An account by one Melanie Shaw silent vigil attendee and banner maker
As I walked over the rail bridge and looked down the Westfield road I could see the prison on the right behind the Parks Metal fence bars, peaking above the tops of the trees with that children’s park in the foreground and the sky was a lovely blue with the sun shining bright but there where some trails causing the sky to start slowly turning that horrible dull milky white. I stopped at the busy junction for Lidl and the bingo and put my bag down to get out the first large banner since this seemed a good place to put it up, just as I was attaching it to the metal bars of the park fence a Police car came over the bridge with blues and sirens going but I didn’t bat an eye lid as I finished tightening the cable ties attaching it to the bars, it was a “good” time for the police to whiz past like that!
As I continued down the Westfield road past the park which seemed empty in the shadow of the prison I approached the Halcyon pub to find a few people around the back, we greeted each other and chatted briefly then I moved indoors to the bar and found Wendy in her splendid Green party tabard sitting with Kiikii and some other members of the vigil. We chatted over coffee and then the police facilitator arrived and Kiikii was distraught because it was not Stuart!!
After a short while we all moved over to the park to begin the Vigil but Brian Gerrish was not yet present, there was the word going around the vigil that Brian was not coming now but then Carole arrived with bags of flyers, t shirts, stickers and ukcolumn papers and confirmed Brian was close behind and would arrive soon, the atmosphere lifted at this moment.
We continued to mingle amongst ourselves holding our banners up for all the people walking past to see and then Linda helped me attach a banner to the metal fence opposite so that all the traffic going past could have no doubt as to why we where there. At this point there was maybe 50 of us in the park with banners, flyers, posters and even symbolic birthday presents “the heart of the British public”.
At this point some photographers arrived so we all posed for pictures behind our banners and posters. The sun was still shining bright as the sky was began to glaze over when Brian was spotted approaching the vigil and little cheer went up, I greeted him and asked if the drive up was ok and he confirmed it was!
So there we where some 50 to 60 of us and Brian gave us a little talk and an update having just been on the phone to Melanie himself that is why he was little late. He told us some distressing news. Melanie was forced to use Sanitary towels and dish clothes to dress her leg ulcer and was not in a good way mentally being abused and bullied ongoing. Brian also told us of some other atrocities happening within the Walls of Sodexo HMP Peterborough that I cannot repeat at this time but there have been several deaths.
As Brian was talking a lady called Belinda McKenzie passed some flyers out for her organization “Battle of Britain’s children 2014” and she also collected names and contact details in the hope she could get a national activist entity formed to tackle child abuse. I have to say I am sceptical to this woman’s motives but wont say more here please goggle for that its all out there. She then addressed the crowd after Brian speaking rather well.
As the morning turned into afternoon sandwiches started to emerge from bags and many members of the public came by to enquire and there where many groups of us on the park holding our banners high and talking about various subjects including the ghosting of prisoners and how private prison that are run for profit are very dangerous indeed, in the U.S.A there laws require these private prisons to be 95% full at all times! To be honest we talked about so much ive forgotten more than I can recall. The police facilitator was there, he was not Stuart but I forget his name he seemed pleasant enough wearing his blue tabard that sometimes covered his camera.
After dinner into the afternoon we decided to take a stroll to the prison entrance directly in order to alert Melanie and the other prisoners to our presence in order they might gain some hope that people on the outside care about there situation.
The police Facilitator (who is not Stuart lol) accompanied us all the way and we stopped to pose for photos at the prison entrance as a marked police car came past and did a uturn before parking up to monitor us. Before moving into the premises of the car sales company “Winstons motors”. It was very kind of the Police facilitator to approach Winstons motors on our behalf to gain us peaceful entry into there premises.
We assembled opposite the prison area where we believed Melanie was detained and we posed again for photos and chanted “free Melanie” a couple of times before singing her happy birthday which Brian led. At this point we heard some whistling from the prison and Melanie managed to shout really loud several times “thank you” which touched us all and made the day seem even more worthwhile. We all were in no doubt that our actions on that day at the very least lifted the spirits of Melanie and others in that prison detained without evidence of committing crimes and informed the authorities that a significant number of people care enough to do something about it.
After a while and more chatting to the public and amongst ourselves we all moved back to the park and the Halcyon pub, it was now 3pm and many including Brian headed to the pub for a well deserved pint but sadly I did not leaving with a new friend who offered a lift home but not before saying bye to Brian and some others.