Tagged Occupy

Finding common cause against Prevent strategy

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Sign outside St Paul’s Cathedral at Occupy London, November 2011. PHOTO: Netpol

This week’s Guardian report revealing how a City of London Police presentation to nursery staff included Occupy, environmentalists and student protesters alongside al-Qaeda and the IRA has attracted understandable anger. Our full comment to journalist Ben Quinn, some of which appeared in the article, said:

In our experience, the City of London Police’s conflation of protest with terrorism and violence is unfortunately repeated up and down the country, the result of including ill-defined labels like “domestic extremism” within the language and strategies of counter-terrorism.

Programmes like the government’s Prevent strategy overwhelmingly target and stigmatise Muslim communities but as ‘Project Fawn’ shows, they also provide plenty of scope to include almost any group of political activists that the police dislike or consider an inconvenience. These slides show a real disdain for legitimate rights to exercise freedoms of expression and assembly in a free society,which leads to individuals having their lawful activities recorded and retained on secret police intelligence databases.

Seeking to convince nursery staff to identify and report such a broad range of dissenting voices is sinister and alarming, but we fear it’s about to become commonplace. The new statutory duty for front-line public services to participate in ‘anti-radicalisation’ – not just the police, but GPs, hospitals and schools – risks creating an army of snoopers and informants, quietly noting down more and more people’s ‘unacceptable’ political views. Read more

February Policing Round-up – Part Two: the policing of protest

The following are brief reports on the policing of various protests taking place in February, primarily based on the observations of police monitors. If you were a participant in any of these protest, or any others, and feel you can add to what is said below, please get in touch with us on info@networkforpolicemonitoring.org.uk.

The policing of EDL demonstrations

Muslim youth kettled in Leicester

A senior youth and community worker has called for an enquiry into the policing of the EDL protest on 4th February addressing why there was a disproportionate policing of one section of the community, and the impact this will have on further marginalising Muslim young people in the political system.

Saqib Deshmukh, who is one of the key organisers in the Justice for Habib ‘Paps’ Ullah campaign, made the call after groups of young Muslims were kettled whilst EDL members were free to wander through the town.

Saqib also criticised the use of the Children Act to deter young people from taking part in lawful protest against the far right group. Leaflets produced by Leicestershire constabulary, warning that under 18’s could be picked up by police and ‘taken to a place of safety’, were distributed to every secondary school pupil in the city.

Leicester police kettle Muslim youth

The EDL and BNP in Hyde Manchester

The British National Party and the English Defence League also held a rally / march in Hyde, Manchester on 25th February, ostensibly in response to a perceived race attack on a white man in the city.

Police cordons had been set up, but police monitors reported that police allowed a car of EDL to pass through police lines and head towards a local mosque where the local community had congregated. The incident was minor, but raised tensions. A further flashpoint occurred when a group of EDL supporters broke through police lines to taunt Muslims from a distance of around 50 yards. Read more

Eviction of Occupy LSX

photo @occupylsx

In the event, the eviction of Occupy LSX was handled with competent police efficiency, but little regard for the safety or welfare of the people being removed.

The first phase was the use of overwhelming police numbers – forty vans were counted by a police monitor – to close off the front of St Paul’s and create a ‘sterile area’ keeping out any further support for the occupiers. Once established, the ‘sterile zone’ was periodically expanded, as police pushed forward against the people gathering there, using force, and without warning.

Inside the camp, it was officially the job of the bailiffs to evict the occupiers. But an eye-witness told us the police were eager to take over.

“The police were clearly keen to step in and do the job for them. They were waiting for any excuse. Then they realised that the occupiers had some water, and they were sloshing water about. Clearly you couldn’t have bailiffs getting wet. That’s when the police in their riot gear effectively took over.”

The police cleared the site quickly and efficiently, but without a great deal of regard for the niceties of health and safety. They tore at the temporary structures, and pulled people roughly to the ground from platforms occupiers were refusing to leave. One told how he had been grabbed by his face and thrown down from a height of six foot onto solid paving. A piano pulled away by the police toppled and fell on to the leg of one of the occupiers.

Throughout the entire eviction two forward intelligence / evidence gathering teams filmed and photographed everyone who was there, and the police made a total of 23 reported arrests.

