Prison protest calls for release of 'tram rant woman' Emma West
Just under 20 people held a quiet protest outside HMP Bronzefield calling for the release of Emma West, held there on remand after her racist tram outburst was posted on YouTube. Ashford, Middlesex, UK. 2nd December 2011
Just under 20 people held a quiet protest outside HMP Bronzefield this lunchtime calling for the release of Emma West, held there on remand after her foul-mouthed outburst on a Croydon Tram was posted on YouTube.
Ashford, Middx, UK. 2/12/2011
The prison protest was called by 'Britain First', 'a patriotic political movement', and was led by Andy McBride, its National Coordinator, who resigned in March after over seven years as a regional organiser for the BNP.
Along with others at the protest, Mr McBride insisted to me that this was a protest over the right to freedom of speech. Although the outburst by Emma West was full of foul language, he said that the organisation's lawyers had examined the video (now seen on YouTube by over 8.7 million) and had concluded it was not racist, and that otherwise they would not be at Bronzefield protesting.
Although police had apparently asked for it to be removed, the video was still on YouTube this afternoon, and a pretty accurate asterisk studded transcript was published by the Daily Mail on Tuesday. I studied both on returning from the protest and her outburst seems clearly to me to have been driven by racial hostility.
McBride also reminded me that none of those actually present on the tram had made a complaint, and that proceedings had only taken place after the video had been uploaded to YouTube and then brought to the attention of the British Transport Police. He said that his organisation had received evidence from some of those present who state that there had been some provocation of Ms West before the events recorded on the video which had led to her outburst. It says on the Britain First web site:
"What she said on that tram was harsh, coarse and very unladylike, no doubt about that, but what abuse had she been subjected to before the camera phone was switched on?"
Ms West, 34, from New Addington, is the mother of two children, one of whom was sitting on her lap during the whole incident. She appeared in Croydon Magistrates Court on Tuesday in an apparently distressed state, did not enter a plea and was remanded in custody while psychiatric reports are prepared. She is expected to be back in court next Tuesday.
The protesters feel strongly that she should not have been held in custody, and that as in many other cases detention on remand is being used as a way to punish her - and her children who have been taken into care - without a trial. One of those present contrasted the treatment of her with the 'kid gloves' approach used against Muslim extremists who had taken part in burning poppies at last years Remembrance Day.
Several of those present expressed the opinion too me that her treatment was an example of the way that white British people are now discriminated against by our police and legal system. I pointed out to them that similar treatment does occur to many from the ethnic minorities, some of who are subjected to a great deal of harassment by police, and there was some agreement with my suggestion that the poor and the powerless in our society are discriminated against by police and our legal system, whether black or white.
The actual protest was a quiet affair, with the group standing by the visitor centre a short distance away from the prison, holding posters with the text 'Free Emma West' as well as Union flags and a Britain First banner. One protester held the white dragon on a red field, the English flag before the adoption of the St George's cross. There had been rumours before the event that the EDL would be attending the protest, but there was no sign of their presence. It was a calm and entirely peaceful protest, with no racist chanting, hardly any noise at all, with just a few rather half-hearted chants of 'Free Emma West' for the video camera of one of the protesters, who also recorded Andy McBride talking to me.
The Britain First web site refers to Emma West as a "feisty English mother" and having watched the full video of her outburst several times I don't find this accurate. Her language and attitude suggest to me someone with severe psychiatric problems - extremely disturbed rather than feisty, and I find it an insult to the English for her behaviour to be associated with our nation. It's also hard to imagine what kind of mother treats her own rather nervous looking son to this kind of filthy outburst, certainly no part of my image of motherhood. Whether or not her behaviour accounts to the racially aggravated offence of intentional harassment, alarm or distress under Section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 is for the court to decide.