1) Present situation and Bournemouth arrest
2) Maya's statement 'Why I go to jail'
1) Present situation and Bournemouth arrest
Maya Anne Evans is in Horseferry Magistrates court tomorrow (Tuesday 6 November) at 2pm, for refusing to pay two fines imposed for reading the names of the Iraq war dead in the vicinity of Parliament - without police permission.
She faces two two-week prison sentences (almost certainly to run concurrently) for these breaches of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA). This is likely to mean a week actually in prison, in Holloway women's prison in North London.
Maya risked prison in late September when she was arrested outside the Labour Party Conference for a sit-down anti-war protest ('U-turn for peace') co-organised by Justice Not Vengeance, London Catholic Worker and Voices in the Wilderness UK.
She took part in the action (which she had been a key organiser in preparing for several months) despite receiving a warning just beforehand that a warrant had been issued for her arrest (and therefore possible imprisonment, given her refusal to pay the SOCPA fines). Maya was arrested, but not taken to court for her unpaid fines. The charges against her for the Bournemouth protest have now been dropped.
Maya wrote about her possible impending imprisonment for the monthly magazine Peace News, which she is now writing a diary column for.
Her piece about facing prison is reproduced below. In the most recent PN, Maya has written her own account of her arrest in Bournemouth.
Support at court is very welcome.
JNV will send out an email tomorrow evening confirming whether Maya was sent to prison or not, with details of her prison address. Maya would very much appreciate cheerful, colourful postcards if she is in prison.
If she is sent down, we will either email her release time and date, or post it on the JNV website j-n-v.org (Please accept our apologies for the difficulties with/frozen state of the website. We are working to fix this.)
We will be outside prison to greet Maya the morning she comes out. (Note: this may take some time. Milan Rai's release from prison in August was delayed by his refusal to give his date of birth. Gabriel Carlyle of Voices ended up waiting for six hours outside Wandsworth.)
Prison support is being coordinated by David Polden of the Nonviolent Resistance Network: 0207 607 2302. Please phone David to find out the latest information.
It is unlikely that Maya will be able to have any visitors during her short sentence.
PS Maya's excellent book 'Naming the Dead', praised by Shami Chakrabati of Liberty and campaigning comedian Mark Thomas, is available from Justice Not Vengeance for £7 including p&p. (JNV, 29 Gensing Road, St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex, TN38 0HE. Phone: 0845 458 9571.)
2) Maya's statement on facing prison
In October 2005, Maya Anne Evans was arrested opposite the Cenotaph for reading the names of British soldiers who had died in the Iraq war. She was later convicted of participating in an "unauthorised" demonstration under the "Serious Organised Crime and Police Act" (2005). Maya has refused to pay her £200 fine, or the £100 fine she received for a similar protest a year later at the 'No More Fallujahs' peace camp in Parliament Square. At the beginning of September 2007, Maya learned that a warrant had been issued for her arrest. She faces two 14-day prison sentences.
Why I go to jail
Maya Anne Evans
In my heart I can't help feeling that paying this fine would be a compromise of how strongly I feel about the Iraq war and the right to protest against it.
Paying the fine would be an acceptance of my "guilty" conviction. This is a point I would never concede.
It is important for me to stand by my actions of opposing the war and the erosion of free speech.
I made my decision when I stood on the front line protesting against war.
I decided that I wanted to try and stop the destruction of peoples' lives. I wanted to say I don't agree with the killing of people for the sake of this country's economy.
On a personal level I think I am emotionally capable of spending a short amount of time in prison.
What will it be like?
I try to imagine what it would be like in prison. What my cellmate will be like, my daily routine, being in an environment alien to the one I'm used to. I'm now assuming I will definitely be going to prison.
I've been speaking to activists who have been to prison in preparation. I've been told prison is unbearably noisy and most people have mental health problems or drug addictions.
Now I feel slight disbelief that I am actually facing prison for my actions. Part of me feels it won't happen, as I've skirted so close before. And besides, everyone from UKIP to Radio 4 thinks this law is wrong.
I've read and heard about activists becoming depressed as a result of going to prison. Although my likely sentence will be minimal, the feeling of undergoing an experience which has disturbed other individuals similar to myself is a scary prospect.
I draw courage from the fact that protest against an illegal war is not wrong; solidarity with the people of Iraq is not wrong.