People in the Park

May 2023

Members of the group took part in this event for the second time. The sun shone and there was a respectable interest in our activities. Friendly passers by signed the 40 letters of petition (on behalf of Vladimir Kara Murza)  produced by group member Tony, so that we had to get another 10 printed making 50.

Three people expressed interest in the group and gave emails.

May minutes

May 2023

We are pleased to attach a copy of the minutes of the May meeting, thanks to group member Andrew for compiling them. They contain details and links to current activities and concerns including immigration, the current laws being processed through parliament to limit campaigning activity and the forthcoming talk about apartheid in Israel . The People in the Park event took place after the meeting.

Israel apartheid talk

May 2023

Further details of the planned talk on 13th June are available.

Garry Ettle, a prominent human rights activist is coming to speak in Salisbury at the invitation of the Salisbury group of Amnesty International (AI) and Sarum Concern for Israel Palestine (SCIP). The evening meeting is the latest in a long series of events designed to fulfil the request of the residents of Bethlehem to ‘Come and see, go and tell.’

The Nakba 75 commemoration, in May, which included an address by the Dean of Salisbury, filled the Quaker Meeting House to capacity.

Garry Ettle, a committed and highly principled human rights activist has opposed the Israeli authorities’ system of apartheid for years. 

Peter Curbishley, from the AI group based in Salisbury said that the talk would be based on the Amnesty report on the apartheid system in operation against the Palestinians in Israel. The Amnesty report is detailed and follows other reports by B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch on the same subject. There will be an opportunity to ask questions.

  • The talk APARTHEID AGAINST PALESTINIANS? will take place at the United Reformed Church in Fisherton Street, Salisbury on Tuesday 13 June starting at 7:30pm – free with a parting collection.

   Zaytoun Fair Trade produce will be on sale.

The crime against humanity of apartheid is perpetrated when particular serious human rights violations are committed with the purpose of establishing and maintaining’ a system of domination by one racial group…..over another and systematically oppressing them.

  • UN apartheid convention 1973

Apartheid talk planned

Talk on the Amnesty report on Apartheid in Israel planned

May 2023

The Salisbury group, in partnership with Salisbury Concern for Israel Palestine SCIP, are planning a talk on the Amnesty report on the apartheid system in operation against the Palestinians in Israel. The Amnesty report is detailed and follows other reports by B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch on the same subject. There is also a UN report which comes to the same conclusion.

The talk will take place at the United Reform Church in Fisherton Street, Salisbury on 13 June starting at 7:30 and will be given by the Amnesty’s country coordinator for the area. There will be an opportunity for questions after the talk. The event is free with a parting collection.

Richard Glossip’s execution stayed

The execution of Richard Glossip in Oklahoma has been stayed by the Supreme Court

May 2023

Richard Glossip has been on death row in Oklahoma, USA, for 25 years for a murder it seems likely he did not commit. He was accused of the murder of motel owner Barry van Treese in 1997. The conviction was largely based on the plea bargain struck by Justin Sneed, who has a history of mental illness, in a deal which saved his own life.

Two independent investigations have cast doubt on the veracity of the trial. First the only evidence seemed to be the plea bargain by Sneed who in fact admitted committing the murder. Further testimony by prison inmates was not given to the jury. The State withheld evidence and other evidence was either lost or destroyed by the DA’s office.

As Mr Glossip’s execution date of May 18th draws near, there has been a flurry of activity to get it delayed or vacated. On April 7th, the Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond – a pro death penalty Republican – asked the state Court of Criminal Appeals to vacate the conviction. He said “the only witness to allege Mr Glossip was involved in this case cannot be believed, it is unconscionable for the State to move forward with his execution“.

On April 20th, the Oklahoma Court upholds the conviction. On 26th April the Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to recommend clemency on 2-2 vote which meant the Governor, Kevin Stitt, was unable to do so either.

On May 5th, the Supreme Court of the United States stays the execution pending the disposition of two writs of certiorari. Should they be denied this stay will terminate automatically.

So that is the current position. The case reveals some troubling aspects of the legal system in this instance. Relying on plea bargain evidence should not be the sole justification for a conviction let alone an execution. The failure to present all the evidence to court is also questionable and the loss or destruction of other evidence is also to be deplored. The fundamental problem with the death penalty is that mistakes cannot ever be rectified once the deed is done.

