South Wales police have escalated their targeting of Black Lives Matter protesters in Cardiff by arresting several people connected to the protests. One person has been charged with obstructing a police officer, and another has been issued with a fixed penalty notice (fine) of £500 for breaching coronavirus restrictions. Another person was charged with assaulting an emergency worker after allegedly shining a torch at a police officer.
The arrests are the latest in a series of intimidation tactics from the force, which has been in the spotlight after the death of Mohamud Hassan, 24, who died following his brutal arrest and detention at Cardiff Bay Police station in January 2021. Protests were renewed after a second death in custody in Wales. Mouayed Bashir, a 29-year old black man, died after being restrained by Gwent police in February 2021.
Cardiff BLM have reported consistent attacks from South Wales police since the first emergency demonstration outside the police station. A few hours after the protests on Thursday January 13th, three young Somali boys were assaulted by police and locked up in Cardiff Bay. During the arrests, police were caught on camera using an illegal choke hold to restrain one of the boys. In the video, the officer is seen using the choke hold while another two officers lay on top of the young man, and another officer runs over and dives on top of him.
After the first protest passed peacefully, South Wales police responded to subsequent protests (a socially distanced vigil attended by the community and members of the Hassan family) by putting out barricades around the police station. They have intimidated and harassed members of the community calling for justice, and officers were filmed smirking and nodding in response to a protester’s question ‘did South Wales police kill Mohaumd?’
In addition to targeting black youth and provoking protesters, presumably with the aim of creating disruption to the deliberately peaceful community response, one activist at the protests also noted the police targeting the elderly and vulnerable. Members of Cardiff BLM reported:
“During the protests, the police were being very abusive and hostile towards protesters. An elderly disabled lady parked on double yellow lines along with her disabled badge next to the station. Police approached and asked where she was going. When she told them that she was headed to the protest they became hostile towards her.”
“The police sergeant present asked if she’d like to be dragged out of her car. She became very scared and told the sergeant to leave her alone. He then turned on his body camera, after threatening this woman. Another officer started opening the passenger door where her daughter was and told her also that she would be dragged out of the car.”
South Wales police actions sit in a broader context of aggressive and racist policing and attempts to suppress organising against police brutality. Netpol has reported before on the police response to Black Lives Matter protests; Netpol’s report “Britain is Not Innocent” details the excessive use of force and the disproportionate targeting of black protesters that marked the policing response to the 2020 uprisings. As Cardiff BLM has noted, “Police target, harass and attack protesters out during the pandemic, not realising that they’re the cause of these protests.”