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1971: Protest disrupts Welsh language trial

Police in Wales have had to remove demonstrators from the entrance of a courtroom after they disrupted proceedings inside.

More than 40 people were dragged away from the Shire Hall in Carmarthen where preliminary proceedings were taking place in the Assizes court against eight members of the Welsh Language Society.

The case, in which the eight are accused of conspiring to damage, remove or destroy English language road signs in Wales during a rally last December, is regarded as a major event in the struggle for greater recognition of the Welsh Language.

But protesters, complaining that police had not allowed them access to the public gallery, did their best to disrupt proceedings by singing Welsh songs on the pavement outside.

The protesters were removed by the police so the case could continue.

One passer-by said: "They were dragged along the road on their bottoms and on their knees."


"The basis of this case is the rights of a Welshman in Wales"

Dafydd Iwan

Meanwhile, inside the courtroom Mr Justice Howard was hearing applications by some of the accused to have the case heard in Carmarthen, saying it would be more just to have it heard in a strongly Welsh area.

The judge refused the application and said the trial would begin on Monday 3 May at Glamorgan Assizes in Swansea before a Welsh-speaking judge.

One of the accused, Dafydd Iwan, who is also chairman of the Welsh Language Society, said: "We are here as Welshmen. What has brought us up against the law is that it is impossible today for a Welshman to live his life fully in his own language.

"The basis of this case is the rights of a Welshman in Wales."

The eight accused are Dafydd Iwan, 27, from Caernarvon, Frederick Francis, 22, from Aberystwyth, Rhodri Llewelyn Morgan, 20, from Aberystwyth, Gwilym Tudur, 30, from Cardiganshire, Ieuan Bryn Jones, 23, from Anglesey, Ieuan Wyn Evans, 22, from Caerns, Gronwy Davies, 21, from Cardiff and Robert Paul Gruffydd, 27, from Cardiganshire.

In Context
This was the first of several similar cases during the 1970s.

One of the defendants, Rhodri Morgan, was acquitted of all charges.

The remaining seven were all found guilty of conspiring to destroy road signs and given suspended sentences ranging from three to 12 months.

The Welsh Language Society was founded on 4 August 1962.

Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s hundreds of its members were imprisoned for breaking the law with non-violent direct action.

The practice of displaying bilingual road signs on Welsh roads was adopted following the troubles and remains today.


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