This is a guest post by Harry Stopes (@HarryStopes)
The use of restrictive bail conditions on protestors, many of whom have been arrested en masse, is a worrying trend evident in policing over the last two and a half years. The most recent example to be reported was that of Michael Chessum, the President of the University of London students’ union. He was arrested under section 11 of the Public Order Act, for failing to notify the police of a demonstration, and was bailed on condition that he refrain from engaging in any protest, at any university, or within half a mile of any university. Continue reading
As the National Union of Journalists encourages members whose work brings them into contact with the police to challenge their inclusion on the national ‘domestic extremist’ database, NetPol is urging activists and campaigners to do the same.
Using the Data Protection Act, activists can submit Subject Access requests to the Metropolitan Police to check what information is held about them by the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU). NetPol wants to see all secret police databases shut down, because there is every reason to believe that data gathered in secret, with no checks and balances and no effective accountability, is not only unnecessary and intrusive but also riddled with gossip and rumour. Continue reading
A number of police forces have recently announced that they hold large scale trials of body worn video cameras for all officers on patrol. These cameras will be attached to police uniforms, and can be switched on or off at the discretion of officers. The reaction from civil liberties organisations have been muted, but Netpol has spoken out publicly against the routine use of bodycams, and the implications of further extending police surveillance capacity.
Staffordshire police has now joined Hampshire, Northamptonshire, Sussex, Thames Valley and Avon and Somerset police forces in the use of body cams, having issued 530 cameras at a reported cost of £660 per camera. The chief constable of Scotland’s single police service has said he wants every officer north of the border issued with a body-worn video camera Not all forces share this stance, however – Peter Fahy of Greater Manchester Police has been more circumspect, suggesting that routine police filming could cause ‘distress’ to the public, who may have concerns about where their data will ultimately end up. Continue reading
A new short film about one of NetPol’s member organisations, Newham Monitoring Project (NMP), documents a 33 year history of resistance to racism and police violence in east London. It shows how, since 1980, grass-roots community action mobilised by NMP has insisted that a fairer and more equal society is inseparable from the struggle for justice – with a constant focus on resisting hostility, indifference and outright opposition of the state.
The documentary, made by filmmaker and longstanding NMP supporter Rayna Nadeem, covers some of the iconic struggles of Newham’s black communities in the 1980s – such as the Newham 7 and Newham 8 campaigns – that have led NMP to be called “the leading national voice for the right for black communities to defend themselves”. This 17 minute film also describes how, in the 1990s, NMP was drawn into campaigns in support of families who had lost loved ones in custody as a result of appalling police brutality and more, more recently, NMP has worked in defence of local people criminalised by anti-terrorist operations and the securitisation of east London for the Olympics.
Police Liaison Officers at Tower Hamlets anti-EDL protest, Sept 2013
Are Police Liaison Officers – suspiciously friendly in their pale blue bibs and now commonplace at marches and demonstrations – really deployed simply to ‘facilitate protest’ and ‘ensure there are no surprises’, or is their role rather more duplicitous? For some time, campaigners from groups involved in the Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol) have suspected there is more to these officers, created in response to severe criticism by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary’s ‘Adapting to Protest’ report of intelligence gathering at the 2009 G20 protests, than their public image suggests. Continue reading
In the last week several Traveller communities as well as Traveller rights campaigners have been subjected to police raids. The police claim the “Operation Elven” series of raids, including one at Smithy Fen Traveller site in Cambridge, supposedly concern thefts of Chinese artefacts and rhinoceros horn from museums and auction houses across England and Ireland. However, police have been accused of serial heavy-handedness and faulty intelligence. Continue reading
The arrest of 286 antifascists demonstrating against the presence of the English Defence League in East London on Saturday is another example of what seems to be a growing trend in public order policing – the mass arrest of people participating in unauthorised marches, rallies and processions.
The tactic of mass arrest is highly indiscriminate – no consideration is made of whether the individuals concerned are truly suspected of any offence. Netpol observers spoke to a boxing coach in East London yesterday, who had tried desperately to get police officers to realise that one of the people they had contained had simply been en route to his gym, which was round the corner from the police kettle. No-one seemed willing to listen to him. Continue reading