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Student protester who threw fire extinguisher from roof jailed

Studebaker | 11.01.2011 13:37 | Public sector cuts | Repression | Social Struggles

Edward Woollard, 18, sentenced to two years and eight months for hurling object towards crowded courtyard

A student who admitted throwing a fire extinguisher from the roof of Millbank Tower in London during the student fees protests was jailed for 32 months today.

Edward Woollard, 18, joined protesters who stormed the complex, housing the Conservative party headquarters, on 10 November.

Television pictures showed Woollard throwing an empty metal fire extinguisher from a seventh-floor rooftop as hundreds of people gathered in a courtyard below.

Woollard, of Dibden Purlieu, Hampshire, will serve at least half of his sentence for violent disorder in a young offenders institution.

He slumped forward as the sentence was handed down and his family were in floods of tears.

More than 60 demonstrators were arrested when trouble broke out after a peaceful demonstration and march.

Police, who had underestimated the scale of the demonstration, struggled to hold the line against the protesters on Millbank, near the houses of parliament.

Demonstrators broke into Millbank Tower, where windows were smashed and furniture destroyed.

Some reached the roof and hurled objects, including the fire extinguisher, down at the police lines.

Woollard was arrested in Southampton five days after the protests.

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC said: "There is no doubt that the disturbance was a very major one. It is perhaps ironic that the weapon that you threw down from the top of this very high building and which was calculated to inflame passions was a fire extinguisher.

"It is in my judgment extremely fortunate that your actions did not result in death or very serious injury either to a police officer or fellow protester."

He told Woollard the public had a right to protection from violence, and praised the teenager's mother for encouraging him to give himself up to police after he was identified in media coverage of the rioting.

Rivlin said: "It is deeply regrettable, indeed a shocking thing, for a court to have sentence a young man such as you to a substantial term of custody.

"But the courts have a duty to provide the community with such protection from violence as they can and this means sending out a very clear message to anyone minded to behave in this way that an offence of this seriousness will not be tolerated.

"The right of peaceful protest is a precious one. Those who abuse it and use the occasion to indulge in serious violence must expect a lengthy sentence of immediate custody."

He added: "Nevertheless I shall take into account in your favour the extraordinary and courageous conduct of your mother, which resulted in you giving yourself up to the police so quickly."

Rivlin also said he took into account the defendant's age, his guilty plea at the earliest opportunity and the fact that he had no previous convictions.

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Hide the following 17 comments

how much would he have got if...

11.01.2011 13:58

32 months?! how much would he have got if he'd pleaded guilty, been older, not handed himself in, etc.




11.01.2011 14:36

Attempted murder, the charge the police were demanding, carries a sentence of life imprisonment. Odd to read the family were in tears when his mother was demanding that he be punished.
Woollard is extremely lucky that he didn't kill someone in his moment of total stupidity. He might've dropped it at the cops but it could equally have killed a protestor or a passer-by, and all he achieved was to further distract media attention away from the cause he espoused. You can't sift idiots like him from public demos but there have been too many cases where limited activist actions have included retards like him. In sixteen months or less when he gets out he should be given a wide berth.


nice support guys...

11.01.2011 15:03

How about some solidarity?? He was in the middle of a riot, how is a bit of violence towards the police distracting attention in any negative way? How effective is peaceful protest anyway? Fat lot of good that did for the dead of Iraq. In the face of such a united front of oppression no one tactic can claim to be the correct tactic of resistance. The only way the people can change a government policy is to resist it on any level possible, including throwing enough bricks at the establishment - fact.

I suspect the guy just got carried away in the heat of it, he doesn't seem like someone who'd have a fully thought out political ideology surrounding violence. But frankly I don't care. He went to a protest around an issue that would have seriously fucked his life up, the protest seemed to finally be getting somewhere, he got carried away, and the state has ensured that someone whose life was probably already messed up, now is definitely messed up. Talk about rock and a hard place.

And let's not go getting sympathetic for the cops. If they didn't professionally turn up to demos spoiling for a rumble they wouldn't get one.



