Gay Demo Arrests December 1986
The following article from 'In The Pink', January 1987, details the actions taken by the police towards The Wombourne 12. The group of young gays and lesbians were peacefully demonstrating against the remarks of councillor William Frank Brownhill who called for gays and lesbians to be gassed to halt the spread of AIDS.
GAY DEMO ARRESTS
After the "Gas All Gays" call made by Councillor Brownhill, the Tory leader of South Staffordshire Council, members of the Lesbian and Gay Youth Movement leafleted Cllr Brownhill's home village of Himley on Sunday 21st December. They then moved onto his house in School Road, occupying his garden and shouting slogans. A neighbour called the police who attempted to arrest one of the demonstrators. Immediately the remaining protesters sat down and a further eleven of them were dragged to police vans and taken to Wombourne Police Station. They were questioned and the three women and nine men were charged with using abusive and threatening behaviour, an action liable to cause a breach of the peace (Section 5 Public Order Act), Gill King who made a complaint of assault against one of the policemen, was also charged with assaulting two police officers.
During the night the police contacted a number of people and confirmed the identities and addresses of some of the protesters. The next afternoon, 22nd December, at 4,30pm at a Special Session of the Seisdon Magistrates Court at Wombourne, the Crown Prosecutor requested that they be remanded in custody as the police claimed that they were having difficulty in confirming the defendants identities. All twelve defendants were then remanded in custody for seven days. While some of the defendants had given false names and addresses, the police had already sestablished he identities of several people.
Three women spent Christmas at Ripley Remand Centre in the North West, four men under the age of 21 at Brockhill Remand Centre in Redditch and the
remainin five men at Winson Green prision in Birmingham.
The twelve appeared in court again on Monday 29th December and were represented by Ivan Geffen and Louise Christian. Obviously the police were worried about something as there were eleven officers guarding the doors, a police riot van around the corner from the court and three motor cycled police stood by. All twelve pleaded not guilty to all charges. The defendants were brought into court in batches of three, handcuffed and made to stand throughout the proceedings until Ivan Geffen protested that the police were over-reacting. They were then allowed to sit and the handcuffs removed. As they were processed the defending counsel demanded an enquiry as to why the police had misled the court about the verification of the defendants' identities on their first appearance. They also gave warning that unless an undertaking was given, that the bench on the day of the trial would not consist of magistrates who had similar views to Cllr Brownhill or who had connections with any member of South Staffordshire Council, then an application to transfer the case to another court would be made. All twelve were released on bail providing that the four who initially gave incorrect names and addresses report to their local police once a week and that all remain at least ten miles away from Wombourne until their next appearance in court on 23rd and 24th February.
The defendants have requested that as many people as possible come to court on those days to support them. It is assumed by the defendants that the police had them spend seven days in gaol as a punishment knowing that even if they were found guilty, the most that they could expect to receive is a small fine.
Contributed by: In The Pink, 21