PROSECUTION and defence barristers in the trial of Alfie Meadows and Zak King gave their closing speeches today as the third attempt to try them for violent disorder draws to a close.
King’s counsel, Tom Wainright gave a rousing speech that described the 22-year-old as a young man who ignored his personal safety to protect fellow protesters and the right to protest drawing mimed applause from the gallery.
Wainright, co-author of The Protest Handbook, began by recalling a Welsh legend where a master slayed his loyal dog, charged with guarding his son while away, after returning to find blood on the floor only to later discover the dead wolf the dog had killed and his son alive and well.
The message was a warning to the jury not to jump to the wrong conclusion after repeatedly shown video of seemingly violent scenes between police and protesters by the prosecution, he said.
He said the clips were out-of-context and did not give an accurate picture of events on December 9, 2010.
Wainright dismissed the prosecution’s suggestion that King was intent on confrontation with the police after coming prepared with protective clothing and remaining in the fray when he could have walked away.
He said it was the police who used excessive force, openly defending it in court, admitting hitting out at innocent people, charging horses at them and calling for rubber bullets to be used.
If the police were interested in public safety, as senior officers claimed, ‘why did they push the protesters up against gasworks, but then become concerned about the officers when they came within ten yards of it’, he asked.
PC Steadman admitted pushing a woman over for ‘getting too close’ and PC Scammell said he struck people who were not doing anything except ‘not moving away’. And PC Bartlett admitted discussing his evidence with colleagues while Acting Inspector French gave a false account of violent protesters on Broad Sanctuary ‘to cover up his actions’, Wainright said.
While acknowledging there were some violent protesters he said King was not part of a hostile crowd that acted with one mind. The prosecution thinks in black and white he said.
“You don’t have to decide if the police used unreasonable force, but you do have to decide if Mr King had a right to defend himself. This is a young man who doesn’t believe in violence,” he said.
He described King as a mediator, calm, cool, considerate and honest who was on a day out with his family protesting for what they believed in and denied the prosecution’s suggestion he was looking for trouble.
“He was with family. You don’t say ‘I’m going for a ruck with the police I’ll be back for tea’. It’s a nonsense that he went there for a confrontation with police.”
However, he said, he is not the sort of person to leave people in danger and wearing shin pads on his arms and padded goalie gloves was a way of protecting himself and others after a friend fractured his forearm following a police baton strike during a sit-down protest.
“If he thought it was incriminating he had plenty of opportunity to discard the shin pads, gloves and clothing, [before leaving Westminster Bridge kettle] but he actually volunteered their presence to the police.” he said.
“But what does he actually do,” he asked. Wainright said their was no video footage of King punching, throwing or shouting at the police only attempts to protect protesters from baton strikes and keep the two sides apart.
“It simply does not fit the suggestion he was carried away with violence. He only acted when necessary, nothing excessive only what he believed was necessary. When he puts his hands up to protect himself and others from being hit does that fit with someone who is seeking out confrontation with the police.”
Winding up Wainright said: “If you had brothers and mothers marching on that demonstration would you want King to walk on by as the prosecution suggests he should. If you value the right to protest, you don’t want people too scared to go out because of what the police may do, then you want more people like King to make sure people are safe.”
“The prosecution said the protesters are naive and self-serving. Is it naive and self-serving to protect individuals. That’s what [Silver Commander] Johnson doesn’t see. He sees crowds. Mr King sees individuals. [King] doesn’t injure officers, he was injured and he certainly stopped people from being injured. If he was a policeman he would be getting a medal. He doesn’t ask for that, but for you to return the correct verdict.”
The prosecutor, James Lofthouse, earlier reminded the jury to ignore any personal thoughts on protests, cuts, the police or kettles and to focus on the video evidence they had seem and witness testimony they had heard.
He said King came equipped and prepared for confrontation with the police.
Officers were keen to avoid toe-to-toe confrontation, he said, and that police were well aware their actions would be recorded. He said the measured behaviour of the police was in stark contrast to the often naïve and self-serving behaviour of the protesters including the defendants.
Lofthouse described baton use on the day as ‘fair and balanced in many cases’ and said their use was ‘pretty exceptional for the amount of protesters’ and that the injury rate was pretty ‘meager’ for the amount of baton use that day.
“[Bronze Commander] Woods said he was impressed by the baton use that he saw. On one instance he said that it didn’t seem to be justified, but he was pretty content. And regarding the use of horses; use your own eyes and your own judgment.”
Inspector French said the horse ‘charge’ had been a measured response to a violent attack by protesters.
Lofthouse said: “There had been a violent surge of protesters before any police moved into that crowd, so the horses didn’t provoke any violence.”
On Parliament Street he said police were surrounded as they came under a sustained attack with sticks, missiles, lumps of concrete, coins, bottles and repeated attacks with Heras fencing.
He also described PC Steadman, the officer who hit an unarmed woman with his baton for being too close as an honest and reliable witness for admitting it.
Lofthouse said: “These officers were scared for others and scared for themselves. Their predicament was summed up by [Silver Commander] Mick Johnson when he said he feared for the officers’ lives.”
Of Kings account he said it simply ‘doesn’t add up’. He was ‘on the frontline when he could have been with his mother and brother. He was there by choice. He was there as an aggressor not some super-hero putting his hands out left and right protecting people from baton strikes.’
Meadow and King deny charges of violent disorder.
The judge will sum-up for the jury today (Thursday).