British activist and reporter Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who is known as Tommy Robinson, was arrested last week for streaming outside a courthouse in Leeds, England via Facebook Live. His arrest prompted outrage and protests among his supporters and American celebrities, including Donald Trump Jr. and Roseanne Barr, who spoke out against his predicament via Twitter.
A judge had ordered that Yaxley-Lennon’s conviction and sentencing were banned from press coverage until the trial concluded, but lifted this restriction after The Independent and Leeds Live persuaded him, citing misinformation being reported in media coverage.
Yaxley-Lennon’s arrest prompted hundreds to protest against his imprisonment along Downing Street on Saturday. Protestors carried signs that read “#FREE TOMMY” and other messages of support.
Yaxley-Lennon, formerly of the English Defense League, which opposes “global Islamification,” was recording a video outside of the courthouse on Friday about an ongoing trial inside he says involved a ring of Muslim men who were sex-trafficking children. England has an ongoing problem with Pakistani Muslim rings grooming young women for prostitution and sex slavery.
Robinson was arrested during his livestream and sentenced to 13 months in jail for contempt of court for reporting on the trial, which remains under another reporting restriction until the verdict.
In 2017, Yaxley-Lennon was arrested and sentenced to three months in jail for recording a video outside a courtroom about another trial that had a temporary reporting restriction. The judge suspended his sentence for 18 months if Yaxley-Lennon refrained from the behavior during that period.
“This contempt hearing is not about free speech,” Judge Heather Norton said while sentencing Yaxley-Lennon in 2017. “This is not about the freedom of the press. This is not about legitimate journalism; this is not about political correctness; this is not about whether one political viewpoint is right or another. It is about justice, and it is about ensuring that a trial can be carried out justly and fairly.”