On Saturday 16 February, Michael (Don) MacDonald took part in the 1,500-strong anti-cuts march in Newcastle.
Don has been a key activist in organising this and other protests opposing the £100 million budget cut to services. He is a local resident and a youth worker, facing 100% cut to youth and play services.
At the end of the demonstration at the rally point in the city centre, the Council Leader Nick Forbes walked past and Don approached him to challenge him on what he thought about the cuts. Nick Forbes and his partner threatened to call the police saying they knew who Don was and where he worked. The incident lasted less than a minute, and Don was not angry or threatening.
Six hours later as Don was at home with his six year old son asleep in bed, the police came and arrested him under Section 4 of the Public Order Act, and kept him in custody for four hours; a friend had to be contacted to look after Don’s son.
The charge was reduced to Section 5 of public order act (causing alarm or distress). Don agreed to pay a fixed penalty fine as he wanted to get home to his young son.
Don as a youth worker doesn’t believe he should have such a “crime” on his record, and has decided contest the charge.
A campaign has been launched to demand the charge is dropped and that activists, residents and workers are not victimised for fighting the cuts or publicly criticising local councillors.
An open letter in support of Don has already been signed by many trade unionists and labour movement activists including John McDonnell MP and RMT general secretary Bob Crow.