Stansted protestors ‘full of hope’

Members of the End Deportations group, including one Quaker, are 'full of energy and hope' after being convicted under counter-terrorism-related charges

The 'Stansted Fifteen'. | Photo: Courtesy of Lyndsay Burtonshaw.

The ‘Stansted Fifteen’ group of protestors who were convicted under counter-terrorism-related charges have vowed to appeal against the verdict.

The members of the End Deportations group, including one Quaker, were found guilty on 10 December of intentional disruption of services and endangerment at an aerodrome under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act.

The charges follow their action in March 2017 when they secured themselves to a Home Office charter flight to stop what they believed was the unlawful deportation of sixty people to Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. All have been bailed to be sentenced in February. 

Lyndsay Burtonshaw, from Brighton Meeting, told the Friend: ‘We are full of energy and hope. As soon as the sentence comes on 4 February at Chelmsford Crown Court, the appeal will start. We’ve got the appeal process rolling very fast.’

More than 1,000 supporters took part in a rally outside the Home Office the day after the verdict. Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott MP, Green Party co-leader Siân Berry and journalist Owen Jones spoke, as well as a representative from the All African Women’s Group. Lyndsay Burtonshaw said: ‘There was an amazing atmosphere, and when I returned to Brighton, there were 300-400 people waiting. We read out the statement from my local MP Caroline Lucas and from the Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle. Then there was a march through Brighton.’

A petition on started on 12 December gained more than 45,000 signatories within two days. One member of the group told Channel 4 News: ‘We are guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm.’ According to the protestors, who gathered information about the deportees from the Home Office under the Freedom of Information Act, two of the people have been identified by the government as survivors of trafficking. Out of the sixty people due to be deported on the plane in March 2017, eleven were still in the country by 9 October 2018. At least one person had been granted the right to remain and ten of the eleven had ongoing asylum claims, as of 28 September 2018.

The group have been upheld by Quakers around the country, including Chelmsford Meeting, which supported them throughout the nine-week trial. Clerk Brian Wardrop was featured in a news article on the Essex Live website for standing outside the court during the trial with a sandwich-board declaring support for the activists. He said: ‘I have been a Quaker for fifteen years and I believe in human rights [and] equality of all people, I protest whenever I feel like it.’

Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) released a statement on its website on 10 December saying: ‘Quakers stand with Stansted Fifteen on human rights day.’

Paul Parker, recording clerk for BYM, said: ‘As a faith community we will continue to challenge the government in its policies of deportations.’

Lyndsay Burtonshaw’s name was recorded in the Quakers’ Court and Prison Register, a 300-year-long list of Quakers who have broken the law because of their personal commitment to peace.

A letter sent to the Guardian supporting the group had 300 signatories, including: filmmaker Ken Loach, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and actor Emma Thompson.

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