By Dr Felicity Laurence, Chair of Hastings Community of Sanctuary.
It was a day of hope, finally relief, but also sorrow – absolutely devastating to learn as we arrived in the early morning that the HO had already carried out the deportation to Jamaica, clearly choosing this particularly meaningful day to send a renewed message of unremitting hostility to anyone at the sharp end of immigration policy as well as one of ‘don’t think you can mess with us’ to the Stansted 15 and anyone who might be contemplating further such peaceful but determined actions to interfere with their cruel agenda.
It was fantastic that no one went to prison; but it was heartrending to hear from various speakers so much personal testimony of what this state does to people we should be looking after -not incarcerating and brutalising them. The young woman next to me in the photo is one such -she has been in Yarlswood and spoke eloquently to the hundreds gathered about the horror of this place.
I improvised my little placard (with lipstick and the one bit of paper I had with me!), and pinned it onto my coat, and lots of people stopped to look and ask about the work we do in Hastings -so we did have a real presence there! I was very glad to be able to represent all the wonderful caring people in our group at this event -it seemed to me to be a real watershed moment, with the State really squaring up to take all of us on… The “anti-fracking nanas” from Lancashire were also there in force, and fabulous – as was one of the three people who had been imprisoned for his protest against fracking, again in a draconian action by the State against peaceful protest -but released after three weeks on the overturning of that conviction.