by Cian Prendiville
Today saw a gross miscarriage of justice, and an outrageous attack on the right to protest, when a 17 year old found was found guilty of a trumped up charge of false imprisonment of Joan Burton. All those who oppose the criminalisation of protest should now make a stand.
The verdict is the key issue here. It has set a very low threshold by which 'false imprisonment' can be proved. In his summing up the judge suggested that one incident that proved the state's case was when the young man momentarily stood in front of Joan Burton to ask her to answer a question. Another was the fact that he chanted 'No way, we won't pay' and that he encouraged others to sit down. People should see this for what it is – preparing the way for convictions and prison sentences against adult defendants next year and significantly restricting the right of protest.
The judge also stated that the protest did not attract the protection of the European Convention on Human Rights because it was 'contrary to public order and morality'. This is outrageous – there is nothing immoral about a young person standing up and protesting against austerity.
This verdict should be sounding warning bells in the minds of activists across the country. Trade unionists engaged in stopping strikebreaking vehicles could now be found guilty of false imprisonment. Similarly, pro-choice or anti-war activists engaging in sit-down protests or slow marches could also be charged and convicted.
An injury to one is an injury to all, it is time to stand together. There will be nationwide protests in the coming weeksand we urge everyone to show their support