The following statement was made by the stopG8 group in response to the excessive level of force used against protesters yesterday (Tuesday).
StopG8 held a “Carnival Against Capitalism” in the West End of London today (11 June), demonstrating against 100 murderous banks, corporations, “dens of the rich” and other hiding places of power in the run up to the G8 Summit.
The carnival went ahead despite extreme pre-emptive violence from the Metropolitan and City Police, which caused a number of protesters to be injured. The police surrounded the StopG8 Social Centre on Beak Street, W1 from 10am, and then broke in through the front doors and from the roof later in the morning. At the demonstrations starting at 12 noon in Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, police snatch squads violently arrested and assaulted more demonstrators.
People present in the Beak Street building report that the police used tasers, chemical sprays, and dogs, and hit unarmed people with shields and fists as they held their hands in the air or covered their heads. We are currently gathering witness statements and will release soon a detailed account of the attacks and injuries. We know that at least two people received serious head injuries, and many more were beaten. We are still waiting on reports from at least 30 people who were arrested.
“I could hear tasers going non stop for at least a minute,” said one witness, “I never heard anything like it in my life.”
A StopG8 spokesperson commented: “The police claim that they raided Beak Street because they suspected there were weapons on the building. In fact the only weapons were the police tasers, batons, shields, chemicals, fists and dogs.”
The report into the policing of the August riots, ‘Four Days in August’ released today, shows that the Met has, once again, failed to take the opportunity to critically evaluate the way in which it polices inner-city communities. There is no assessment of use of ‘section 60’ stop and searches and other policing tactics that have created mistrust and resentment of the police among young people. Instead, the emphasis is on the need for ‘robust’ policing, militarisation and ever-more invasive surveillance.
They key points of this report, we believe, are these:
1. The role of stop and search: The report fails to properly address the crucial issue of stop and search. Where it is mentioned, the language used in the report reinforces the view that many campaigners have frequently put forward – that stop and search is being used to criminalise young people. At one point it states that those arrested in relation to the riots were ‘generally known to police in one way or another such as through previous offending, gang involvement or a history of being stopped and searched’. The language used clearly indicates that having a ‘history of being stopped and searched’, is seen by the Met as evidence of criminality in the same way as previous offending. Nowhere in the report is there any awareness that, for many young people, stop and search is a regular and unavoidable part of life in inner city estates. Nor does it accept the possibility that being subject to repeated stop and search could itself have been a significant motivation for involvement in disorder.
2. The need for more ‘robust policing: This report indicates there has been a watershed in police attitudes to public order events, and a decisive move towards more ‘robust’ and aggressive policing. It states that public concerns of ‘a heavy handed approach by officers’ in the aftermath of the G20 protest affected ‘the mindset of police officers’ and ‘the confidence of some officers engaged in public order scenarios’. It goes on to stress the importance of making sure staff feel ‘that they will be supported’ in relation to their actions in public order scenarios.
3. Militarisation: As has been well reported, the capacity to deploy plastic bullets and water cannon has been increased, the use of tasers in public order situations has been mooted, as well as the use of CS gas. We consider that the justification for this is unclear, particularly as one of the key reasons for not deploying plastic bullets in August was the ‘speed and agility’ of the rioters, rendering the use of these weapons unfeasible. Read more
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @policemonitor
• Get involved – people engaged in civil rights, protest and community groups are welcome at our regular campaign meetings. Mail email@example.com 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. Read more
Shocket Aslam, who is dependent on a wheelchair, has said that police approached his car aggressively after he was stopped on the M6 motorway. It is understood that a number of police vehicles were deployed after Mr Aslam left a petrol station without paying for £20 of petrol.
He has alleged that immediately on 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 then 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.
He claims that 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.
Protesters kettled and forced to give details at Occupy LSX
Protesters attempting to set up OccupyLSX on 15 October were kettled in the area outside St Pauls ‘to prevent a breach of the peace’, despite there being a completely peaceful atmosphere. They had attempted to occupy the privately owned Patnernoster Square but had been prevented from doing so by large numbers of police, including mounted officers.
One freelance journalist covering the event, Tom Stevenson wrote “ the police erected a screen which rolled the message “this area is contained to avoid breach of the peace” in deep red letters. Such is the irony of the idea that it’s necessary to surround peaceful demonstrators discussing, dancing and singing, with officers equipped with riot helmets in order to maintain peace, it’s surprising the screen didn’t short-circuit.”
The Met has previously said that “the police use of the tactic of containment (‘Kettling’, as it is referred to in the media, is not a term used by the police), is used as a last resort following violence or the threat of violence by protestors.”
When protesters were allowed to leave the kettle, they were searched, asked to give details and had their photographs taken by FIT officers. The vast majority of police only left after the Dean of St Pauls, Giles Fraser, said their presence was not necessary.
Tasers used during violent eviction at Dale Farm
Riot police broke into the travellers site at Dale Farm on October 19th to begin the eviction of the site. Police broke through protester defences at the rear gate, using both batons and tasers against demonstrators. Several people were injured, including a woman traveller who was later taken to hospital with a suspected back injury.
The use of tasers in a public order situation indicates a potential shift in ACPO policy and has raised fears that tasers may be deployed in other instances of public protest. The last use of these potentially fatal weapons in relation to protest was during raids on a convergence space following G20 protests in April 2009.
Superintendent Trevor Roe of Essex police insisted the use of tasers was in response to violence from a ‘specific individual’, but his account was not supported by eye-witnesses.
Jason Parkinson, a freelance photographer who filmed the incident, told the Guardian the police had only shouted a warning once, and had a hit a demonstrator who was not throwing missiles. “It was within two metres – people were very close. The police were on the offensive and they were not under threat,” he said. “I did not see what happened to him afterwards, but I believe he was one of those arrested.” Parkinson claimed to have heard police shout: “Fuck off or you’ll be shot.” Read more