11.01.2011 15:44

We might not agree with the tactics used by everyone but we should have 100% solidarity for people imprisoned on the student protests. It's not something I would have done, but I know it is easy to get carried away in the heat of the moment. I'd rather people do that that just sit on the internet criticising.

Does anyone know if there is a support campaign for those imprisoned? Prison address for people to write to him?

I'm sure the trolls and state operatives on Indymedia will do a good enough job of sniping and trying to divide us, so there is no point in genuine activists doing it as well.


Stupid but then

11.01.2011 16:53

It was a very stupid thing to do but then, as has been said, you have to support the prisoners of the struggle or the movement ain't worth shit. That's not to say by supporting someone on the inside you agree 100% with what they did, just that you recognise them as part of the movement. Prison is no fun. Every support from anywhere is always welcome by prisoners. Probably even more welcome if you get sent down for something stupid but don't want to face your time inside feeling judged and abandoned.

I understood that Green and Black Cross have been supporting and trying to aid those who face the courts and those that end up inside. Well worth it. Prisoner support is a massive job that consumes huge amounts of energy and emotions and is something that you can't just drop in and out of as you fancy it. Props to Green / Black Cross. Check their site for how to do small or large amounts of prisoners support...



They are inside for us, we are outside for them!!


Mums Against Revolution

11.01.2011 17:07

I'm upset that his mum pushed him into handing himself in, and really upset that this is seen as a respecable thing in our society, the judge said it was "courageous"! WTF! It is horrifically cowardly, she has taken her sons life for the next 32 months and when he gets out he will lead a half life and could be totally fucked by his experience. I think it was a stupid thing to do, but what is 10 times more stupid is to betray your own son.



11.01.2011 17:48

The Green and Black Cross work for political prisoners other groups ignore for that reason, don't they? I've seen no claims that this guy is any more politicised than Charlie Gilmour, or any reason to think he is worth converting. No one experienced would've dumped a fire-extinguisher from such a height because there is no way of knowing if the crowd could've surged, or the object could've bounced. Let alone unmasked on national TV. It breaks all the black bloc principles. Yet big demos include so many inexperienced people who will get carried away, and can't be intercepted or educated in advance, that this sort of incident becomes inevitable.

Maybe my contempt is misplaced as I have seen equally stupid behaviour from within groups that really should know better. I guess the main thing this sort of thing illustrates is the need for mass pre-action training and discipline where ever possible.


a few feet

11.01.2011 18:05

was all it would have taken to take the life of someones son or daughter.

YOU go round that mothers house and say "they deserved it cos they work for the state", I trust when they hospitalise you, you check yourself straight out of there, the state employees there are also vermin to be killed.

You sicken me, I have had it with the "do anything you like, I can justify it cos they are the state", so far all you are doing is aiding the voice of represion.


not worth being soft on this - you're be setting a precedent

11.01.2011 18:13

>> .....We might not agree with the tactics used by everyone but we should have 100% solidarity for people imprisoned on the student protests.

>>> ....I think it was a stupid thing to do, but what is 10 times more stupid is to betray your own son

I completely disagree. Violence is violence. To cloud it up with politics is just stupid.
If you follow that road then it ends up just depending on your viewpoint: hes a hero or a villian.

If you just let him off, then you are basically saying:
"Its ok to throw objects at crowds from big buildings".

If you let him off, then 10 other people will do the same next time, and 2-4 people will be dead. Whats more, it would be your fault because you sent the message out that its ok to throw things off tall buildings.

If you put him in prison for 32 months, its pretty unlikely anyone is going to copy his stunt anytime soon. Sorry guys, but setting an example of someone does work whether you agree or not.

32months is a lot. But at end of day............
You got to punish people who throw fire extinguishers off a tall building into a crowd for the same reason you got to punish joyriders who speed through council estates and past schools.

