Up to 200 people gathered outside Kingston crown court on Monday morning to show solidarity with Alfie Meadows and four other student protesters.
They are accused of “violent disorder” on a protest in 2010 against government plans to triple tuition fees and cut the Education Maintenance Allowance.
During the demonstration Alfie was hit so hard on the head with a police baton that he had to undergo hours of life-saving brain surgery.
Trade unionists, students and campaigners against police violence came together for a rally on the court steps, called by the Defend the Right to Protest campaign.
Stephen Granville from the CWU post workers’ union told Socialist Worker, “I’m here to support Alfie. I was on the 9 December protest, and I saw the violence of the police on that day.
“I think that every movement needs to involve workers and students.”
Outside the court people chanted “We are all Alfie Meadows” between speeches.
Marcia Rigg, the sister of Sean Rigg who died in police custody in 2008, led a chant of “no justice, no peace”. She told the rally, “Hundreds have died in police custody and still not a single officer has been held to account for those deaths.
“Brian Douglas and Blair Peach both died from blows to the head from police. Thank goodness Alfie is here to speak out and expose what has happened.
“Alfie could have been Blair Peach or Brian Douglas.”
Jim Wolfreys, president of Kings College UCU said, “They are trying to criminalise protest because they are afraid.
“We have to defend our right to protest by continuing to campaign and take to the streets. We will not be silenced.”
Ellie Mae O’Hagan from anti-tax avoidance campaign UK Uncut said, “We should take the courage of Alfie and his family as an inspiration.”
Author Owen Jones added, “We know that protest works— look at workfare and the electricians. We will redouble our efforts and determination.”
Merlin Emmanuel, the nephew of reggae star Smiley Culture who died during a police raid on his home last year, also spoke.
“Today I’m here for Alfie, my friend, my comrade,” he said. “The fact that we’re standing outside this court today shows what kind of society we live in.
“We’re supposed to live with democracy and justice.
“We have a young man here who nearly lost his life. Where is the police officer who did this to Alfie?”