At Bow-street Police-court yesterday Mr. Cunninghame Graham, M.P., 35, and John Burns, 28, engineer, were brought up on remand, before Mr. Vaughan, charged with disorderly conduct in Trafalgar-square on the afternoon of Sunday, November 13; and Mr. Graham was further charged with assaulting the police on the same occasion.
Mr. Poland and Mr. R.S. Wright, instructed by Sir A.K. Stephenson and Mr. Pollard, appeared for the Treasury; Mr. Asquith, M.P., represented Mr. Graham; Burns conducted his own case, assisted by Mr. W. Thompson.
Among those present in court were the Hon. Mrs. Bontine, Mrs. Cunninghame Graham, Mr. William Morris, Miss May Morris, Mr. C. Bradlaugh, M.P., Mr. Hyndman, Mrs. Ashton Dilke, Mrs. Costelloe, the Rev. Stewart Headlam, Mr. Burne-Jones, jun., Mr. Bonyer Nicholls, and Mrs. Reed, president of the Ladies' Liberal League.
William Myson, hall-porter at Morley's Hotel, stated that he was there on Sunday, November 13. About 4 o'clock he saw Mr. Graham, whom he knew by sight, in the roadway. He was coming from the Strand and making his way with a crowd of 50 or 60 to the south-east corner of the square. The crowd made a rush, with the intention, as it seemed to the witness, to force a way into the square. There was a scrimmage, a meleť, or a free fight between the police and the people, and he then saw Mr. Graham in custody. The witness did not notice Burns. At the time referred to he should say there were from 25,000 to 30,000 people in the square. He saw the police trying to keep the way clear. There was very great confusion and a great deal of hooting and shouting. The military arrived about 20 minutes or half an hour after he saw Mr. Graham.
Mr. Asquith did not ask the witness any questions.
By Mr. Poland.-Having been out in the street, he found a difficulty in getting back into the hotel, and had to get a sergeant of police to see him through the people.
Mr. Charles James Buckland deposed that he was staying at the Grand Hotel, Charing-cross, on Sunday, the 13th of November. He had been an Australian banker. He had been requested by the police to attend and state what he saw on the Sunday afternoon. From a quarter to 3 till half-past 5 he was on the fifth flat, from which he could see along the Strand and St. Martin's-lane and all over the square. There was a large crowd-larger than he had ever seen before-in the square. The crowd seemed to him to be a very vicious one; they were hooting the police and brandishing and throwing sticks. The witness saw one policeman struck, and he believed sticks were thrown at the mounted police. The hooting was generally at the mounted police. At about 4 o'clock he saw a knot of four or five people assembled right opposite the buffet of the hotel. They remained there in consultation for some seconds, and then moved towards the nearest part of the square from that point. There was a shuffle forward first, and then from a "rest" place a decided run towards the square. He saw one man with his left hand catch another either by the coat collar or right shoulder and push him ahead. The man seemed very unwilling to go at that point; but the one who was pushing him seemed to be strong enough to drive him ahead. The man who was pushed forward ran against the police, so far as the witness could see. Up to the time of going to the "rest" there did not seem to be more than seven or eight people, if so many; but from that point they were followed by 300 or 400, principally people from the pavement at Morley's Hotel. There was an attempt to force the cordon of police and there was some heavy fighting for about a minute and a-half. There was a great clacking of sticks; but the attack was repulsed. There was great noise and confusion. He thought he recognized Mr. Graham as the man he saw pushed ahead in the street. The military came up about 10 minutes after the attack on the police. After the attempt to get into the square, the conduct of the crowd was no worse than it had been before. The mounted police were shamefully treated. The witness saw men endeavouring to pull them off their horses. The foot police were not molested. He saw two of the mounted men struggling to get on their horses. There was also a riderless police horse. At 4 o'clock he should say there was a solid 50,000 people in the square and round about.
By Mr. Asquith.-Some of the conflicts with the mounted police occurred before the attempt was made to force the square. He saw the mounted police ride towards the crowd, but did not notice that they used their batons. One officer struck out with something, and it might have been a baton. He could not tell what the sticks were. To his knowledge, he had not seen Mr. Graham before.
By Burns.-The witness was very much surprised to hear that he would be required as a witness in this case.
By Mr. VAUGHAN.-The crowd was a moving mass, some going one way and some the other. There were so many people in the street that it would have been impossible to get many more into it. He wished to know how he had been found out; but the police informed him that that would be getting at the bottom of their system. The witness voluntarily added that the brutal way in which the police horses were treated was something to be remembered. Men, he said, could take care of themselves, but horses could not. Some of the poor animals were struck such blows behind that he wondered in many cases their tails were not broken.
