Byline

Radical political analysis, commentary and discussion in Wales
Dadansoddiad a thrafodaeth radicalaidd o wleidyddiaeth yng Nghymru
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Direct action against austerity cuts

Early on Sunday morning, on the 6th of March, Jamie Bevan and I were arrested for taking direct action against the Tories in because of their cultural vandalism against the Welsh language. We broke into MP Jonathan Evans’s office in Cardiff and sprayed the slogan ‘Achub S4C’ (Save S4C) on the wall. The sirens went off straight away when we broke the window to get into the office. The police arrived while we were on the phone notifying them of what we had done. The policeman shouted at us to come out of the building and threatened to break the door down and spray us with pepper spray. We opened the door and came out peacefully, the police told us to get on the floor and on our stomachs.

We were then put into the back of the van and were taken to the police station at Cardiff Bay. Jamie and I had been arrested about 3 months prior for spraying a slogan on a government building in protest against the weak Welsh Language law that let big companies get away with not providing services in Welsh. That time I was only in the cell for about 8 hours and I was allowed my phone call straight away. I thought I knew what to expect but it turned out that that this it would be a little different. I was not allowed my phone call until 17 hours after being arrested and would be in the cell much longer.

I was very glad to get my phone call, i was worried that my father had come all the way down from north Wales, it was lambing season so this would have been quite an inconvenience! I received a newspaper while in the cell that my friend Menna had bought me. I don’t know what I would have done without it, being alone for 33 hours would have been absolutely unbearable without something to read! There were a few articles about protesters in other countries, this really made me appreciate how lucky I was that I was not worse off. I was allowed plenty of tea and almost all the police (except maybe one or two) treated me with respect and were perfectly pleasant.

My DNA, fingerprints and photos had already been taken by the police 3 months earlier but they decided to take them again anyway. I then had an interview with the police which was 90% of it just me saying ‘no comment’. We had written a letter explaining our direct action so nothing further needed to be said.

The police initially told me that I would be allowed out by that evening but I was later told that I was to be charged with burglary and would be kept in overnight. I began to worry that I would be remanded until the final court date. Whether or not I would be granted bail would be decided the following day at the magistrates court. I had not expected this and had exams coming up so I began to worry that my education would be more seriously affected than I first thought.

After a bit of a sleepless night I was taken from the police station to a cell in Cardiff Magistrates Court. That morning when I asked for a Welsh speaking solicitor I was answered with ‘You’ll be lucky!’. I was also given a copy of the South Wales Echo newspaper by the guard 5 minutes before I went to court, looking back it was probably done to shake my confidence. The story in the Echo was completely misleading and was spun so that it sounded like Jamie and I had broken into the wrong building! It was the Tory MP’s office that we had broken into and he shared it with a Tory AM. The Tory office was called a different name in a press release and this lead to a misleading story not only by the Echo but the Western Mail as well. I was quite disturbed the media could twist the truth like that!

The court hearing was running late since Jamie and I had requested it to be in the medium of Welsh, I was told it would take place at 10 am, but it ended up happening 5 hours later than that. I don’t think it’s fair that we had to stay in the cell hours longer just because we wanted to go through process in our own language. It’s these little inconveniences that make Welsh speakers cave in and use English: For an language that is under-threat that’s disastrous. Jamie and I were given bail on condition that we would not communicate with each other and we were finally released 33 hours after being arrested.

Jamie and I will be in court for our final hearing on the 7th of July, we will have a rally at 12:30pm outside Cardiff Magistrates court. Your support would very much be appreciated (facebook event).

The maximum sentence Jamie and I could receive is 6 months imprisonment although I’m told I’m likely to just get a fine of a few thousand pounds as it’s my first offence. Jamie was on a suspended sentence when we did the direct action so our sentences will probably be different although we are being tried together. Although it has not been an easy experience, I do not regret the direct action against the Tories at all. Our Welsh language TV channel is absolutely essential for the survival of the Welsh language. It’s is for this that reason people were imprisoned for years at a time in the 70’s and 80’s in the campaign to establish it.

Lobbying and protesting unfortunately is not enough on its own, history shows us that non-violent direct action is an effective form of protest. The Tories promised before the general election that S4C would be safe in their hands but right now it is facing a cut in real terms of 40% and a BBC takeover. After 2015 there are no guarantees of any funding at all.

You can contribute to the campaign in a number of ways: from writing a letter to your MP or refusing to pay your TV licence or come to a meeting.