The police also dragged away people praying on the steps of St Pauls Cathedral, despite the fact that they eviction order did not cover this area. Read more

Kettling the powers of the police – November policing

Education and public sector protests in London

Two major marches took place in London during November – the education demo through The City on 9th November and the Public Sector march on 30th November. Both events marked Hogan-Howe’s first major outings for “total policing”, with controlling excessive policing prevailing.

Control, containment and dispersal

The preceding days set the tone for both marches, with letters sent to all those arrested on previous student/anti-cuts protests warning against committing, or witnessing, any disorder.

However, the majority of recipients of these letters were not charged with any offence, and many of those who received the letters felt the police were trying to intimidate them away from lawful protest.

The education demo was surrounded by police from the beginning, giving the feel and appearance of being a moving kettle. Wapping boxes patrolled by riot police armed with short and long shields guarded most side streets.

Public order fencing in Trafalgar Square on N30 - http://blog.julesmattsson.co.uk/

Public order fencing in Trafalgar Square on N30 - http://blog.julesmattsson.co.uk/

Whilst there were kettles throughout the day, they weren’t imposed for the scale and duration of previous demonstrations. Instead, in a change of tactics, the police advocated dispersal, with conditions imposed determining the length of the end rally. This impacted on the rights to freedom of expression and association of protesters, especially since, at many recent protests, people have held general assemblies and discussions at the end of protests.

Although the public sector march was too large to be policed as a moving kettle, there was a large police presence, and mobile public order fences were erected on Whitehall to prevent unauthorised protest. This control of the route even extended to individuals trying to leave the protest. Two police monitors who tried to leave at Trafalgar Square were immediately grabbed by TSG officers who forced them to return to the designated protest route on the basis two people might form a breakaway protest. Read more

Kurdish protester beaten unconscious by Met police and left without medical attention for two hours

injured Kurdish protestor on the pavement A Kurdish protester required hospital treatment on Sunday night (27th November) after falling unconscious, having been hit on the head from behind by a police baton. Footage and images taken on the scene show the man lying flat out on the floor, covered in a space blanket. Despite the seriousness of his condition, witnesses have stated it took between two to three hours for an ambulance to reach him, despite repeated requests. Witnesses further stated they were informed by the Ambulance Service that an ambulance had been turned away by the police.

The protest, a counter demonstration to a Turkish nationalist march, was peaceful until the police assaulted a well known community journalist, causing objections from the crowd. Batons were drawn, and, according to witnesses, people were shoved, pushed and hit. Protesters were kettled, with many searched, photographed and forced to give details before being allowed to leave.

Val Swain, from Netpol: The Network for Police Monitoring stated:

“We are appalled to hear the police, not only failed to facilitate prompt treatment of a seriously injured man, but actively delayed treatment occurring. This neglect could have led to devastating consequences.

“Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a long line of attempts by the Metropolitan Police to repress and silence the Kurdish community. In the last two months alone, the Halkevi Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre in Hackney has been raided by anti-terrorism officers, and armed police have raided the Kurdish tent at Occupy LSX. There have been no charges from either raid, and this intimidation of a community must not be tolerated.”

Kettling the powers of the police – October Policing

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

Kettling the powers of the police – October Policing

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

Netpol guide to the law and occupations now published

UK uncut occupation - people sat on the floor in a clothes shopProduced for use by legal observers (although activists may want to read it too!), Netpol has now published a guide to the law and occupations. It is written with uk uncut -style occupations in mind, but applies to all sorts of situations where protesters decide to use the tactic of occupying private premises or land. Covering trespass, use of force, rights to photography, lock-ons, and the most commonly encountered reasons for arrest, this is essential reading for anyone monitoring the policing of protest.

Guide to the law and occupations

Having published this guide, we’d welcome feedback. We’d love to hear how police and security have behaved during the course of the occupations, whether arrests were made, and for what, and what the outcome of prosecutions have been. We’d also love to hear about any uses (or misuses) of the law, or of the behaviour of police or security, that we haven’t covered here.

Please get in touch and tell us about the policing of your occupation (or any other protest come to that…)
info@networkforpolicemonitoring.org.uk

Netpol have also written other guides for legal observers:

A guide to ‘kettles’
A guide to being a legal observer
A guide to setting up a legal observer team