Charles Goodman, valet of the first and second floors of the Grand Hotel, gave corroborative evidence as to the behaviour of the crowd and the treatment of the police on the Sunday afternoon.
Inspector Collis, S Division, who was on mounted duty in Trafalgar-square on the Sunday afternoon in question, gave evidence that he was in charge of eight men. The meetings held in Trafalgar-square since the 15th of October had been of a disorderly character. The meeting of the 13th of November was larger than any he had seen before.
Mr. Asquith took objection to questions on these points, but the Magistrate ruled that they were admissible.
The witness stated that at every meeting there was great difficulty in clearing the way for the traffic. On Sunday afternoon, the 13th of November, while he was endeavouring to make a passage for omnibuses, a large crowd began hooting and shouting and throwing stones. The witness was struck twice within a minute of beginning to move the people along. He was struck seven or eight times by stones during the afternoon and evening. He was not able to keep a thoroughly clear passage for the traffic; it was impossible. He did not see the rush made upon the square. It was 7 o'clock before the roads were thoroughly cleared for traffic, but a crowd remained in the square up till 10 o'clock.
Mr. Asquith did not cross-examine.
By Burns.-Witness did not remember being on duty at any previous proclaimed meeting in Trafalgar-square.
Superintendent Sheppard, B Division, deposed to the fact that previous to the 13th of November daily meetings were held in Trafalgar-square. The crowds were large and were composed of low, rough persons; and among them were many of the dangerous classes-people well known to the police in many parts of London. When meetings were going on the people assembled rapidly in the square. At times when no meetings were in progress great numbers of the class of men referred to were loitering about all sides of the square and the streets in its immediate vicinity. A large number of police, foot and mounted, were employed in keeping the pavements and carriageways protected for ordinary purposes. At times there was great difficulty in keeping a clear way for the traffic; and it was a very anxious work for the police engaged, so many of the persons about being of the dangerous classes-thieves.
Mr. VAUGHAN, interposing, asked what the people were doing.
The witness said when the meetings were held they were disorderly. Speeches were made on several occasions. Many complaints of the meetings were made by gentlemen who said they lived in the neighbourhood.
By Mr. Poland.-The speeches made at the meetings in the square were mostly of a violent character. When the people became massed together in the square it was difficult for the police to deal with them. On Sunday afternoon, the 13th of November, the square and all the streets abutting on it were crowded with people. On going to relieve the pressure at the post office corner, he found a great many of the regular attendants at meetings in various parts of London that had ended in disorder, and on some occasions in riot. Having retired inside the police lines and while standing two or three yards in rear of them, he watched the action of the crowd on that corner. Two or three disturbances sprang up, one a short distance up the Strand, another by the Grand Hotel, which attracted and drew off a number of the police from the immediate front of the police line. Witness heard a shout, "Now for the square," and a great number of men came with a wild rush upon the front of the police line. There was a sharp struggle, and in the midst of it the two prisoners were brought through the police lines and left in the witness's custody. As they came in he was immediately facing Burns. The witness said "Burns?" and he answered in a sharp, hissing voice, "Yes, Burns." Seeing that Mr. Graham was bleeding from a wound on the head, the witness said, "It would be dangerous to take you out of the square now, but I will send for a surgeon at once," which he did. In a few minutes Dr. M'Kellar, of the metropolitan police, came and examined his injuries. Shortly after the military came upon the ground, and immediate danger having passed away, the prisoners were sent on to Bow-street. In witness's judgment, if the rush upon the police had succeeded there would have been a dangerous riot.
Mr. Asquith objected to this evidence, submitting that it was one for the magistrate to decide the point upon the facts.
In reply to Mr. VAUGHAN, witness said the square was held by between 900 and 1,000 police. The number of people who came actually into conflict with the police was about 500; but at the back of these there was a great mass of men-so great that the mounted men had great difficulty in moving about at the rear.
Cross-examined by Mr. Asquith.-At the time of the rush the police lines were seven or eight deep. He did not see the prisoners till they were brought in. By members of the dangerous classes, he meant people who were known to the police as thieves and suspicious characters. He believed a number of persons were arrested in the square for pocket-picking and other offences. Among the meetings which he had described as ending in disorder and riot were those held at Hyde-park, which ended in disturbances in Oxford-street and Edgware-road. Witness did not hear either of the prisoners say that they had come to hold a meeting in the square.
By Burns.-Witness did not think that the police had mainly contributed to the disorder at the meetings in the square. The police certainly prevented a great deal of disorder in the neighbourhood.
