a body cam to show what it was acutually like and how we felt…I felt very let down by the [police] violence I saw that day. I didn’t want to cause harm. I just wanted it to stop”.

Hussain Hassan from Commons solicitors who represented Alisa stated:

“Ailsa took to the streets with others in March 2021 to exercise her human right to protest.  Despite witnessing those around her be injured by the actions of Avon and Somerset Police, she herself was charged with riot. After 17 months, she has been acquitted of all charges after trial. We are grateful that the correct decision was reached by the jury and that Ailsa can now move on with her life. With thanks to Owen Greenhall of Garden Court Chambers and everyone at Bristol Defendant Solidarity and Bristol ABC for their valuable work and support throughout the process”.

Self-defence is not an offence

Ailsa’s acquittal is an important reminder that self-defence is not an offence and that we we do have a legal right to fight back against violent and disproportionate policing.

However, it’s also important to extend our solidarity to everyone charged and imprisoned as a result of the protests on 21st March. Celebrating Ailsa’s acquittal does not mean condemning those who were either found, or pleaded guilty, for their actions in the uprising. 

As attacks on our rights increase, our fight to #DefendDissent cannot end on the streets. It has to continue in the courts and in supporting those imprisoned. It’s through this collective solidarity, and refusing to be divided into good and bad protesters, that we can fight back and win against violent policing and draconian laws.