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Mark Barnsley Is Free

STOP PRESS: Mark Barnsley was released from Whitemoor Prison, 25th June 2002. (yay!!) We have included the statement from the ‘Free Mark Barnsley’ website as an update, and although this development may make the article below seem by-the-by in Mark’s case, there are many others wrongly imprisoned, and this still stands as an example of the things campaigns to free them are up against...

Statement on ‘Free Mark Barnsley’ website upon his release:

Justice for Mark Barnsley Campaign, are overjoyed to announce that miscarriage of justice prisoner Mark Barnsley was finally released from Whitemoor prison on the morning of Monday 24th June 2002.

Mark walked out of maximum securty HMP Whitemoor to loud cheers and applause from waiting supporters. Friends, eager to welcome Mark out of prison had travelled from around the country and included an official delegation from the NUM, complete with their National Union banner.

After having his first decent breakfast in 8 years at a local cafe and thanking everyone for coming, Mark set off back to South Yorkshire where he will be living for the foreseeable future. He was later reunited with his children. Mark’s youngest daughter who is now 8 years old, last saw him outside a prison when she was just 6 weeks old.

After spending over 8 years in just about every Maximum security hell- hole the prison system has to offer, Mark is in good spirits and obviously glad to be finally out. Mark and his campaign would like to take ths opportunity to thank everyone who has supported him over his 8 long years of wrongful imprisonment.

Whilst Mark tries to re-build his life and adjust to living in the outside world again the Justice for Mark Barnsley campaign will continue to help him get the justice which is long overdue. Mark has been released after serving two thirds of his 12 year prison sentence but he has yet to clear his name and have his wrongful conviction overturned. Prior to his release Mark refused to sign his licence on the principle that he is an innocent man and freedom is his right.

Another Year Inside

Mark has made solidarity an abiding principle of his political life-both in prison and during his life outside. Throughout 2001-2002 he and another dedicated prisoner-activist, John Bowden, held regular monthly hunger strikes in solidarity with the Turkish hunger strikers.

Mark has also always refused to work inside and has sought to highlight the injustice inherent in prison labour. In August 2001, supporters of the campaign took direct action against forced prison labour in Britain, invading and shutting down Hepworth Building Products in Edlington, South Yorkshire. Hepworths use prisoners at HMP Wakefield to package their products for 32p an hour. Mark commented "I really hope actions against companies like this carry on; they are an easy target on the outside and it is so inspiring to those on the inside. Prisons themselves can stand up to pressure but the companies that profit from them can’t. This is what I call real solidarity." With New Labour proposing a Custody-to-Work scheme which will pave the way for a US style prison-industrial complex - such action will need to be repeated whenever and wherever companies seek to profit from prison labour.

At the beginning of 2001 The Justice for Mark Barnsley Campaign started regularly picketing the then Prisons Minister Paul Boateng’s Harlesden surgeries to protest Mark’s segregation and his subsequent transfer to HMP Wakefield. By May Boateng was gone and David Blunkett was Home Secretary, so we took the battle to his doorstep.

Militant as the Justice for Mark Barnsley Campaign has continued to be, there is an obvious downside to all this. It’s now eight years since Mark entered the prison system - and while it is good news that the Criminal Cases Review Commission has begun to investigate his conviction it remains a disgrace that so few are involved in campaigning to free a working class anarchist militant so obviously fitted up. In the last year, Mark has continued to be shipped from jail to jail-Frankland, Wakefield, Leeds, Whitemoor - with long spells in segregation.

We’ve lost count of the number who’ve written to Mark to promise that "they won’t sleep until he’s free" and then must decide to keep their insomnia to themselves as neither we nor Mark hear from them again. Just as bad are those who let us down by failing to turn up on activities because "it was raining" or "I had an hangover" or "I caught the wrong bus". The bottom line is that if you call an activity in support of a prisoner and it’s poorly attended, the message to the state is that the prisoner has sweet f.a in terms of support and so he or she is exposed to the danger of further repression on the basis that there’s little in the way of active solidarity to prevent it. If you say you’ll be there and aren’t - you don’t just let the prisoner down you put him or her at risk.

The media continues to operate a "blackout" policy in relation to the campaign. We’ve been told Mark’s politics make him "not innocent enough", that the case is too old to be newsworthy etc etc. Whatever we do, however many press releases we send out, the mainstream media acts as if we don’t exist. When we marched on Downing Street (and you’d think the first protest against the new government on their first day in office might be worth reporting) the press asked the police to shut us up as they thought our presence might deter new Cabinet Ministers from stepping out for a photo opportunity!! So much for a critical and independent media. It’s not just in relation to Mark’s case - the fitting-up of working class people and their abuse in the prison system rarely makes the news. Our prison population goes through the roof, the gap between rich and poor grows ever wider-but the papers are full of mobile phone thefts and carjackings and the crimes of Enron disappear. New Labour wants to believe that the working class doesn’t exist (except as jail fodder) and the press are determined to report the news as if the wish were reality.

We’ll continue fighting until Mark is free and his name cleared. We need more people to get involved. One of the strengths of the campaign has been the space it’s offered for an older generation of working class anarchists to work alongside the new generation of anti-capitalist militants around groups like Earth First! Such collaboration has been a real gain and we hope it will continue.

Justice for Mark Barnsley Campaign

email: barnsleycampaign@hotmail.com
www.freemarkbarnsley.com

Prisoner Support
It is important to support those imprisoned for their beliefs - one day it could be you. Read about how you can help a prisoner - see ‘Prisoner Support’ in the DIY Guide section of the SchNEWS website, or read it in last year’s SchNEWS/Squall Yearbook 2001 annual. Also: www.brightonabc.org.uk.