When I meet Maya Evans to interview her about her new book, it strikes me this cheerful, 26 year old woman does not seem to be much of a threat to our national security.
Unfortunately, our government disagrees. On October 25 last year Maya was arrested under the 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) for standing outside Downing Street and reading out the names of British soldiers who have died in
Maya now has a criminal record and has been fined £300, which she refuses to pay. "That’s something I’m not going to do on principle, because when you pay your fine you are conceding guilt so I’m not going to do that. How could it be wrong to read a list of names outside
And technically it isn’t. The provisions of SOCPA do allow public protest near Parliament, however, organisers must ask for permission and the police have the power to impose a variety of restrictions on the action.
Leading up to her arrest Maya was working with the peace group Justice Not Vengeance (JNV) on an international campaign to highlight the 100,000 Iraqis who had died in
She sees her arrest and conviction as "a best case scenario for a campaign" because she gained huge, sympathetic media coverage for her cause, making the front page of the Independent and the Daily Mail. However, she generally found "journalists were more interested in the British soldier mortality rates than the Iraqis." She is also critical of the wider media coverage of
Last summer Maya left her job as a vegan chef to complete a nationwide speaking tour and to write Naming the Dead, a short book about her arrest and her life prior to this. She hopes "when people read the book they will feel inspired to be more proactive in their community." However, she is careful to emphasize how important it is to do training – such as a Non-Violent Direct Action workshop – to be prepared and aware of your rights if you are arrested. "If you know exactly what you are doing and getting in to then it is more likely to be a positive and empowering experience and you will be getting something out of it rather than it taking something out of you."
Like JNV, Maya is committed to effecting change through non-violent means. Wary of sounding too idealistic, she believes "if we could move towards a society that did work by diplomacy rather than violence, and violence just wasn’t an option, then I think people would get a lot more in to the use of diplomacy and it would work." When asked if this commitment to non-violence stretches to the Iraqi resistance, Evans says "I think they have legitimate grievances. The invasion has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis… but I don’t agree with violence and it is making the situation worse and it is legitimising the
Although Maya was recently arrested for a second time for taking part in the No More Fallujahs peace camp, next year she hopes to focus her energy on JNV campaigns countering possible US/UK aggression against
The campaigning journalist George Monbiot once said, "If you support power, you are rewarded. If you fight it, you are punished. It’s as simple as that. It’s not hard to resist for a few years. But to resist every day of your working life is tough." So what keeps Maya Evans going? "I think what keeps me going is the fact that I’m right. It’s really difficult to justify the
Naming the Dead by Maya Evans is published by JNV publications, priced £7. Ian Sinclair is a freelance journalist based in London, England. [email protected].