Netpol secures funds until 2018 to campaign to change anti-fracking protest policing

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Anti-fracking protesters outside the Manchester Oil and Gas Summit in July 2016. PHOTO: Netpol

Protesters outside the Oil and Gas Summit in Manchester in July 2016. PHOTO: Netpol

Netpol receives new two-year funding from October 2016

We are delighted to announce that Netpol has secured additional funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd to address the pressing need to change the way the police continue to respond to anti-fracking protests.

From October 2016, our ‘Protecting the Anti-Fracking Protectors’ campaign will seek:

  • a political consensus locally and nationally that policing operations at future protests are genuinely less aggressive in their size and tactics and more transparent in their dealings with industry and the media.
  • Lobby Police & Crime Commissioners to publish their expectations of policing strategies towards anti-fracking protests and to effectively scrutinise the human rights compliance of policing operations in their areas.
  • an end to intensive surveillance and intelligence-gathering against anti-fracking protesters.
  • greater awareness among first time anti-fracking campaigners about their fundamental legal rights,

Alongside our lobbying work, we intend to develop new tools to illustrate how campaigners can most effectively assert their rights to assembly and freedom of expression. We are also setting up a ‘whistle-blowing’ website offering individual campaigners who feel they are unfairly targeted the reassurance they can share information with us securely (including, for example, on inappropriate referrals to the government’s ‘Prevent’ anti-radicalisation programme or evidence of the unfair labelling of activists as ‘extremists’).

Since we began working with the anti-fracking movement in 2014, Netpol has uncovered significant evidence of close ties between police forces and the onshore oil and gas industry and shown how public order training for senior police officers is focused specifically on anti-fracking protest, which undermine attempts by police to portray themselves as ‘neutral’.

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UN human rights report warns against “closing of space for civil society’ in the UK

Former United Nations Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai: PHOTO: UN

In the final stages of this month’s general election, Prime Minister Theresa May attempted to bolster her increasingly fragile position with another attack on human rights laws, a move that was rightly condemned by national and international human rights groups.

With coinsiderably less publicity, however, a United Nations report on human rights in the UK, published in May, provided a reminder that legislation, on its own, does not protect our fundamental rights.  People acting together to protect these rights are just as important. Read more

Merseyside Police target legal observers ‘based on the way they were dressed’

Legal observer

PHOTO: Keith Gentry / Shutterstock.com

Merseyside Police is accused of ignoring the standard practice, adopted by most UK police forces, of acknowledging that independent legal observers are not the same as protesters – and of justifying this on the basis of the way those monitoring a protest in Liverpool were dressed.

During a recent English Defence League (EDL) march and counter demonstrations against it on Saturday 3 June, legal observers who are part of Green and Black Cross‘ national network of volunteers who monitor the policing of protests were out on the streets near the city’s Lime Street station. As always, they were clearly identified by their familiar fluorescent orange bibs. According to media reports, there were over 200 officers and 25 riot vans deployed on the day.

As counter-demonstrators gathered, legal observers were told a Section 14 notice, imposing conditions on public assembly and giving police the power to order protesters to confine their protest to a certain place, had been issued. They were then instructed to join protesters in a designated protest area for members of Unite Against Fascism, one of the groups opposing the EDL march. Read more

Can protesters believe anything Sussex Police tells them?

Sussex Police officer argues with protester

PHOTO: Jon O’Houston

Within 24 hours of the start of drilling on 31 May by UK Oil and Gas Investments (UKOG) at its Broadford Bridge well in West Sussex, Operation Edmond – the response by Sussex Police to protests at the site – is already raising the same concerns we highlighted last year about unpredictable policing and an unwillingness by officers to accommodate minor disruption to unconventional energy exploration without making arrests.

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Campaigners lay down the gauntlet to Lancashire’s new Chief Constable

PHOTO: Netpol

Lancashire anti-fracking campaigners are understandably frustrated and angry at aggressive policing

Yesterday’s well-attended “silent” vigil outside of Kirkham Police Station was not quite as reticent or restrained as some may have expected, but with the benefit of hindsight, this is entirely understandable. Anti-fracking campaigners in Lancashire are frustrated and angry: indignant at the way their rights to protest have been trampled on, offended by the aggression and outright violence they have experienced at the hands of the police and exasperated at the failure of senior officers, the media and policymakers to listen to their concerns. No wonder most found it impossible to remain silent.

Superintendent Richard Robertshaw, who has tactical responsibility for the policing operation at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, made little attempt yesterday to try and defuse growing tensions between the police and protesters. He appeared to go out of his way to feign ignorance about the reasons for people’s resentment at aggressive policing and the issues that had led to the calling the vigil.