Mr. Richard Stringer Starkie, chemist, of 7, Grand Hotel-buildings, spoke to the disorderly nature of the crowd on Sunday. During the afternoon one of his plate-glass windows was smashed; he did not know how.
Mr. Gabriel Robinson, of the Home Office, produced a letter from the secretary to the First Commissioner of Works assenting to the exclusion of the public from Trafalgar-square. This was the case for the prosecution.
Mr. Asquith, on behalf of Mr. Graham, said it was now his duty to state as briefly as possible, though necessarily in some detail, why the prosecution should be dismissed. The charge was originally assaulting the police in the execution of their duty. This had since been supplemented by a charge of unlawfully assembling and riotous conduct. There was a certain amount of common ground between the parties. It was not denied that Mr. Graham went to the square with the intention of taking part in a public meeting. On the part of the Crown it was admitted that on that particular Sunday afternoon the police were drawn round the square with instructions to prevent the public or any one from entering the square for any purpose whatever. It was also clear that there ensued, or occurred, a collision with the police. The question to be determined was whether that collision amounted to assaults on the part of Mr. Graham and Mr. Burns on the police in the execution of their duty, or the still graver offence of unlawfully assembling or rioting; or, on the other hand, whether it was not the result of an unnecessary and unprovoked attack on the part of the police upon Mr. Graham and the gentlemen who were accompanying him and who were asserting, peaceably and in good faith, what they thought was their legal right. Going at once to the question whether the police were acting in the execution of any duty cast upon them either by common law or by statute, he said Mr. Poland rested the legal position of the prosecution almost entirely upon the assumption that Trafalgar-square was the private property of the Crown. The admitted use of the square by the public, both for the purpose of passage and of public meeting, was, as he contended, a precarious use, derived from the permission and the revocable licence [sic] of the Crown. Mr. Poland had proved that in this particular instance the licence [sic] of the Crown, through the Commissioner of Works, had been revoked; and he asked that from the facts the inference should be drawn that the prisoners were trespassers, or persons contemplating a trespass, on the property in Trafalgar-square. Now, if that were the real state of the case, it would, as he submitted, be fatal to the prosecution so far as the charge of assaulting the police in the execution of their duty was concerned. A police-constable called upon the owner of property to prevent or repel a trespass was not acting in the execution of his duty as a police-constable. He was acting lawfully, because he was acting under the commands of the owner of the soil; but he was only acting as the bailiff or agent of the owner of the soil, and he was not entitled to any other immunities or privileges other than those belonging to an agent of the owner of the soil.
Mr. VAUGHAN said he did not understand there was any charge of assaulting the police. He understood the charge was one of tumultuously and unlawfully assembling for the purpose of committing a riot.
Mr. Poland said there was also against Mr. Grahame a charge of assault for striking a constable.
Mr. Asquith, continuing, contended that Trafalgar-square was a place open and dedicated to the public, who had as much right of passage over it as over any of the Queen's highways. That was the foundation of his case. It was suggested that, because Trafalgar-square was Crown property, dedication to the public could not be inferred from user by the public; but that was not the law, as could be established by authorities. What he was going to show by evidence was, that since 1844, or, at any rate, for a long time past, the public had exercised the right of passage over Trafalgar-square in every direction without interruption on the part of the Crown. If Trafalgar-square had been enclosed, or if any notification had been put up in any part of the square, such as owners of the soil were accustomed to resort to when they wanted to prevent the public from acquiring a right of passage over their property, there might be something to say; but if they were now before a jury as to whether Trafalgar-square was or was not a highway, the jury would be directed by the Judge that from permitted user they must presume dedication on the part of the Crown. It was not pretended that any regulation had been made by the Commissioners to preclude the public for a single day from Trafalgar-square, either as a thoroughfare or, until the events of the present month, as a place of public meeting. So far as he could gather from the judgments no right of way, as far as Hyde-park was concerned, had been dedicated to the public. Assuming there was a right of way in the square, the question arose whether there was any power to prohibit these meetings. Mr. Poland had put in two documents-he did not exactly know what to call them-purporting to be signed by Sir Charles Warren. As a matter of fact, they had not been proved in a formal way. He did not think there was any evidence to show, in fact, that the Chief Commissioner had signed the order. That, he considered, would be fatal to the case for the prosecution; but he would assume they were properly in evidence for the purposes of his argument. What, then, was their legal validity? The first prohibited meetings or speeches in the square, but was not intended to interfere with the right of the public for ordinary usage of the square. As a matter of fact, the police excluded the public from the use of the square for any purpose whatever. To that extent, therefore, the original order must have been supplemented. Was the document issued under any Act, and if so, what Act? It was suggested that it was made under the Regulations of the Metropolitan Streets Act.
