This morning as I was heading for Westminster’s Magistrates Court in London to attend my trial I passed a full rubbish bin with a black silk cushion with a large imitation diamond stitched in the middle lying on the top. It was brand new, still with its label attached, only slightly dirty at one corner on the back. I banged it clean and took it.
“It’ll come in handy if I get slammed up again in one of their cells with the hard wooden benches ,” I thought. “I can sit on it or use it as a cushion to lay my head on.”
I turned up at the allotted time of 9.30 at I went through the scanner check and then a look at the lists on the walls to see which court I was in. There it was – Michael Dickinson, court 5, 10.10. The ‘crime’ wasn’t listed next to the name of the accused like it used to be in the old days. “Theft,” drunk and disorderly,” “breach of the peace”. They only had numbers which might mean different offences now. My number would mean ‘threatening and abusive language’, which I was charged with for having shouted “No More War!” three times during the 2 minute silence ceremony at the Cenotaph Remembrance Service in Whitehall in November last year. I went back outside and ate some grapes I’d brought along for breakfast. I was wearing my black teeshirt with the words FREE PALESTINE over a Palestinian flag on the front.
After I’d finished the grapes I had to go through the scanner ceremony again. It was fairly busy with prospective convicts arriving. A notice inside warned about the compulsory handing over of knives. I went up to the second floor and sat down outside Court 5 to wait. The young bespectacled black woman with the straight tied-back hair and smart grey suit who had dealt with my case earlier in the week approached and said we would be going in soon. I was surprised to see her, and told her that I had contacted another lawyer that someone had recommended and he was expecting to represent me. She was rather upset, saying she had organized Legal Aid and had come in specifically for my case. She also told me that the CPS (Crown Protection Service) had withdrawn the Section 5 charge against me, and that the case would be dismissed today but for the arrival of another solicitor from the CPS who demanded that the case against me should proceed.
Daniel, the other attorney expecting to be my defendant, took me to a consultation room and told me the same story when he arrived. He recommended that I accept the dismissal. If I wanted I could demand that the case continue, but he didn’t think it was a good idea. Suing the police might be considered later, but I should go for this chance of release. I thought I should call the young black attorney to speak to him and went to look for her. She was talking to a court usher.
As I led her to the consultation room where Daniel was waiting, I asked her name.
“Ms Jordan,” she smiled. I left them to talk, slightly huffed that she hadn’t given me her personal name. After they had confabbed for a while, Daniel came out and said he was leaving the case to his rival.
“She’s arranged Legal Defense, and she needs it more than me,” he said before he left . Ms Jordan and I talked briefly before we were called into the court. She said she hoped that the case would be dismissed, but it depended on whether the magistrates would agree with the CPS prosecutor who demanded that it should continue to go ahead. In the courtroom he put his case, saying that the official letter calling for charges to be dropped had not reached the court because it had been sent to the police station by mistake, but Ms Jordan said it was irrelevant. She put up a surprisingly smooth defence and the 3 magistrates took her side. The case against me was dropped. I was free.
Ms Jordan was happy and so was I. She told me her name was Nandi, and that she hoped to see a production of my play ‘The Rich Young Man’ if I managed to get one produced while I’m here in London. Before she said goodbye she gave me a cassette copy of the recorded interview I had made with police at the station when I was arrested last year, which should be an interesting listen whenever I get hold of a taperecorder.
I retrieved my confiscated passport and made my way out of the courthouse and wended my way down Baker Street, slightly bewildered about the easy dismissal. Should I have decided to continue the trial and challenge the initial charge? If I had I probably would have been allowed to present the statement I had written the night before at the request of the other lawyer explaining why I had shouted out in the first place. Perhaps the CPS had realised this and decided it would be less embarrassing for them and those they protect if they dismissed the charges and therefore silenced my message.
This is what I wrote:
WHY I SHOUTED “NO MORE WAR!”
“One evening in the early eighties I found myself in Trafalgar Square after having taken part in a CND march through London to a rally in Hyde Park, me wearing a Balinese lion mask cut from the back of a cornflakes packet and holding a rolled-up banner which I had carried with the help of a friend during the march, which proclaimed: “G.L.C. HAS THOUSANDS OF SHARES IN R.T.Z.” (Rio Tinto Zinc, a mining company providing uranium for nuclear weapons, which the hypocritical Greater London Council had investments in.)
