Saturday, 28 March 2015

JENGbA March to 10 Downing Street 2015 17th March – St. Patricks Day

The JENGbA campaigners, keen to keep our message on track in light of the Justice Select Committee’s Report vindicating our concerns that joint enterprise is leading to miscarriages of justice, decided to hand in our current petition to 10 Downing Street before  the coalition government dissolves at the end of March.   We have over 10,000 hard copy signatures and thousands more on the online petition but this was not really about numbers – it was about making a noise and getting more press attention. 

JENGbA at 10 Downing Street

We informed the Inside JENGbA campaigners (what we call our loved ones serving prison sentences for crimes they did not commit) in our last newsletter of the March and also managed to get an article in the March edition of Inside Time so we were hopeful of a good turnout.  We also advertised it on our active Facebook page and Twitter account as well as the website.  Every time we have done a march we have asked permission from the Met Police (if in London). We had a positive response this time from the Met in that they would not send Police to cover the march as they could see from their records that we are a peaceful bunch. In fact, the last march from St. Pauls to Royal Courts of Injustice the two officers accompanying us when asked about joint enterprise said that it seemed very wrong! We also had to get permission from the Downing Street Liaison Police and submit information about those who were going to hand in the petition, only six campaigners being permitted. Since Jimmy McGovern had agreed he would hand it in with us we decided the other five as those of us who keep the campaign on track on a daily basis. 

Whenever we have an event, I always expect the phone to be busy and it was.  BBC London Live wanted to do an interview with campaigners so Charlotte Henry (supporting her brother Alex Henry 19 years rec) Deb Madden (supporting her friend Kujtim Spahiu 33 year rec) stepped up and the two of them did a grand job. But the phone also kept ringing with people asking directions to Victoria Coach station!  Still I was nervous we weren’t going to get a big enough turnout.  Asking people to travel to London, when most are on really low incomes and struggle to make prison visits, on a Tuesday afternoon is a big ask. Also because Jimmy McGovern had agreed to march along with Colin McKeown, the producer of ‘Common’ his drama on the subject, and Andy Tiernan and Susan Lynch stars of the drama, I desperately hoped we were not going to be a rag tag sad little bunch of protesters. 

How wrong I was.  Victoria Coach station entrance was already mobbed when I arrived. Again families had travelled from Kent, Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, Croydon, Liverpool, Wales, Birmingham, Norfolk, Derby, Wigan, Luton and they were just the families I recognised. The colour red (JENGbA’s adopted colour) was awash everywhere, lots of banners new ones made especially and lots of pictures of our beautiful and never to be forgotten loved ones in prison. We had also decided to have yellow ribbons to tie around trees on route symbolic of the fact we want our loved ones home and Michelle Hamner had made brilliant yellow ribbons that families where tying to lapels with their loved ones names on and Lisa (Tommy McInerny aunt and mum) had a friend knit her an 20ft long yellow scarf.  By the time we set off we were easily over a hundred and Jimmy, Colin, Andy and Susan shouting along with the rest of us.  This was easily our largest and loudest march yet. Deb headed it up towards Whitehall with a loudhailer and I had another mid route but some of the families around me were louder than the loudhailer!

It was a good route to march as we passed Scotland Yard and into Parliament Square we also passed the Supreme Court where Ameen Jogee cases has been accepted for consideration this year. Finally the Supreme Court will have to sort out the mess that is joint enterprise charging once and for all and this is another sign of the success of our campaign.  Somewhere along the route we adopted a very nice police officer who stopped traffic for us and for this we were very grateful, getting across busy London streets with such a long procession was tricky as well as the fact that a number of our campaigners were elderly citizens and children. 

As we approached Downing Street I could see the smiling faces of more JENGbA campaigners who had agreed for various reasons to meet us there. We were late, and they told us after they could hear us long before they could see us which they had told the police officers at Downing St would be the case. Once again these officers were really helpful, our slot to hand in was 3pm but it was nearly half past but they accommodated us after requesting that the marchers continue the rally on the other side of the street. Our ID was checked and we were informed that the BBC and ITV were waiting for us and not to just knock on the door as that would be our ‘moment’ over but to savour our time and get pictures. When we did knock it was surprisingly loud and we jumped back in surprise which is why in the pictures Patricia and I are laughing with shock.  Jimmy and Jan Cunliffe did interviews with the awaiting press and we went back to join the others outside.  

JENGbA’s is a peaceful campaign about a really sad and desperate subject but I read recently in an article about Revolution that one of the things that will bring that about is humour.  So this time we had Pinata – a donkey that had a yellow ribbon on it saying the ‘law of joint enterprise is an ass’.  The fantastic Goddaz bravely held it aloft so that a young girl could beat it with her JENGbA stick but we had to get an older boy to really batter it because they are so hard to break. The young girl did the last few blows though and sweets flew in all directions.  If only our loved ones could too.

After singing ‘Something Inside So Strong’ by Labi Siffre we took ourselves for a well earned drink.  Lots of photos were taken on the day and some are on the website – a lot more will go up soon and we have to thank Geoff Halsall for being official photographer.  These photos really catch the spirit of the day and show exactly who this doctrine is targeting as lots more families from BME communites are gaining the courage to stand up and be counted.  My favourite is the one of Jonathon Long’s dad, Roy.  The utter determination in his face that his innocent son should not be in prison says it all. 
Gloria Morrison Campaign Co-ordinator JENGbA