Pro-Palestinian campaigners arrested after racism allegation
March 19, 2009 — News
On 12 March, police raided the homes of activists in Swansea and arrested two people on suspicion of ‘conspiring to commit racially aggravated criminal damage’.
This was no racial attack in the conventional sense and was not an attack on any person. The two people arrested are members of Swansea Action for Palestine. And their offence was to paint the slogan ‘Boycott Israel’ in a store as part of their campaign against Israeli goods and to highlight the conflict in Gaza. The campaigners claim that foodstuffs available in Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s state the origin as the ‘West Bank’ but are actually grown in illegal Israeli settlements.
The raids and allegations come after a protest by Swansea Action for Palestine at the Bridgend branch of Sainsbury where a slogan was painted on two boxes of Israeli peppers and on the floor. In the raids on the activists’ homes, police removed three computers and papers. Two people were arrested and bailed until 4 June. At another protest at a Tesco’s in January 2009, when food was sprayed with blood-red paint, the same two people were arrested, and one later charged with theft.
Greg Wilkinson, one of those arrested in the most recent raids commented: ‘The use of the words “Israel” and “Israeli” is no more racist than the use of, say, British, in relation to the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan. No conspiracy exists or is needed to explain the use of red paint in boycott gestures here and there in South Wales – especially since the Swansea action was so widely publicised in local press and online. Raids and searches involving at least 20 police and guards on that one day alone, were a gross waste of police time and public money, not to mention civil liberties.’
‘It is an irony that whoever made this ridiculous allegation is being racist by implying that “Israeli” constitutes a race. This was a political protest, pure and simple. Using a racially aggravated offence brings this whole area of law in to disrepute,’ Jenny Bourne, a veteran Jewish anti-racist campaigner told IRR News.
Indymedia story: ‘Police Raid 3 Houses Of Palestine Supporters In Swansea’
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The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.
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