Mr. VAUGHAN said he had not heard that suggested.
Mr. Poland said it had not been, nor that it was issued under the Police Acts. It was a notice of what Sir Charles Warren intended to do for the regulation of public peace.
Mr. Asquith said that cleared the way. If the proclamation had any validity at all, it must be assumed under some common law power invested in the Commissioner of Police. Then he was the creature of a statute, but it was difficult to conjecture under what power he was acting. Assuming that he was a justice of the peace, anxious to prevent disturbance and disorder, if that were so, it was obvious that the proclamation was a mere warning to the public and had no more legal validity than any similar notice put up. That was one of the grounds on which he objected to the evidence given regarding other meetings. The case should be treated as though the proclamation did not exist. If it had no legal validity, then the defendants were not guilty. He suggested that the proclamation should be treated as waste paper. With regard to the second proclamation, forbidding organized processions, he would not discuss that, as there might arise a legal question that could not affect this case, as there was no proof that the defendants were taking part in any organized procession. Now, the proclamation being out of the case, the question was whether the police were acting under any common law power in preventing Mr. Graham from proceeding to the square. No lawyer would dispute that the police had power-just as well-disposed citizens would do-to prevent an unlawful assembly and disperse it. But the question resolved itself into this-was the meeting Mr. Graham and Mr. Burns attempted to hold in the square composed of persons who, from their demeanour and conduct, could be considered as persons taking part or intending to take part in an unlawful assembly? Before citing a case on which he intended greatly to rely, the learned counsel wished to submit as a proposition of law that the unlawfulness of an assembly must depend on the circumstances. The mere fact that other persons had assembled for unlawful purposes to excite terror; unless by some way or another individuals could be connected it was immaterial. The learned counsel then quoted a letter written by Lord Eldon to Lord Sidmouth on the occasion of the Peterloo riots in connexion with the advertisements prohibiting meetings for illegal purposes, where the opinion had been expressed by that legal authority that whether the meeting was illegal or not could only be determined on the holding of the meeting, and no police magistrate had power to advertise against the holding of such meeting. Reference was then made to the case of "Bentley and Gillbanks," reported in Cox's "Crown Cases," vol. 15, page 138, in which a Salvation Army procession had been prohibited at Weston-super-Mare, and it was held that the procession was not an unlawful one. It was therefore proposed to establish in this case two prepositions-first, that the assembly was not unlawful; and, secondly, that it was not composed of persons that could be considered to be acting unlawfully because they contemplated holding a meeting on the public highway. Counsel next referred to 57 George III. cap. 19, sec. 23, prohibiting the holding of any meetings within a radius of a mile from the Houses of Parliament during the Session. That Act was at that period considered necessary, and it was suggested that if it was now considered necessary to close Trafalgar-square an Act of Parliament should be introduced with the object of doing so. He further quoted from Dicey's "Law of the Constitution" on the legal decisions on right of public meetings, which, analyzed, meant nothing more than the result of views taken by the Courts. Now, the meeting in which the defendants were interested was in favour of the release of Mr. O'Brien, and the conveners resolved to meet in the square on Sunday for the convenience of the working men, and because the traffic was not so congested on that day. There was no reason to suppose that the speakers or those interested in the meetings were like those who had attended the previous meetings. Mr. Graham was in Scotland when he heard of the contemplated meeting, and determined as a politician to attend. The assault was absolutely denied, and the words attributed to him. He had simply said, as any gentleman in his position would have said, "We have come to hold a meeting in the square." In conclusion, Mr. Asquith submitted that the fair inference to be drawn was that Mr. Graham went to the square with the bonŠ-fide intention of asserting that which he conceived to be a legal right, and of using only so much force as was necessary reasonably and properly to assert that right. If, unfortunately, heads were broken, tumult ensued, and the public peace was disturbed, the consequence was to be attributed to the misguided and indiscriminate action of the police, who precipitated and provoked a collision which need never have occurred, and thus unnecessarily complicated the settlement of the disputed question in law.