Solidarity? Not really. Maybe for protesting, but not for doing this.


michael jackson

@anon + mj

11.01.2011 19:10

Everyone here has condemned the stupidity of dropping the fire extinguisher, nobody is calling the bloke a hero or a villain, except you two. The argument is about whether he deserves forgiveness and prisoner support or not, and that's a personal choice at the end of the day. I won't be writing to him, and I wouldn't have been the least bit bothered if he had been charged with attempted murder, there are more deserving prisoners on the newswire everyday imo. But don't get tabloid on us. Setting off the fire extinguisher from the building was funny and acceptable, dropping it is something he hopefully will regret for the rest of his life, that doesn't mean the rest of his life is worthless because of one mistake, no matter how serious.


32 Months it's politically motivated

11.01.2011 20:28

32 Months it's politically motivated, he will be out in less than a year, he the full guy. Poor Sod. Anyone remembers the judge who went mad and sent everyone down after one May Day Demo? And later caught with Child Porn on his laptop and was given a Golden Hand Shake? F*ckers



11.01.2011 20:43

Reminds of the 6 monts someone got at J18 (1999 I believe) for throwing an empty bottle of water. When put into context, this 32 months is rather short. But either way, both sentences are clearly politically motivated. The mum doesn't have a clue, but then most mums (indeed most people) wouldn't have....


On violence against the police

11.01.2011 20:56

While I don't agree with this guy's actions, he still needs our support and sympathy in the face of the state fucking his life up for one moment of stupidity. As to the more general question of violence against the police, the Commune said it best:
"... Someone has to say it: mass violence against the police is necessary as part of any social struggle. We wish it wasn’t but it is. The reason is simple: the police defend the state unconditionally, the state defends capital unconditionally, and capital attacks us without remorse – or even a second thought. Reasonable liberals yearn for a compromise: but the state isn’t listening. Neither should protestors.

When Charles and Camilla were ambushed, or a fence was thrown at police, or a crowd broke the thin blue line: those were good things, and we support the people doing it. They are by no means sufficient, nor are they particularly helpful as isolated acts. What is important is that they establish the movement on new terrain. They represent the conscious willingness to defy and confront state authority, and state power. And that is the beginning of everything hopeful. "

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the stupid thing is...

12.01.2011 04:51

...not some naive protestor throwing a fire extinguisher at police lines while on the roof of a building he can't retreat from and making no effort to conceal his identity, although that is fairly stupid. What is really stupid are the trolls and pseudo-pacifists on this thead. This student's actions were wrong in execution, being unwise in that situation, but were not wrong in principal. What is really sad about it is being convinced to shop himself by his own mother. He must be gutted.



12.01.2011 07:11

...behaved like a tit, but the sentence is completely disproportionate, and must be seen as politically motivated.


1) The sentence is long enough so that it can never be regarded as a 'spent' conviction. Ever. So that - in our ever-so-tolerant society - he will have to declare it on any job application and such for the rest of his life, so rendering him effectively unemployable. I wonder if the rightist trolls who are jumping up and down with glee at the thought of the length of sentence will be pointing at Woollard in ten years time and screaming, "Why does he leech off the taxpayer? Why doesn't he get a job?"

2) The judge has ordered that he will have to serve at least half his sentence in prison (i.e. sixteen months). There was no reason other than ruling-class vindictiveness for that.

3) Perhaps his mother will now realise that the police, courts, etc. are there only to defend the interests of the powerful. The message is, "never hand over members of your family to the bizzies".

The Judge (not that one)

@stoopid and anon

12.01.2011 10:22

stoopid: It really fucks me off when people claim we shouldn't support someone because they're not radically politicised, or "worth converting". All these value judgements - when did we start viewing people as capital? Yes, what he did suggests he doesn't have much experience in these situations, and yes it goes against what you call the "black bloc principles" (you say it like he's breaking anarchist law - what kind of anarchy has laws?!?!). But your assertions about this guy's worth based upon his experience, prospects for political conversion and willingness to bend his knee to your concept of "good demonstrator" tell me far more about you than about him. Informal hierarchies are so hard to complete rid ourselves of, but you seem to welcome them with open arms. Why are you so keen that people are "intercepted and educated in advance"? Are you trying to raise an army? Oh wait, you already answered that ... "the need for mass pre-action training and discipline where ever possible".

