Minutes for 10 March, 2022

Minutes from meeting of the Lewes Amnesty Group – 10th of March 20222

The meeting combined the attendance of live members and members of the group phoning in on Zoom.

David Burke, in his statement of Secretary, went through the group’s website (amnestylewes.org) and reviewed the events and actions the group has done in the period since the last AGM, over two years ago.  His written statement is attached.

Adrian Briggs, who has served as secretary of the group for nine years is handing the role of Treasurer to Leslie Burgess.  The group heartily thanked and applauded Adrian’s hard work in the role.

David Burke will stay on as Secretary.  For now the group will continue without a Chair.

The group discussed the need to take on new causes and agreed it was not worth doing unless someone felt strongly and wanted to bring a new cause to the group’s attention.

Having said that, it was agreed the group needs renewed energy after the long period of not being able to meet.  We have managed to hold events and take part in larger actions, but we perhaps need a new set of activities in Lewes that members can set their hands to.

The group discussed such activities, and expressed interest in holding a mid-year “Write 4 Rights”, as that combination of people writing letters while members line the street pulling them in, has always been successful.

The Curst Sons gig was also mentioned as something that could be repeated, to raise awareness and funds.  The group also discussed what was necessary to ensure a successful Winter Concert this year.

The group agreed to choose individual cases that would allow the group to focus our energies and letter writing.  Two candidates mentioned were Mohammed Al Hallabi, a Palestinian rights campaigner who has been held for over five years without trial in Israel and Khalid Kasseem, a detainee at Guantanamo Bay who’s appeal for release has been denied recently on account of him having “a bad attitude”.

Lewes Amnesty Group AGM Statements for 2020 – 2021

Secretary’s Report – David Burke

The group moved successfully to meetings on Zoom and ran a number of events with speakers such as Mohammedou Salahi and the lawyer Ryan Budhu who spoke about discrimination in policing in New York.  We managed to hold a COVID-safe vigil against Guantanamo that was written up in Amnesty’s magazine for local groups.

The group suffered though from the lack of live events, and it proved difficult do letter writing as a group when we were all locked down.

But we did run tables in Cliffe during that period, and got people to sign petitions on the various aspects of the American Crisis campaign.  We also sent Christmas cards to families anc children held by ICE in Texas

2021 – The group was stretched by the long period in isolation.  There were attempts to meet, but always abandoned.  We ran tables in Cliffe a number of times, but that was difficult as various flavours of COVID appeared.

We did have speakers online though: the former head of Moscow’s branch of Amnesty Sergei Nikitin and Njwan Haddad of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Our group has been represented in the Guantanamo Network, which has been very active.  We screened the Mauritanian with Q&A featuring Mohammedou Salahi and his lawyer Nancy Hollander, ran two vigils (in Brighton and Lewes) and a rally in London.

We have continued to hold events though – the Curst Sons concert and the Write 4 Rights events were both successful, raising money and spirits.  A number of the musicians from our last winter concert held their own small concert for Amnesty.  And we continued to run tables in Cliffe.

In short, during this period we have held body and soul together and managed to raise money and our profile.  But the active participation of our members suffered.  Indeed, membership has gone down.  The group is visible, and doing impressive things, but risks “hollowing out”.

So now that we are all in the same room, we must identify activities that will make us more solid.  Some of those will fall under the category “lack of preparation and structure”, an area where your secretary hopes to improve.

TREASURER’S REPORT ON LEWES AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL GROUP ACCOUNTS FOR FINANCIAL YEAR NOVEMBER 2020 TO NOVEMBER 2021 – Adrian Briggs

Below you will see a summary of the Group’s accounts. They remain in a healthy state, helped by being able to carry over a surplus from the previous year, which compensated for expenditure being slightly above income. Obviously the last COVID year has made budget planning difficult!

We have been able to use income and carry over surplus from last year to support two successful fundraising and awareness raising events including the concert at the Con Club on 17 October and Close Guantanamo actions.

Though we did not have usual income from meeting, street collection and W4R we received significant donations from Libertat and towards the new Group banner.

We had no room hire or stationary expenses but saw an understandable increase in printing and postage, social media and virtual meeting costs. The latter may decrease over coming year though we may wish to consider having a hybrid system of in person and virtual meetings.

LewesAIAccounts Nov2020 – Nov2021
IncomeExpenditure
Meeting collections£0.00Room hire£0.00
Street collections£0.00Stationary£0.00
Special events£887.50Printing & Postage£273.50
Other£600.00Equipment£0.00
  Campaign materials£432.00
  Events£607.00
  Travel & Conf Reg£64.00
  Misc£172.00
    
Totals£1,487.50 £1,548.50
    
Current Balance£61.00  
Previous yr Balance£965.18  
Net Balance£1,426.18  

Coming Group financial year November 2021 to November 2022

After being treasurer for 10 years, I am very grateful to Lesley Burgess who will be taking over from me for the coming year. I am sure she will be an excellent, conscientious treasurer and will have the positive support of the Group; I wish her well in her important role.

As our finances should remain stable, we could consider a donation to AIUK and ensure sufficient monies, in region of £650, are carried over into 2021/22 year to cover costs of staging the Amnesty Christmas Concert in 2022, which normally brings in significant net income.

When it is safe to resume ‘normal’ fundraising the Group should maintain existing successful fundraising and awareness raising events, such as the Street Collection, and plan new ways of raising money including the previously planned pub quiz and greater use of social media. We should begin to take account of our growing cashless society and provide alternatives for supporters to give money such as via iZettle card readers!

Facebook – Patrick Ballin

We have continued to maintain regular online campaign through our Lewes Amnesty International Group account. Selected events such as the Guantanamo Conference have been listed with paid advertising and attracted new supporters. As is the way with online activity, we received a few negative comments through reaching out to larger numbers this way, but the majority of support has been highly supportive.

The number of page likes has increased steadily and as at March 2021 stands at 285.

We are looking for a volunteer to take over the administration of the account from Patrick Ballin, who has asked to stand down.

Death Penalty Campaign – Patrick Ballin

The US Death Penalty has been a significant feature of the American Crisis campaign, especially during the closing months of the Trump administration when a dozen Federal capital cases were rushed to the execution chamber.

We have featured death penalty cases through our online campaigning, in countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia, Japan, India and Iran.

Israel, Palestine and Occupied Territories – David Burke

Patricia Cockrell, who has successfully led the group’s efforts on Palestinian human rights for a number of years has left this post, partly to work on issues in Russia and Ukraine.  The work of the IPOT group has drawn new members from Eastbourne’s Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, who in turn put us in touch with Najwan Haddad, a campaigner from Gaza.  Ms. Haddad appeared to our group by Zoom and gave us an account of her recent trip back to Gaza, shortly before last year’s renewed fighting.

The IPOT group also put forward a motion on behalf of Mohammed Al Halabi, a Palestinian activist who has been held over five years in prison for embezzlement during numerous “pre-trial” assessments that seem designed only to keep him incarcerated.  The motion, approved by the Lewes Amnesty Group, calls on Amnesty UK to review his case and whether he qualifies for Prisoner of Conscience status.  That motion is now being considered by Amnesty UK’s Statnding Orders Committee.

Following the release of Amnesty International’s report this February, finding that all of Israel, Palestine and the occupied territories exist in a system of apartheid, the Lewes Amnesty group has moved to increase our activities on this issue.

Duncan Taylor of the IPOT group has invited Gary Ettle, Amnesty UK’s country coordinater for Israel and Palestine to come address our group.  Mr. Ettle will appear at a live public meeting this week, the 14th of April at Lewes Town Hall.