Monday, 15 July 2013

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - a close friend of demo & Sheffield Socialist Party organiser Sam Moorcroft

A pretty young woman dancing carelessly at a demonstration seems to have caused uproar at Hope not Hate and one of their funders, the NUJ.

The woman at the protest - is this Sarah Marshall?
Last week, the Casuals United blog, operated by people you wouldn't want to run into in a dark alleyway, posted what they claimed was the Facebook profile of just that - a young woman dancing carelessly at a demonstration. The young woman - who they allege was called Sarah Marshall - was also seen to be throwing flowers. None of this would have mattered except for several salient points.

Sarah Marshall - if it was she - is also a trainee reporter on the Doncaster Free Press, and was sent there to cover a demonstration and the expected conflict between members of Casuals United and the EDL on one side, and anti-fascist protesters on the other. The demonstration centred on the Cenotaph in Sheffield. It was alleged that Ms Marshall joined the Antifa protesters, and the flowers she was throwing were flowers which had been laid at the Cenotaph in private acts of remembrance not connected with the demonstration. Sadly for the maybe Ms Marshall, she was also caught on video.

Since then, a war of words has erupted. The Casuals United blog outlined the case against her, and asked that people contact her newspaper to see if they approved of their journalists taking part in events they were supposed to report. This appears to have degenerated into a series of threats against someone who is after all young and inexperienced and who may well be the victim of a case of mistaken identity.

Meanwhile, the NUJ has waded into the row, issuing a statement exonerating Ms Marshall and clearing her of any part in the demonstration, while calling for the 'EDL thugs' who are persecuting her to be prosecuted.

For the Doncaster Free Press, it originally tweeted that it was investigating complaints against Ms Marshall. It then apparently cleared her in another tweet, but the link it gave went dead almost immediately and the posting linked to was removed. Since then, the newspaper has refused to comment, and has removed all previous comments.

All of which leaves us no closer to knowing the truth. Was the young lady pictured Sarah Marshall or not?

Ms Marshall's Facebook front page
before access was restricted
Contrary to the squeals of outrage from the NUJ and Hope not Hate, there is more than a passing resemblance between Ms Marshall and the woman at the demonstration. The Casuals United blog also alleges that Ms Marshall acknowledged it was her on her Facebook page before changing the privacy settings to prevent others seeing it, although they offer no proof of this allegation, and no screen captures.

On the other hand, sections of Ms Marshall's Facebook account remain public. While her Facebook front page did show her support for both the NUJ and Unite - both of whom fund Hope not Hate - her 'likes' are equally revealing.
Sarah Marshall 'liking' items on Sam Morecroft's page -
Moorcroft was one of the Sheffield Socialist Party organisers
who sought violent confrontation at the demo
These include 'Socialist Party - Yorkshire',  'Socialist Meme Caucus', 'Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs and Education', 'Sheffield City Council - Bring Back our MMA', 'VI Lenin', 'Socialist', 'Karl Marx', 'Re-elect Dave Nellist', 'Sheffield Socialist Party', 'Occupy Liverpool', 'Occupy Sheffield', 'Occupy Shropshire' and others in a similar vein.

Is this Ms Marshall - centre?
The Sheffield Socialist Party was according to their website responsible for the confrontation with the marchers at the wreath laying on June 8th, and actively sought violent confrontation with what it classed (rightly or wrongly) as the far-right. The Sheffield Socialist Party for Sheffield South is run by someone called Sam Morecroft who, like Ms Marshall, is originally from Shrewsbury. Marshall and Morecroft are friends, both on Facebook and in real life, and would appear to have been since their days in Shrewsbury, as it looks like Ms Marshall in the picture of 'Shrewsbury Socialist Party' which features Mr Morecroft as well. There is another photograph of an inebriated Ms Marshall and Mr Morecroft posted last year which according to a comment by Ms Marshall was 'about 6 years ago'.

None of this proves anything one way or the other, and it is all just speculation and deduction. It does raise a number of questions which the various statements issued - and in some cases subsequently removed - fail to answer. In summary these are
  • Is the woman at the demonstration Ms Marshall?
  • Whether or not Ms Marshall was the person in the photograph, given her closeness with the organiser of the protest, was it wise to assign her to this event?
  • Would Ms Marshall have been sufficiently neutral to abide by the NUJ's own code of conduct for journalists, point 2 of which states that a "journalist strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair"
  • Why has the Doncaster Free Press apparently removed its defence of Ms Marshall, and why is it now refusing to comment?
There are other questions, but these are enough to be going on with for now.

A drunken Ms Marshall and Sheffield Socialist Party organiser Sam Morecroft
With all that said, even assuming that Ms Marshall is the person at the demonstration the campaign of harassment against her seems excessive, particularly given her youth and inexperience: she is only a trainee reporter after all, and it is difficult to see what is to be achieved by proving all the worst stereotypes of the far right correct.

So after all that, is the woman at the demonstration Ms Marshall? We don't know, but we suspect that it is. If we had to guess at a sequence of events, they would go something like this:
  • Ms Marshall volunteers to cover demonstration because she knows one of the organisers
  • Ms Marshall gets carried away, possibly after a beer or two, as the AntiFa demonstrators are friends of hers from the Sheffield Socialist Party
  • Ms Marshall finds herself taking part in the demonstration rather than reporting on it.
  • Ms Marshall acknowledges her part on her Facebook, and then hastily removes it and changes her privacy settings when she realises she has been caught out
  • When Casuals United first published their information, she was called in by her editor and flatly denied it was her, knowing that it was unprofessional in the extreme.
  • Her editor defends her and repeats her denial.
  • The NUJ saw an opportunity to make political capital and, forgetting its own code of conduct, accepted her assurance while not caring if it was true or not.
  • Her editor realised that the accusations on the Casuals United blog were actually true and therefore deleted his defence of Ms Marshall and refused to make further comment.
All of which leaves almost nobody looking good. What started as an informative post by Casuals United descended into a series of veiled threats against a young woman. The Doncaster Free Press found itself unwittingly caught in a lie, and couldn't withdraw without risking the wrath of the NUJ. The NUJ knows it is lying, but doesn't care - who will take it on? And it is not a funder of Hope not Hate for nothing, while its leadership belong to assorted far left political parties, and it is depending upon the principle of 'might is right' to force its lie on the world.

This is of course all speculation, but speculation based on fair comment and research which links Ms Marshall to the organiser of the AntiFa demonstration. We do not advocate violence or any further threats against Ms Marshall - there is nothing to be achieved, and which media organisation will print it anyway? What is interesting is the way that apparently all of the groups and individuals involved  are either lying or covering up a lie, but the truth has come a distant second to the opportunity to make political capital.


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