The defendant Burns, in addressing the magistrate, said he must comment on the conduct of the case by the counsel for the prosecution. As in previous charges brought against him in which the same counsel had been engaged, one charge was added upon another. When arrested he was first charged with riotous and disorderly behaviour. The next morning he was charged with assaulting the police, and now, after a week had elapsed, a third charge of creating a riot was added. He was not guilty of either of those offences, so it did not matter very much, but it all tended to obscure the issues and bring about delay and expense. In this business there had been an attempt made to connect him with other meetings, out of which the charge really arose, and he was proud to admit that he, with others, had on previous occasions been successful in teaching the police their duty with regard to large public meetings, as before the police magistrates the police were invariably proved to be in the wrong. His presence in the square on this occasion was due to the fact that he had watched for some years past a tendency on the part of the police to interfere with the right of public meeting and speaking, and the proclamation of Sir Charles Warren respecting this particular meeting he believed to be illegal. Accordingly he went to the meeting, but before that, and after it had been announced, several matters took place which had become matters of notoriety and in which he had, he was glad to say, played a prominent part. There had been several meetings of the unemployed of a most orderly character and carried out with a regard to public safety which reflected great credit on those who held them. They had been told that those meetings had terrorized the inhabitants and done great harm; but the harm was purely imaginary in the mind of Sir Charles Warren. He (the defendant) had seen men under great provocation keep the peace when they might almost have been commended for breaking it. He contended that the action of the police in preventing the meeting of November 13 was only another link in the chain that they had been trying to make around the metropolis for years past, as witness their proceedings in Dod-street, Bell-street, and other places. He further contended that the meetings of the unemployed had been fully justified by Sir Charles Warren's action since the 13th. Since then he had taken the unemployed under his protection and had actually opened up special registries for them, thus partly doing the work which, when they tried to get it done by means of orderly agitation and meetings, was refused, and they were bludgeoned and batoned by his men. It was a matter of public comment that no other meetings had been interfered with other than those called by the unemployed in order to procure relief works and make known their distress. Objection was taken to the site selected for these meetings, but in their opinion and in his (defendant's) Trafalgar-square was, with the exception of the parks, the only place suitable for meetings of this description. The whole of the disturbances were due to the vacillating conduct of the Police Commissioner, who first allowed meetings and then prohibited them, and who first allowed processions and then, without warning, gave orders to his men to break them up and steal the people's property. For the last three years the police had exceeded their duty-at Dod-street and other places.
Mr. VAUGHAN said defendant could not go into what had taken place during the past three years. He must confine himself to the evidence given in this case and to any statement of fact as to the meeting of the 13th.
Defendant, continuing, said that only 10 days ago a procession of the Salvation Army had been protected by the police and assisted to arrive at its destination in the Strand. On every occasion of the unemployed meeting the police had acted as if they wished to create disturbance. He then gave his account of what took place in the square, when he and Mr. Graham advanced on the police line drawn up to keep off the people. He said they found the police illegally drawn up as a sort of fence to keep them from their right of entering the square. As they walked towards them the police advanced to meet them, and then brutally assaulted them. The argument that the square was Crown property was as ridiculous as it was cowardly. There was no law to support Mr. Poland in that position. If there were, custom and usage were stronger than law and would justify every act he and Mr. Graham had committed that Sunday. He denied their action had created riot. If there were riot it existed before they entered the square. He went to the square to test the question of free speech, and unless the law was made much more definite, unless Mr. Poland and the Government could produce better evidence as to meetings in the square being illegal, he thought people would continue-and rightly continue-to go there. He had not the slightest doubt that when their witnesses were heard the case for the prosecution would fall to the ground.
Sir Edward Reed, K.C.B., M.P. for Cardiff, said he was at Morley's Hotel from soon after 3 till after 5 on the afternoon of Sunday, November 13. A few minutes after 4 he saw Mr. Cunninghame Graham with the other defendant arm in arm proceed from in front of the crowd near Morley's hotel across the carriage road towards the pavement at the south-east corner of the square. When they and about 10 or 12 persons, who appeared to witness to have started with them, had proceeded part of the way across the road some score or two of the crowd from under Morley's Hotel followed them up. Before they reached the pavement on the opposite side the police, who were ranged several deep in line around the square, pressed forward over the pavement to meet this advancing group. No measurable time had elapsed before Mr. Graham's head was split open, or at any rate was bleeding, and he was being much struck from the front by the fists and the truncheons of the police. Mr. Cunninghame Graham raised his arms on both sides to defend himself from the blows that were being rained upon him. He appeared to be acting entirely in self-defence. When he was perfectly secured by the police and held powerless two policemen in succession stepped up from behind and struck him repeated blows on the head. He then saw him dragged into the interior of the square. The police were striking the defendants before they came near the police lines, and it was essentially a police attack.
By Mr. Burns.-His observation was that the police completely crossed the pavement and struck at them before they reached it.
Cross-examined by Mr. Poland.-He had seen the notices prohibiting the meetings in Trafalgar-square as they appeared in the newspapers, and saw also in the newspapers that the Home Secretary had promised that no bonŠ-fide political meeting should be interfered with.
Mr. Poland.-Be good enough to answer the question.
