Anti-war women cheered by supporters at court

A woman wheelchair user with grey hair is speaking into a megaphone at the bottom of steps of a court building.  Around 30 supporters are on the steps holding banners, including Liverpool Against the Arms Fair, Merseyside Pensioners' Association.  Some people hold Palestinian flags.
Sue Ferguson speaking in front of the QEII Law Courts in Liverpool, 1 April. Photo: Liverpool Against the Arms Fair.

Despite cold weather, there was a big turnout early yesterday at Liverpool magistrates’ court to support Sue Ferguson and Ruth Knox, who were charged after a “spray paint incident” against the Arms Fair held last year.

Supporters from many organisations cheered the two women as they arrived at court. They included Cllr Alan Gibbons (one of seven suspended Labour councillors who opposed Liverpool City Council’s cuts budget a few weeks ago), and writer/actor Tayo Aluko.

The Liverpool Echo reports:

Ferguson and Knox, representing themselves in court, said they didn’t dispute the case against them but said they felt their protest was justified. Reading from a prepared statement, they said:

“There was widespread opposition to the Arms Fair from the people of Liverpool, and from their elected representatives. There was a strong campaign where people collected signatures, wrote letters and held large demonstrations.

“However, we could not persuade either the council or ACC management [who run the conference centre] to cancel the Arms Fair. That was particularly disappointing as the local government of another European city, Seville, had acted in response to a similar groundswell of opposition by cancelling the same fair.”

They said many of the companies present at the Fair actively promoted weapons used in war crimes and that, combined with the fact the event was not cancelled, meant they felt they had to act.” They said: “In such circumstances, and all other methods of persuasion having failed, we felt and still feel, that it was our duty to our fellow human beings to use any non-violent means possible to highlight the obscenity of making financial profits from devastation and death.”

Sue was fined £200 for spraying a stencil of “Stop the bloody Liverpool Arms Fair”, and Ruth was fined £100 for having a spray can. Both women, who are in their 70s, got a conditional discharge from the court, meaning they won’t be punished more if they behave themselves for the next year.

WinVisible and Payday men’s network — Refusing to Kill, sent a joint message of support, highlighting that the government is spending £130 billion on renewal of Trident nuclear submarines, while £8 billion nationally is urgently needed to save lives in the “social care crisis”. When central government funding is short, Councils have a greater responsibility to protect essential services — especially in Liverpool where people on the homecare register died at 3 x the usual level during the pandemic, mostly not of COVID. In the recent budget, Liverpool City Council will cut £11m from social care while adding £10m to Council reserves.

Invest in caring, not killing! Defending life is not a crime!

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