Boat Race Protestor Jailed for Six Months

mark at mark at
Tue Oct 23 08:17:03 BST 2012


by Michael Dickinson


On April 7th 2012, half-way through the 158th annual boat race between 
Oxford and Cambridge universities on the River Thames, 42 year old Sir 
Matthew Pinsent, a direct descendent of William the Conqueror, who was 
on a launch behind the boats, spied what he thought was a balloon 
floating on the surface of the water ahead. As they got closer he 
realized it was a swimming man’s head, and he was aiming directly into 
the pathway of the boats.

“The risk for the swimmer was great,” said Pinsent. “If he had been 
hit by an oar or boat he could have cracked his skull, his neck, 
fallen unconscious and drowned. The incident caused me alarm, as one 
of my primary roles is the safety of the competitors and public at 

The race was halted and a 36-year old Australian man in a wetsuit was 
fished from the water into a barge, and arrested by police on the bank 
side. His name was Trenton Oldfield, and he freely admitted swimming 
into the path of the crews. He had no regrets about his actions and 
rejected the idea he could have been hurt by the boats, insisting that 
having grown up in Australia he was well used to avoiding surfboards, 
boats, rocks and coral while swimming.

So why, in the words of prosecution barrister Louis Mably, whose 
client base includes blue chip companies, banks and leaders in a range 
of corporate sectors, had Trenton “spoiled the race for hundreds of 
thousands of spectators watching from the banks of the river or live 
on BBC TV, not to mention the two university rowing teams”?

Oldfield said he had chosen to interrupt the Oxford and Cambridge Boat 
Race because it is a sym¬bol of class, privilege and elitism in 
Britain, and that an astonishing 70% of the cabinet in the currrent 
government (which is planning to privatize the National Health Service 
and introduce the Communications Data Bill to legalize surveillance of 
all digital communications) are Oxford or Cambridge graduates.

“It was a symbolic gesture to these kind of issues," he said. “London 
today is the most unequal society in the Western world. This poverty 
and inequality is entirely unnecessary and has been severely 
exacerbated by coalition spending cuts and reductions in civil 
liberties. It’s kind of worse than in Dickens' time".

Although a minor delay of 25 minutes was experienced by his protest 
stunt, and not a single complaint was received from the public by 
either the Metropolitan police or the BBC, at his trial on October 
19th Oldfield was found guilty of “public nuisance” and sentenced to 
six months imprisonment, plus costs of 750 pounds by the judge, Her 
Honorable Anne Molyneux, who also accused him of being ‘prejudiced’. 
She told Oldfield that every individual and group of society 
(including the upper-class elite) was entitled to respect.

"You made your decision to sabotage the race based on the membership 
or perceived membership of its participants of a group to which you 
took exception," she said.

"That is prejudice. No good ever comes from prejudice. It is a 
necessary part of a liberal and tolerant society that no one should be 
targeted because of a characteristic with which another takes issue. 
Prejudice in any form is wrong.'

After being found guilty, Oldfield, who has worked and volunteered for 
a decade in jobs and projects aimed at increasing better prospects for 
people in impoverished areas, made a brief statement outside the 

“As inequality increases across Britain and much of the world, so does 
the criminalization of protest,” he said. “My solidarity is with 
everyone working towards more equitable societies everywhere.”

Deepa Naik, Trenton Oldfield’s long-term partner, said: 'Great Britain 
has convinced many it is the home of democracy and the gauge of 
civilization. Anyone living here today knows Britain is a brutal, 
deeply divided, class-driven place.

'Trenton has spent his adult life working on these issues and his 
direct action protest was a natural extension of his everyday work. 
Trenton's protest was a reaction to an increasingly brutal business, 
media and political elite.”

Free Trenton Oldfield!

Defeat the Elite!

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