Cross-examination continued.-It appeared to be a rush made by the prisoners, in pursuance of a publicly-avowed intention, but they never reached the police at a rush. The word "rush" did not exaggerate the pace at which they started. Mr. Graham and Burns were in front of the small group of 10 or 12, followed by about a score, who closed in from the crowd. He thought the rush was one across the carriage road, and not one to break through the police. Mr. Graham had his hat off, and was carrying it in his left hand. The police gathered together at the spot, but there was not the slightest attack upon the police line as it was gathered round the square. There was no large mass of people rushing at once. The police moved as soon as they saw a start made from the opposite side of the square to meet the movement. He had written a letter in which he said "the policemen on the spot certainly were bound to resist the rush in which Mr. Graham joined and to master and arrest them." They could easily have done so. There was a scrimmage after Mr. Graham's head was bleeding. There was no earthly prospect of the prisoners breaking through after the police had advanced. Witness distinctly saw Mr. Graham struck several times and with considerable force. He could not suppose that the result of the line being broken through would have been terrible disorder, and in his opinion the only effect would have been that the people would enter the empty space in the middle of the square. He saw no sticks used, or stones thrown, but he was close to Morley's Hotel when the windows were broken. Those windows were broken a full hour after the incident he had been speaking of.
Mr. C. Bradlaugh, M.P., was next called and affirmed in place of being sworn. He said he had known Trafalgar-square about 35 years. During the whole of that time the public had passed freely over every part of the square. He had never had any notification that the square was private property. Between 1855 and 1884 he had taken part in public meetings in the square. After 1860 he had frequently convened meetings there and only remembered one in the square since 1860 which he had attended and had not convened himself. At many of the meetings the attendance had been as large as it was possible for it to be, the whole body of the square and the surrounding streets being fully occupied. None of the meetings had been dispersed by the police and none of them had been prevented. There had been two cases of interference, one slight and the other serious. The slight one was some time about seven or eight years ago, when one of the superintendents came to him as from the Commissioners and asked him not to use the plinth as the boys climbed on the lions. He, therefore, had a small wooden platform made, which he always used afterwards. On the 31st of July, 1871, when the second case of interference occurred, he was served with a written notice forbidding him to hold a meeting. A meeting had been called which had been prohibited on the previous day by printed proclamation. He had some doubt as to the legality of the notice which Mr. Odger had issued of the meeting, and he convened a fresh meeting for the Monday, the 31st of July.
Mr. Poland said this was totally irrelevant, but it might be taken for what it was worth.
Examination continued.-The notice warned him that force would be used if the meeting was attempted, and Inspector Clark intimated this, and offered to take back any answer to the Home Secretary, as he understood. Witness answered that the meeting was perfectly legal, that any attempt to prevent it would be illegal, and that he should resist force by force. Later in the day he served a notice to this effect on the Commissioner of Police and the Home Secretary. He held the meeting (laughter), at which the Assistant-Commissioner of Police was present. No attempt was made to prevent the meeting.
By Burns.-He had never been prosecuted or punished for holding that meeting, and no subsequent proceedings were taken.
Cross-examined by Mr. Poland.-He had convened some 22 or 23 meetings in the square, and had attended between 25 and 30 from 1875 to 1884. The only one which he was forbidden to hold was in 1871. He did hold it, as he had said, and all passed off peaceably. He had had disturbances at two meetings, not in Trafalgar-square, where people were paid to disturb them. All his meetings in Trafalgar-square were orderly, and at one attempt at disturbance his people were too strong. He generally had his own police. (Laughter.) He had held meetings in Hyde-park before the Park Regulation Act was passed. He claimed the right to hold meetings there, and had exercised it. A meeting in 1854 was the first, and was the subject of Parliamentary inquiry. He looked on it as a right of common law habit sufficiently ancient to be adopted by the judicature. He could not adopt Mr. Poland's language, which was not his. The right could be traced back for many generations. He knew there was a public right in Trafalgar-square, and as such claimed the right to hold public meetings, not simply because there was a right of way, because it was impossible to walk through Nelson's Monument. (Laughter). He claimed the right, not to obstruct people from going through the square, but to address as many people there as possible. He knew of the meeting in Trafalgar-square in February, 1886, and subsequently charged in the House of Commons that Lord Salisbury and others had provided money in connexion with those meetings.
Mr. Poland protested against this, but Mr. Bradlaugh said he saw the cheque, and knew what he was saying.
Cross-examination continued.-Two days later the square was perfectly clear and free. He did not claim the right in defiance of the Act of George, which clearly prohibited certain meetings.
