Until very recently John was in an open prison at Castle Huntly in Scotland. He had spent two years working unsupervised in the outside community as a volunteer on projects for the mentally ill and socially vulnerable, and had qualified as a literacy tutor for people with learning difficulties. For almost a year he had also been allowed frequent home leaves, and was not regarded as any form of risk to the public. All this changed however, when Matthew Stillman, a right-wing American social-worker (who for example, insists on calling Irish people ‘Micks’), accused John of having links with a ‘paramilitary’ and ‘terrorist’ organisation – namely the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC)!
The ABC are a perfectly legal and entirely legitimate prisoner support organisation, with origins that go back to Tsarist Russia. Autonomous branches of the ABC exist all over the world, including groups in Brighton and in Leeds.
Stillman’s lies are easily refuted, but they were eagerly taken up by the Scottish Prison Service, who used them as a pretext for ‘ghosting’ John from Castle Huntly to a maximum security prison at Glenochil. Since a massive campaign was launched in support of John however, and Stillman’s report came under more scrutiny, the SPS have begun to waver. John remains in maximum security conditions though, with all that entails, and Stillman’s enormously prejudicial report currently remains on his parole dossier.
John Bowden’s parole application is due to be considered in August, and the latest Prison Service campaign is clearly aimed at preventing his release. More than that however, it is designed to intimidate other prisoners thinking of supporting their fellow prisoners, and to damage the ability of the ABC to function as an arm of assistance.
For months, since the ABC was vilified, and John Bowden victmised, Leeds ABC have been helping to co-ordinate an international campaign of protest, which has seen solidarity actions everywhere from Edinburgh to Japan, and a constant stream of protest aimed at SPS HQ. This Friday, July 13th, sees the second International Day of Solidarity in support of John and the ABC (see http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/scotland/2007/06/373463.html and http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/leedsbradford/2007/07/374935.html).
In Leeds various support actions are planned, and Leeds ABC will be holding an info stall at the Common Place on Wharf Street (between Calls Lane and Swinegate.) There’s a large card to sign for John, and there’ll be postcards to send for the SPS (who you can also e-mail.) Come along and show your support and find out more about the work of the ABC, we’ll be there from 12 noon until 3.00pm. It’s also an opportunity to purchase John Bowden’s excellent pamphlet Tear Down The Walls! The café will be open as usual on Fridays, selling tea and coffee and a range of vegan food.
If you’re unable to be there you can still help:
John Bowden, 6729, HMP Glenochil, King O' Muir Road, Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, FK10 3AD. Scotland. (Please sends letters and solidarity cards, SAEs, postal orders made payable to ‘The Governor’.)
Audrey Parks, Governor, HMP Glenochil, King O' Muir Road, Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, FK10 3AD. Phone: 01259 760471. Fax: 01259 762003. (Messages of protest.)
Social Services Department, Perth & Kinross Council, 2 High St, Perth, PH1 5PH. Phone: 01738 475000. Fax: 01738 475710. (Complaints about social-worker Matthew Stillman.)
Scottish Prison Service HQ, Communications Branch, Room 338, Calton House, 5 Redheughs Rigg, Edinburgh, EH12 9HW. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 01259 760471. Fax: 01259 762003. (Postcards reading ‘Hands Off John Bowden!’ and other forms of protest.)
To find out more about John Bowden and the campaign in support of him see www.myspace.com/friendsofjohnbowden or the main feature on UK Indymedia.