I sat on the edge of one of the fountains and watched Lady Olga Maitland, who had been holding an alternative to the CND rally, speaking to a rather meagre crowd of listeners from the raised plinth under Nelson’s Statue about the necessity of nuclear weapons. Then she announced that they would have a one minute silence to remember the war dead. They all obediently bowed their heads and were quiet. I too was silent for a while until I thought about the poor soldiers in the sordid trenches of the First World War with limbs blown off, burnt, terribly wounded, blinded and suffocated by burning mustard gas. I looked across at the illuminated South Africa House and thought of the battles waged there, the thousands killed by the racist white invading armies of soldiers, tools of their rich overlords who lust for power and wealth. No, I thought, a silence is not appropriate. A loud long wail of agony reflecting the collected horrible pain of those victims of military conflict would be far more fitting. I lifted up my head and screamed out loud and long. In a few seconds I was seized by both arms and led away by a couple of policemen.
“A real breach-baby, this one!” chuckled one officer to his mate. And ‘breach of the peace’ is what I was charged with.
As to why I shouted “No More War!” during the 2 Minute Silence on Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph in November last year – when the arresting officer asked that question I said God had told me to do it and I had been speaking for those who died in the two world wars and all conflicts since.
I wanted all the elite gathered at the ceremony to hear – members of the Royal Family, the politicians, religious leaders and military chiefs. They were the very ‘persons likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress’ by my cry. Threatening words indeed to those who make such a tidy profit from the industry of war.
As they stood in silence and heard my distant shout, was it likely that they pondered their roles in the military-industrial complex and accuse themselves of responsibility in the deaths of those they had gathered to mourn?
In 2010 the Queen made an official visit to a place called The Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Cente outside Sheffield to launch and give the royal seal of approval to construction work there – a “factory of the future” which will house research projects by Boeing, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, and the UK and US military. Parts for drones are already produced there by Casting Technology International. How much money does the royal “Family Firm” have invested in the lucrative businesses of war? No one knows. It is forbidden for Parliament even to discuss the fact that the Queen keeps her private wealth a secret. She must be the ultimate Inside Trader.
Beside her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, dressed in the uniform of an admiral of the fleet, and her eldest son Prince Charles in general’s uniform, stood Prince Andrew, Britain’s roving trade envoy, dressed in naval uniform. He recently called the Serious Fraud Office ‘idiots’ for investigating bribes a senior Saudi royal had received in return for a £43billion contract with Britain’s largest defence contractor BAE Systems to supply military jets to Saudi Arabia. BAE paid nearly £300million in fines to settle the bribery charges. Andrew also railed against “those fucking journalists who poke their noses everywhere and make it harder for British businessmen to do business.”
From a balcony in the Foreign Office, along with Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, and other members of the royal family, the Queen’s son-in-law, Princess Anne’s second husband, Vice-Admiral Timothy Laurence watched the ceremony. He recently walked out of a high-paying job with the Ministry of Defence and onto an even higher paying job on the board of executives of private consulting company Capita Symonds which hopes to win the highly lucrative contract to run the MoD’s property portfolio – which was Vice-Admiral Laurence’s former role at the ministry.
Prince William, military pin-up boy in RAF flight lieutenant uniform, stood alert, ready to lay his poppy wreath. Brother Harry was absent, currently in training to become a helicopter pilot in California.
Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Sir David Richards, and the professional head of the Army, General Sir Peter Wall waited stony-faced for the silence to finish. Wall, who recently said that defense spending must be increased if Britain is to maintain its war-fighting capabilities, would have been encouraged to hear that solemnly silent fellow-congregation member Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is increasingly confident that the ministry is “turning a corner” and will be soon able to invest in new equipment projects. It’s rumoured that £2.1 billion has been earmarked for several major new spending projects, such as converting 22 RAF Merlin helicopters for movements overseas; a new fleet of advanced Type 26 frigates for the Royal Navy; an upgrade for Puma helicopters; and the extension of the array of armaments available to the Typhoon fighter jet. Neither Richards nor Wall would have appreciated hearing my anti-war shout, if they heard it at all.
But of all attendees, perhaps the one I would wish most to have heard the shout would be former Prime Minister war criminal Tony Blair, standing there, head lowered, his poppy wreath grasped. The man who, even after 2 million British people protested in public demonstrations against an attack on Iraq, in the words of John Pilger: “had ordered an unprovoked invasion of another country on a totally false pretext, and that lies and deceptions manufactured in London and Washington caused the deaths of up to 55,000 Iraqis, including 9,600 civilians.”
So there stood all the hypocrites, gathered in silence around the Cenotaph on that sunny Sunday morning in November, and although they heard my solitary shout their faces didn’t show it. They heard but they did not heed, and now all seems likely for another attack on an oil-rich Middle East country, Iran – another bloody war to cause havoc, mayhem, and violent death to innocent civilians, and more selfish greedy profit for the upper echelons of the military-industrial complex.
Until such a system of profiteering is eradicated, there can be no hope of peace.
So let’s change the system.
For a start why not try shouting “NO MORE WAR!” during the 2 minute Silence at your next Ceremony of Remembrance in November. I got away with it. Why not you?
Michael Dickinson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org