Henry Smith, sworn, said he was a merchant of Crosby-house, Lewisham. On Sunday afternoon, the 13th, he was in the Strand on the retreat opposite the Grand Hotel, about 10 minutes past 4. He met the prisoners Graham and Burns, whom he knew by sight, as he was crossing towards St. Martin's-lane. Mr. Graham had his hat in his left hand and was close to Mr. Burns. Witness passed them just before they came in contact with the police, and he heard Mr. Graham say something to the police, but he did not know what. Witness did not see Mr. Graham attempt to strike the police; on the contrary, he looked remarkably peaceful. He was pushed by the crowd towards the police. He did not see any blows struck. It was just about a yard from the kerb when they came in contact with the police.
Albert Bachert, bank note engraver, said he went towards the square. He was not going to take part in the meeting. He was opposed to it. He reached the Strand entrance, where the police were hitting people right and left. He got as far as Morley's Hotel, here the mounted police were charging the people on the pavement. He saw a friend there, and while speaking to him the police charged again and they were separated. Shortly afterwards witness took up his position within a yard of the police opposite Morley's Hotel. While standing there he heard a policeman say "There's Burns," and in a moment the front rank put their hands to their truncheon cases and made ready to pull their trunchons [sic] out. They then rushed past witness, pushing him on one side, and one of the police shouted out, "Give it to the -; smash their - skulls in." Witness saw they were becoming desperate and did what he could to get away. He saw the defendants coming from the direction of the Grand Hotel towards the square. He was then himself running across the road away from the police. When he looked round he saw the police had their truncheons out striking at the defendants; one policeman himself had a blow from his comrade's truncheon. They were all trying to have the first blow at the defendants. The police then fell back on the square, taking with them the defendants. Witness jumped on an omnibus to get away from the square, but found that that afternoon the omnibuses were only driving up and down, charging 6d. each time for the people to see the fun. When on the omnibus he saw the defendants. He did not see either of them strike the police. It was perfectly impossible, as they were seized at once by the men who broke out of the front ranks.
By Mr. Poland.-He did not go to see the riot. He was a Conservative. (Laughter.) He did not consider broken heads much fun. It was scarcely a rush towards the square. The defendants were walking fast. There was much confusion after the police charged them. The police were the cause of the whole affair. He could not give the name or the number of any constable who struck the defendants. He only saw Mr. Graham struck once on the head, but he saw many other blows aimed at him. He was quite sure the expression about splitting skulls did not come from the crowd. It came from the body of the police. It sounded like the expression of a rough, but many of the police were roughs.
Mr. Asquith stated that he had several more witnesses to call for the defence.
Mr. VAUGHAN wished to finish the case, and expressed his intention of sitting until half-past 6.
Mr. Henry Hyndman said on the afternoon of the 13th he met Mr. Cunninghame Graham at the Underground Railway Station, Charing-cross. He intended taking part in the meeting. They waited there until a certain number of men they knew came. The leaders of the meeting were the Radicals. He was simply there to support them. When they started for the square Mr. Graham had no stick, and seeing witness's umbrella, he suggested it should be left behind. It was left in a tobacconist's shop. In the square Graham took Burns's arm and began to walk quickly. Witness kept up with them as well as he could, and when he got to the road opposite Morley's Hotel, a small knot of men got in between them; a charge of horse police followed, and witness was knocked into the crowd on the pavement.
By Mr. Poland.-There were several others with them at Charing-cross. He declined to state who they were as Mr. Poland had brought in a new indictment of conspiracy to riot. Several of them also were working men who might lose their employment. To the best of his ability all the rest were working men. He was not a born fool, and did not intend to carry the square by a rush. They simply intended to test the question.
James Tims, hon. secretary to the Metropolitan Radical Federation, gave evidence as to the object of the meeting called for 4 o'clock in Trafalgar-square on Sunday, November 13.
Charles Edward Ward, 21, Montgomery-street, Hammersmith, formerly for seven years in the Metropolitan Police, said he did not hold with Mr. Burns in the least. He was a member of the Primrose League. He was standing in the south-east corner of the square. He saw the defendants coming across the road. The front rank of the police sprang out, and a constable struck Mr. Graham on the head with a truncheon. Several other constables struck him with their lists. Witness did not hear Mr. Graham shout, "Now for the square." He might have said so.
By Mr. Poland.-There was no rush, but the people walked quickly to get out of the way of the mounted patrol. Burns was throwing his arms about to protect himself.
Bloomfield Stevens, in the employ of the London and North-Western Railway, deposed that he was standing in front of the Grand Hotel on the day in question. About a quarter to 4 his attention was attracted by some cheering, and he saw the defendants approaching him arm and arm at a rapid pace, or what witness would describe as a smart walk. A dozen constables sprang from the ranks and used their truncheons indiscriminately, more particularly at the defendants. One constable dealt Mr. Graham blows on his uncovered head.
