Friday, 9 September 2011

Solidarity demonstration for John Foley and Ryanair Don't Care

It was the early hours of the morning, and biting cold, when John Foley fell asleep on the roof of Liverpool John Lennon Airport. Hardly a blameworthy action - he had been up there for 15 hours protesting the exploitation of cabin crew by Ryanair. But it was enough for the police, who took the opportunity to slap him in handcuffs and drag him down.

Today, John attended Liverpool Magistrates Court so that a date could be set for his trial. He appeared unfazed by the event, not his first time in court as a result of protesting and no doubt far from the last. You only need to talk to him to know the single-mindedness and passion that he brings to his cause, originally inspired by the fact that his first experience of the Ryanair recruitment scam was when his own daughter fell victim to it. And after a number of direct action stunts - from running on the racetrack at Cheltenham to his previous airport rooftop protest - it is hard to doubt his courage.

In solidarity with his cause and his willingness to face a court for it, I joined others from Liverpool Solidarity Federation for a demonstration outside the court. We tied our own banner onto the railings next to his, brought out our flags, and held signs declaring "solidarity with Ryanair staff against exploitation." Ever grateful, John thanked us for our support and gave an interview in which he demonstrated his continued defiance of Ryanair and their exploitative recruitment practices.

The response from the public was positive too, with many people stopping to ask why we were demonstrating and voicing their support when told what was happening. One man decided to stop to regale us with various conspiracy theories, little mindful of the actual reason we were there, but he was pleasant enough and moved on without incident. A woman asked us whether there was a petition to sign and wished us luck. Even the police officer who came down to enquire why we were there had a smile on his face and laughed when his jest that we "make sure there's no violence" was met with the reply that "it's too early in the morning for that." Plenty of people were willing to agree that Ryanair was "a shit airline" and that they'll "never fly with them again."

After an hour and a half at the court, John had seen the magistrate and had the date set for his trial. He seemed quite pleased with how things were likely to progress after talking to his solicitor, and thanked us once again for our support as the banners and flags were being packed away. He will have it as long as his campaign continues, as will all the workers exploited and scammed for their employers' profits. An injury to one really is an injury to all.

John's trial will take place at 1.30pm on Thursday 3rd November.