Instead, he chose to highlight and condemn “the aggressive behaviour of some of the protesters” gathered for the vigil, which he said “shows the challenges we face in dealing with people who are quite aggressive and and quite forceful in how they want to express their views” and was, he said, “very regrettable”. Read more

Vigil to protest aggressive Lancashire protest policing

Anti-fracking vigil to call on Lancashire Police to “Stop Trampling on Our Freedom to Protest”

PRESS RELEASE

On Wednesday 17 May, Lancashire anti-fracking campaigners plan to hold a silent vigil at Kirkham Police Station in protest against the increasingly aggressive policing operation at the nearby Preston New Road fracking site and the way the right to protest has been repeatedly trampled on.

Campaigners will hand in an open letter, signed by over 300 local people, calling on the incoming Chief Constable, Andy Rhodes, to take part in an open public meeting to listen to concerns and answer questions about Lancashire Police’s strategy at the site.

The vigil is part of the “Swap Work for Work“ protest day organised by campaigners at the Preston New Road site.

They are supported by the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), a national human rights organisation that has monitored the policing of anti-fracking protests since 2014 and has been increasingly alarmed by Lancashire Police’s failure to learn from previous opposition to fracking in other parts of the country. In particular, Netpol is concerned about often extremely aggressive behaviour by officers, the way protesters are pushed into the path of busy traffic with a lack of care for their safety and arbitrary decisions about arrests.

Kevin Blowe, the coordinator for Netpol, said:

“Concerns have been raised about the financial costs of policing the protests at Preston New Road but little thought appears to have been given to the legacy costs of this confrontational style of policing or the long-term impact it is having on relations between Lancashire Police and local people.”

“The timing of escalating aggressive behaviour by police officers, just as the fracking industry and its supporters have called for police to ‘crack down on protesters’, has further damaged confidence and trust.”

“In the interests of transparency and accountability, we urge the new Chief Constable to agree to the request to participate and answer questions in an open public meeting and call on the Police & Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, to also attend and take part.”

The vigil takes place between 1pm and 2pm at Kirkham Police Station, Freckleton Street, Kirkham PR4 2SN.

Ten questions for Lancashire’s fracking ‘Silver’ Commander

Lancashire Police officers outside the Preston New Road site near Blackpool. PHOTO: Frack Off

Tonight between 7 pm and 8 pm, Supt Richard Robertshaw, the “silver commander” for the policing operation at the fracking site at Preston New Road in Lancashire, is holding a Facebook Q&A 

A silver commander is responsible for tactics: day to day operational decisions are made by the bronze commander. With that in mind, here are 10 questions that others might want to raise with the Superintendent this evening: Read more

Campaigners to picket Undercover Policing Inquiry hearing

spycops

PHOTO: Netpol

On Wednesday and Thursday this week, groups and individuals targeted by undercover police will address a hearing of the Undercover Policing Inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice, demanding an end to further delaying tactics by the police.

A picket has been called for 9am to 10am outside the court, in support of those targeted by political policing units for nearly 50 years. These targets include many of the individuals and organisations who founded Netpol back in 2009.

This is a general call for people to support the picket, as this hearing is crucial for the future direction of the Inquiry.

Royal Courts of Justice, the Strand, London WC2A 2LL, 9-10 am.

People spied on by undercover police are attending a hearing this week to demand

  • the immediate release of the cover names used by undercover police officers, the campaigning and community groups they spied on, and the personal files held on those spied on
  • that Inquiry Chair Lord Pitchford puts a stop to police cynically delaying the Inquiry to avoid disclosure of their misconduct.
  • vital changes in the way the Inquiry process, to redress a massive imbalance in resources between them and the police.

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Netpol calls for repeal of Section 35 dispersal powers

PHOTO: Brian A Jackson | Shutterstock

Dispersal powers are discriminatory. anti-democratic, open to abuse and completely unaccountable.

The Network for Police Monitoring has today launched a new campaign to repeal powers under Section 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which extended the police’s ability to dispense individuals from an area for up to 48 hours.

Police officers have been granted even greater levels of discretion about what constitutes ‘reasonable grounds’ to disperse people and it is far too easy for the police to use their new powers in an extremely restrictive way.

Since it was introduced, there is growing evidence that police are misusing these powers against vulnerable and often socially excluded people: teenagers, sex workers. the homeless, particularly in areas with a large black population. Section 35 powers are also increasingly targeting people exercising their democratic right to freedom of protest. These powers are used with absolutely no public oversight.

We believe it is time Section 35 is repealed.

Netpol is asking people to come forward with their own stories so we can build the case for the repeal of Section 35. We have already started to gather case studies where dispersal powers have been misused – and challenged – in a wide range of situations.

We have also produced an Activists’ Briefing on how to resist the misuse of dispersal powers and are calling on individuals and organisations to sign and endorse our campaign statement.

You can find out more on the microsite we have set up at repealsection35.org.uk