In cross-examination witness said he did not see Mr. Graham struck on the head with a truncheon.
James Wollen, 49, Fullerton-road, Wandsworth, gave evidence as to other meetings in the square not interfered with by the police.
Superintendent Brennan, L Division, said he remembered the meetings held in the square on February 8, 1886, which were followed by a riot. The next day, in the afternoon, his men cleared the square of all people, and of all assemblages of people. On the morning of the 10th they also took possession of the square and the approaches. A disorderly crowd assembled on both days, and all meetings were prevented. That was done by order of the Chief Commissioner, through Mr. Howard, the Chief Controller.
In answer to Burns, witness said at one meeting he heard Burns use terrible language referring to the House of Commons, and telling the people to bring their members out and hang them.
This concluded the case for the defence.
Mr. VAUGHAN said this case was one of an importance which was certainly not diminished by the great divergence of opinion which existed in it both in matters of law and of fact. He did not think he ever recollected a case in which the contradictions between witnesses called in the support of the prosecution and those called on the part of the defence had ever been so great as in this particular case. There did not appear to him to be one single fact, whether as regarded the numbers of the people who had collected after 4 o'clock at the corner of Trafalgar-square-not one single fact with regard to the action of the defendants and the conduct of the police which had not been diametrically contradicted. The question, of course, before him was whether or not that had been a riotous and unlawful assembly. If he relied on the evidence which had been given for the prosecution he must undoubtedly have come to the conclusion that it was both unlawful and riotous. The evidence given on the part of the prosecution was most distinct both with regard to the numbers that accompanied or followed the defendants when they came close to the police. It was stated that the numbers varied from 500 to 4,000. It was stated that the defendants on coming close to the police fought out with their hands furiously, and that previously Mr. Graham had turned round to those behind him and called out, "Now for the square." If that was the case, and he did that with the intention of breaking into the square, then, according to the definition of an unlawful assembly, it appeared to him that it came within those definitions. In "Hawkin's Pleas of the Crown," it was stated that any meeting whatever which produced terror and aroused the fears of Her Majesty's subjects formed an unlawful assembly; and Mr. Justice Bailey said that, if a meeting was calculated to excite consternation, it was generally criminal and unlawful. According to those definitions, he was prepared to say that the evidence given by the prosecution was evidence which rendered it necessary that he should commit the defendants for trial on that charge. The evidence on their behalf was undoubtedly very strongly in their favour, because it suggested that instead of the defendants being the aggressors and attacking the police, it was the police who first of all attacked them. There was this much to be said, there were three constables who gave evidence who were in the front rank, and they stated what had occurred. They were standing close to one another and stated that Mr. Graham came up and endeavoured to push his way through them, that he pushed one and struck another in his face, made his mouth bleed and knocked his helmet off. In reply to the question why he was not arrested on the spot, the constable said he stooped to pick up his helmet, and while doing so was carried half a dozen yards away. In the teeth of that evidence, it seemed difficult to arrive at the conclusion that the evidence given by persons standing further off was to militate against what the officers said so strongly as to make it impossible to believe their testimony. The learned counsel, Mr. Asquith, had said this was not an unlawful meeting because its purpose was a lawful one, and because they desired to hold it in a place from which they had no right to be excluded. The statute of 1844 had been commented upon by the learned counsel, but he could not adopt his views. It seemed to him by the language of the statute that Trafalgar-square vested entirely and absolutely in the Queen, her heirs and successors. It had been said there was a right of way and that the public had a right to enjoy the square. No doubt they had in a reasonable and peaceful manner, but it seemed to him impossible to admit that because there was user of that sort giving a qualified right, and what really amounted to a concession, that therefore it should be asserted by force. The learned magistrate then referred to the remarks of Mr. Justice Blackburn with reference to the Parks Act, which had been noticed by learned counsel on both sides. He considered they applied with great force and cogency to Trafalgar-square. He could not come to any other conclusion but that the notice issued by the Chief Commissioner, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State and the Office of Works, was a valid and legal notice, resistance to which made those people who resisted it guilty of the charge upon which the two defendants were accused. Supposing the preamble and recitals in that notice were proved, he could not help thinking that at common law the Ministers of the Crown would have a perfect right to prohibit a meeting in Trafalgar-square, if from information before them it might lead to a breach of the peace.
Having made these observations he committed the defendants for trial at the Central Criminal Court.
|Dissertations: Albert Bachert|
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