Vigil outside London prison for Christian peacemaker

By staff writers
January 26, 2007

A vigil is to be held tomorrow (Saturday) outside a London prison for a Christian peacemaker, jailed this week after protesting outside the Ministry of Defence.

Chris Cole was jailed in Tuesday and sent to Wandsworth prison after demonstrating against the invasion of Iraq.

The London Catholic Worker community, rural and city branches are organising a vigil outside the prison on Saturday.

Scott Albrechtand and Fr Martin Newell who are leading the vigil were part of the group that acted with Chris Cole at the MoD.

Chris Cole was jailed on Tuesday for refusing to pay a fine of £661 arising from the anti-war action which took place on Holy Innocents Day, 28th December 2004.

Cole was part of a small group which took the action. When they were arrested, Scott Albrecht and Liz Yates had been digging graves, with a child's coffin ready to be placed in one. Chris Cole and Fr Martin Newell had begun to inscribe a wall as a memorial with the words "Remember Iraqi War Dead", "Slaughter of the Innocent" and "Stop the War" in red paint. "Father Forgive Us" was also written on the ground.

Prayers of repentance and remembrance were also said.

The four were eventually convicted of criminal damage.

Eyewitness accounts report that at the court Cole was very clear with the court that the protest was an act of resistance to the war in Iraq.

Speaking on behalf of the protestors, Chris Cole had previously said “2,000 years ago the innocent were massacred in an attempt to keep the powerful secure. Today, the powerful continue to massacre the innocent with the same motives. There can be no innocent bystanders – we must do what we can to defend the poor and vulnerable.”

He said he could not in conscience pay the fine. He also stated that it was reasonable for him to undertake the action, because the MOD institutions and buildings do not enhance life, instead they killed, maimed and injured.

Cole was sentenced by the female magistrate to 28 days.

Due to the current overcrowding of prisons, the magistrates court could not initially specify where Cole was going to be jailed. However he was finally taken to Wandsworth prison.

Wandsworth is one of the largest prisons in Western Europe, built in 1851.

In a report in October, prison's watchdog Anne Owers, the chief inspector of prisons, said the Category B jail with 1,400 inmates had suffered a history of overcrowding and poor prisoner-staff relations.

Inspectors saw "poor" and "abusive" behaviour by staff towards inmates. All wings however now have in-cell sanitation and in-cell electricity is currently being installed throughout the prison.

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