We must hope that the intervention of the Supreme Court will lead to the state authorities to think again.

Sources: Death Penalty Information Centre; Wikipedia; New York Times, Save Richard Glossip Campaign

Arrests prior to the coronation

Graham Smith, the leader of Republic, was arrested prior to the coronation and held for 16 hours

May 2023

UPDATE: 8 May: Police express ‘regret’ at the arrest of Graham Smith. No charges will be brought under the new Public Order Act against any of those arrested. The only charges brought are for drugs related offences. Questions remain concerning why the arrests were made in the first place and what, if any, pressure had been put on the police to make them.

We have been warning for some time in previous posts – along with other organisations – that the desire by the present government and Home Secretary Suella Braverman, to limit the ability of individuals and organisations to protest by passing a series of laws to limit such activity and to give the police yet more powers to carry them out. The new Public Order Act was rushed into law and signed by King Charles just days before his coronation took place.

Using the act (it seems), Graham Smith the leader of Republic, an organisation which believes we should be run as a democracy and not have an inherited royal family at the head of the country, was arrested before the coronation took place. It is unclear on what the grounds the arrest was made and he was released after 16 hours. He was not the only one to be arrested and others included volunteers from Night Stars which prompted Westminster Council to say it was ‘deeply concerned’ by their arrest.

The new legislation arose because of the activities of the climate protestors who used a variety of methods to disrupt the capital including gluing themselves to pavements. Their protests did seem to shine a light on the poor performance by the government to tackle the climate emergency. They were not popular however and the disruption caused to commuters and others led the government to pass a range of laws to limit the ability to protest. The Home Secretary famously said in parliament that such people were “Guardian-reading, tofu eating, dare I say the anti-growth coalition”.

There is a tension when it comes to protesting. There are many who are in support of peaceful protests but are angry about those which are disruptive in some way or even where there is some violence. The problem with peaceful protests is that they are almost always ignored. It is the more violent type which become news and where the cause is thereby recognised. There were many decades of peaceful protests for women to have the vote for example which yielded nothing. Once more violent methods were employed by the suffragettes, change eventually occurred although there were other factors at play.

The Salisbury Amnesty group neither supports nor condemns the campaign for the country to be a Republic. The issue at stake is the right to campaign on the matter. There is no specific right of protest. We do have the right to free speech and we do have a right of assembly under articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention. Giving the police yet more powers to arrest on the pretext that the person might be disruptive is a worrying development. Another worrying development is the alleged use of facial recognition during the coronation. This technology has been widely used by repressive regimes such as China where the ability of people to move almost anywhere is tracked by the police.

Sources: Evening Standard, CNN, The Times, Amnesty International, and yes, the Guardian

Ceremony to mark Nakba

Dean of Salisbury to mark the tragic event of Nakba

May 2023

The very Reverend Nicholas Papadopulos is to address a ceremony at the Quaker Meeting House on 15th May in Salisbury to mark the tragic event of Nakba in the Middle East. Christians, Muslims and Jews will gather to mourn the event when Palestinians around the world mark the time when they were driven from their homes never to return. A report in the New Valley News says:

“Canon Jonathan Herbert, from the Hilfield Priory in Dorset, who will lead the service, said it was important to remember the Nakba. Three quarters of the population of Palestine left their homes during the fighting when the State of Israel was set up in 1948.

“But that was not the end of the story – the Nakba continues to this day. The descendants of those who did not leave are suffering under the brutal military occupation where every aspect of their lives is strictly controlled. Homes are routinely demolished to make way for illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, soldiers burst into in the middle of the night to kidnap children who are alleged to have thrown stones.

“The youngsters are often kept in solitary confinement and made to sign confessions in Hebrew – a language they do not understand. Farmers have to get permits to access their own land – and the permits are frequently refused”. He says he bore witness to these events when he served as a human rights monitor in Palestine.

For further details of this event contact Salisbury Concern for Israel Palestine. Most of this text taken from the New Valley News currently available around Salisbury.

Future event planned

In partnership with SCIP, we are in the early stages of planning an event to highlight the various reports by Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem and Amnesty of the Apartheid system being operated by the Israelis. This will be held probably in June and details will appear here once they are finalised.

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