News from the Kettle Police Powers campaign
Welcome to the December/January policing briefing from the ‘Kettling police powers’ campaign. For 2012, we have decided to focus on the following key areas:
• The repeal of stop and search powers which allow police to potentially harass and intimidate young people. Section 60 is perceived as a ‘sus’ power as it doesn’t require reasonable suspicion and is therefore susceptible to being use to profile people based on stereotypes.
• A removal of police powers used to demand the name and address of people who have committed no criminal offences. We believe Section 50 of the Police Reform Act is often misused as a statutory ID check, forcing people to provide their details on threat of arrest.
• A move away from the control of protest through ‘pre-emptive arrests’ and other pre-emptive strategies (such as kettling), which disproportionately undermine protest rights.
• An end to police powers to impose punishment through conditional cautions and police bail conditions. Police bail conditions are frequently used to restrict movement and political freedoms before there is even enough evidence to charge with an offence.
Netpol will also be monitoring and challenging excessive policing and any abuse of police powers in the build up to this summer’s Olympic games.
Get involved in the campaign:
• Sign up to support the campaign to kettle police powers.
• Share your experiences of policing – if you have examples of the issues we campaign about or want to raise other policing issues, let us know by emailing email@example.com or via twitter @policemonitor
• Get involved – people engaged in civil rights, protest and community groups are welcome at our regular campaign meetings. Mail firstname.lastname@example.org for for info.
Excessive force and mass arrests at Congo protests
During December, there were a series of protests by the Congolese community in Central London culminating in two large demonstrations on 10th and 14th December in the Whitehall area.
The processions on both days were lively and loud, with singing and dancing. However, the police tried to force protesters into protest pens , threatening to arrest those who didn’t comply breaching conditions attached to the protest. Protesters told Netpol they ‘wanted their voices to be heard’ and didn’t want to be confined to a small area on the pavement where they could easily be ignored. Instead of trying to facilitate a peaceful protest, the police reacted with force, mass arrests, kettling and stop and search data gathering.
On both days there were initially peaceful sit-down protests in Whitehall, and police used significant force, including drawing batons and deploying dogs and horses to make some arrests and drive the rest of a non violent crowd towards Trafalgar Square. As a result of this policing strategy, groups broke away from the main demonstration at Trafalgar Square to continue their protests.
On 10th December, one of the groups continued down Charring Cross Road to Shaftsbury Avenue. According to a Metropolitan police press release, their actions included attacking a carol service in Trafalgar Square, smashing car windows and threatening passers-by. However, reports from eye-witnesses indicate this was a small minority of youths, and was out of character with the demonstration as a whole. Nevertheless the police immediately implemented kettles and snatch squads, culminating in the arrest of 110 people for affray.
On 14th December, a small group leaving Trafalgar Square were kettled by the police for several hours during which the police brought in two commercial coaches, seemingly for mass arrests, but eventually changed their mind and let people go after being searched, questioned, and photographed. We have also received reports of the police asking questions about immigration status and forcing people to give personal details under Section 50 of the Police Reform Act.
There are very serious questions to be answered in relation to the policing of these two protests. On the basis of the evidence currently available, we consider the use of force was disproportionate, the arrest strategy excessive, and the policing strategy overall was aggressive, provocative and ultimately unsuccessful in maintaining order.
Disabled man tasered by police
Shocket Aslam was stopped by the police on 31st December after leaving a petrol station on the M6 without paying for £20 worth of petrol.
Mr Aslam, who is dependent on a wheelchair, has alleged that immediately upon reaching his vehicle, the police smashed a side window and hit him with what he describes as a cosh. He protested that he was disabled, and could not easily get out of the vehicle, but was tasered from behind in his shoulder. Mr Aslam maintains that he did not resist the police, behave aggressively, or do anything that would give them cause to fear for their safety. Furthermore, he claims officers saw his wheelchair in the back of the car, and commented on it, but continued to drag him from the car and along the ground. He was then thrown head first into a police car.
Shocket Aslam has also complained about his subsequent treatment in custody, where he was left without medical attention, and was held overnight in an interview room. He claims he was shaking and shivering for some time after being tasered, was bleeding from his head and nose and was unable to speak properly. Medication for his existing condition was also withheld.
Concerns about the incident have been raised by the deaths in custody campaign, Justice for Habib ‘Paps’ Ullah. Saqib Desmukh, who stated:
“Why was a taser, and such excessive force used when Shocket Aslam was offering police no resistance? Why was his disability not taken account in how the police handled him? And why was medical treatment withheld, especially after the use of a taser, and when he had clearly sustained injuries?”
Two peace campaigners threatened with CRASBOs
The Metropolitan police have served papers on two committed peace activists seeking a post conviction Anti Social Behaviour Order (CRASBO) if they are convicted at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court in early 2012.
Chris Cole, a father from Oxford, and co-ordinator of Fig Tree, an initiative to engage the Christian community on peace and security issues and Father Martin Newell are both long standing activists with Catholic Worker.
The 10 year CRASBO would prevent Chris and Martin from entering the City of Westminster except while passing through on the underground, and would prevent them from carrying any paint, chalk, marker pens or bolt croppers anywhere outside of Westminster except in their home areas.
Val Swain, spokesperson for Netpol: The Network for Police Monitoring stated:
“This is a prohibitive CRASBO aimed at deterring protest. Chris and Martin’s actions have always been peaceful and dignified – to call their protests anti social is simply ludicrous.”
Chris Cole stated:
““Using ASBO’s against political protestors is another example of the growing intolerance of political dissent in this country by the powers that be. ASBO’s were never meant to be used this way yet are being used as another convenient tool in increasing political policing.”