anon: The personalisation of cops is something that really plays on my mind, but I think the situation is this. Cops are people too - although I'm sure there are many on here who will dispute that, I don't think you can ignore the institutionalisation of the decision to become a copper. By virtue of being cops they disempower everyone around them yes, but they are in turn disempowered eg they can't strike, if they protest against their job cuts they'll find a black bloc mob coming for them and possibly the army too. So I truly believe that in the cops we have one of the most disempowered groups of people in our society. Ironic given they wield an extraordinary amount of power, but I believe that empowerment is about your political dominance of your own life, not dominance of others - it is horrific the power that police use but they are still on a personal level disempowered, turned into robots of the state. So I guess there is potential to feel sorry for coppers. But then, there are SO many vulnerable groups in society, groups from which people die daily and the press couldn't give less of a shit, whose ultimate murderers will never be brought to trial because the state only punishes the immediate cause of death not longer term causes. And I only have a certain amount of sympathy in me. It is not practical even when sitting behind my computer to realistically justify sympathy for a copper. Someone who locks people away in cages for years at a time based on someone else's doctrine of hate, and accepts cash for it, gets killed? Boo fucking hoo. As far as once you're on the streets in a demo is concerned, it is ludicrous to start feeling chummy with coppers. They're standing between us and our political engagement, dressed like the stasi, armed with batons, the sharp edge of a shield, horses' hooves and sometimes guns. They give out far worse than they take. Why should any of us feel sympathy for them?


Ian Tomlinson Inquest To Commence on 28 March

12.01.2011 14:21

Soshame about this poor sod - and that he's mother shopped him for fighting to protect his future. Another misguided warrior maybe?

But maybe the way this guy has been delt with when he 'nearly' hit someone with that fire extinguisher that 'may' have resulted in a death at a demonstration should go some way to indicate the way that bastard PC Harwood,s inquiry pans out.

Harwood intentially hit an unarmed civilian from the back at a demonstration. It appears the man, Mr Ian Tomlinson wasn't even a demonstrator - he was simply just a bod going about his business.

So it follows that the fuck that is Harwood should be sent down for many years.


Following a pre-inquest hearing on 21 December, the date for the inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in 2009 has now been set. It will commence on Monday 28 March 2011 and is expected to last for of 5-6 weeks.

The inquest will be conducted by the Chief Coroner, Judge Peter Thornton QC, who replaces the City of London Coroner Paul Matthews. Hearings will take place at the International Dispute Resolution Centre at 70 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1EU.

Further information on the inquest is available on the City of London Corporation's website:

Regular updates from the Family Campaign will be posted on the 'Inquest' section of

Despite guidelines being drawn up after the 2009 G20 demonstrations in London on the use of kettling - it is still employed, e.g. Smash EDO protests and the more recent student marches on parliament are just two examples.

The latter saw serious abuse of police powers yet again, resulting in a man being dragged from his wheel-chair and serious head injuries to those finding themselves at the front of the protest.

The inquest of Mr Ian Tomlinson, who died moments after being struck with a police baton and shoved to the ground by a pig named Harwood on 1st April 2009, is likely to reignite the controversy surrounding the Metropolitan police's handling of demonstrations.

This bastard Harwood is due to appear before a gross misconduct hearing at a yet to be decided date. This scum is accused of inadvertently causing or contributing" to Mr. Tomlinson's death.

By all accounts both this scum’s lawyers AND Mr. Tomlinson’s family have separately requested that any disciplinary hearing be left until AFTER the inquest.

Matthew Ryder QC, representing Tomlinson's family, said the jury could be influenced by evidence that emerged from Harwood's disciplinary hearing if it were held first. He told City of London coroner's court: "There is little advantage, and significant disadvantage, in having the inquest after the disciplinary process, and there is a risk of prejudice to the interests of justice in having the inquest afterwards."

The Met is understood to be favouring a quick disciplinary process, which would almost certainly lead to Harwood's dismissal. Harwood has been suspended from the Met on full pay.

Mr. Tomlinson's stepson, Richard King, said: "We're hoping that the inquest will take place first. We feel that it would look more closely at what really went on."

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