Students have spoken out at their anger and frustration at being kettled, filmed and questioned at the end of a demonstration at Birmingham University last night.
There had been a national meeting, followed by a march and an occupation of Birmingham University’s Great Hall. As the students left the occupation, they were met by lines of police. They were then held in a kettle, in cold and wet conditions, for up to four hours.
One student told us she had struggled to cope with the cold and wet and the lack of toilet facilities,
“It felt like forever, I needed the toilet and it was so horrible and uncomfortable and cold. When I finally got out my friends had to hold me up I was so cold and drained. I felt really helpless and wanted to cry.
My friend was in tears – this was the first demo she’d been on. She doesn’t want to go on another one ever again. The police terrify her now.
They kept us like that to keep our morale down, to absolutely smash our morale. I just feel really bitter and angry”
After two hours police started to release people slowly, in pairs and small groups. Those released were searched and told they must co-operate with police filming and give a name and address. Those that refused were arrested. Another student told us,
“We were also told that if any of us refused details, we’d be arrested for aggravated trespass, even though that had nothing to do with the Stop and Search. Before leaving, we were filmed giving our details and weren’t allowed to cover our faces with our hands. I’m convinced the Stop and Search was a ruse to get our details, as the searching officer’s notes consisted entirely of my name, date of birth, and address. I asked for a receipt but was told that I couldn’t have one.”
The practice of taking the details of demonstrators held in a kettle was commonplace, until a landmark ruling last year. In the case of Mengesha, the High Court found that demanding details as the price for release from a kettle was unlawful.
“It is clear… that containment is not permissible for some purpose other than to prevent a breach of the peace which is taking place or reasonably thought to be imminent. In particular, it is not permitted as a means of ensuring that the identification of those contained has been obtained by questioning and by filming.
“… It was not lawful for the police to maintain the containment for the purposes of obtaining identification, whether by questioning or by filming. It follows that it was not lawful to require identification to be given and submission to filming as the price for release.”
West Midlands Police have responded to criticism of its actions by maintaining they did not kettle demonstrators, but instead detained all 150 people on suspicion of committing criminal acts, including criminal damage and aggravated trespass.
If you were held in the kettle or were arrested, or know someone who was was, please contact GBC on 07946541511 or on firstname.lastname@example.org