Edward Woollard is a stupid, irreponsible idiot. Or at least, he behaved like one on the 10th November student demo when he threw a fire extinguisher from the roof of the Tories’ Millbank HQ, endangering the safety and even (possibly) the lives of those below, including other demonstrators.
Earlier this week he was sentenced to 32 months in jail – a punishment that the judge, Geoffrey Rivlin QC described as a “deterrent sentence.” Rivlin might as well have said, “pour encourager les autres.” While this blatantly political sentence may succeed in its objective of discouraging some people from attending demos in future, Deborah Orr argues (entirely convincingly, I think) in todays Graun, “It will inspire some less cautious souls to be a lot more careful about hiding their identity when they attend protests. It will make protest more militant and less broadly representative…”
It is also worth remembering that for all his reckless stupidity, all the evidence is that Woollard acted without pre-planning (he wore no mask) in one of those proverbial moments of madness. And, in the event, no-one was hurt.
Contrast that with the actions of the police on another student demo a month later, who bludgeoned Alfie Meadows so severerly that he had to have emergency surgery to save his life. And, of course, no-one has been charged over that incident.
I fear that poor, foolish Edward Woollard is going to be spending at the very least the next 16 months of his life behind bars. I just hope it doesn’t do him any lasting damage. If there is any kind of campaign in his support I’ll be sure to let you know. In the meanwhile, we all need to defend the democratic right to protest.