Boat Race Protestor Jailed for Six Months
mark at tlio.org.uk
mark at tlio.org.uk
Tue Oct 23 08:17:03 BST 2012
ROCK THE BOATS!
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!
More information about the Diggers350