11:44, December 13 168 0 theguardian.com

2018-12-13 11:44:04
Grief and pride of the Stansted 15’s parents

As parents of the defendants, we are heartbroken at the guilty verdict on Monday at Chelmsford crown court for the Stansted 15 (Editorial: The Stansted 15 case is not just about deportation, but about our right to protest, 12 December). The grief we feel is a measure of the depth of our love for them and the pride in what they have achieved.

At risk to their own safety and wellbeing, and now their freedom, they have tried to save the lives of vulnerable people facing deportation. Their peaceful direct action stopped the plane taking off on 28 March 2017, with about 60 people on board destined to fly to Nigeria and Ghana. Eleven people from that flight now remain in the UK. Four were victims of trafficking, and at least one has been granted leave to remain here.

The Stansted 15 were initially charged with aggravated trespass, which was replaced, three months later, by the charges embedded in anti-terror legislation – endangering the safety of an airport. Who decided to bring this charge against them? We have no answers.

We also feel gratitude. Not only have the Stansted 15 saved lives, but they have upheld the values of social justice and human rights on behalf of us all.

As expressed in the wonderful closing speech of the defence counsel, Dexter Dias, they are part of a long tradition of standing up against authority when you think it is doing something wrong. It’s a tradition to cherish, as Quakers know. We thank the Quaker and Anglican communities in Chelmsford for their kind and unwavering support, both practical and spiritual, for the defendants throughout this trial.

And we thank the Stansted 15 for showing us the way to love and welcome people we have never met before who need our help, and to treat them as our neighbours.

Gill McGahan, John McGahan, Margot Leicester, Ag MacKeith, Brian Evans, Rachel Singer, Alison Assiter, Belinda Hopkins and David Thacker

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