Copyleft - Information for direct action - Published weekly in Brighton since 1994

Home | Friday 21st November 2008 | Issue 656

Back to the Full Issue


The eight people on trial for protesting against the Republican National Convention (SchNEWS 645 , SchNEWS 646) are in the dock, still fighting charges of “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism”. Having been dragged from their beds in the early hours on the day of the riot /demo, the eight (seven of whom were part of the RNC ‘Welcoming Committee’) are being accused of plotting to kidnap delagates and sabotage the Convention.

The prosecution are basing their case on evidence provided by paid informants and undercover agents who infiltrated the group in the months leading up to the convention. Eryn Trimmer, one of the alleged ringleaders, said “We assumed the group was under surveillance and that that could include informants. It was an open group and we weren’t organizing anything."

Second-degree “Conspiracy to Commit Riot” ordinarily carries a maximum two-and-a-half-year prison sentence, but because the alleged crime was intended to “Further Terrorism,” the sentence can be doubled to a maximum of five years.

Keen to stamp out protest, and demonise civil dissent in case the general public start getting any ideas, US authorities have stretched post-9/11 legal definitions to new dimensions. Organising acts of civil disobedience (some of them admitted to considering a blockade of the Convention) is taken to mean planning to damage property. Which is now taken to count as terrorism.

This definition goes beyond even the US Patriot Act which defines terrorism as damage to people. This extension to property is made by ‘reinterpreting’ an obscure state bill rushed through in the aftermath of 9/11. The original bill, proposed on May the 2nd 2001, had nothing to do with terrorism but required morticians and funeral directors to issue death notices for unidentifiable homeless people. One year, five revisions and a twin towers later, the bill had mushroomed into a massive catch-all bill, including the hastily appended terrorism statute. For updates see

** Nov 21st - Save Dave Rave - Fundraiser for Dave Mahoney, a UK activist facing 12 years in prison in the US for protests at Republican Party convention. Live music and more at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton from 7pm. For more info see


Subscribe to SchNEWS: Send 1st Class stamps (e.g. 10 for next 9 issues) or donations (payable to Justice?). Or £15 for a year's subscription, or the SchNEWS supporter's rate, £1 a week. Ask for "originals" if you plan to copy and distribute. SchNEWS is post-free to prisoners.