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 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
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.
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
Anti-fracking vigil to call on Lancashire Police to “Stop Trampling on Our Freedom to Protest”
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.
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
Lancashire Police face growing industry pressure to ‘crack down’ on anti-fracking protests
Since we highlighted, at the beginning of March, the increasingly confrontational operation by Lancashire Police against anti-fracking campaigners at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, more protesters have complained of violence and officers pushing them towards busy traffic.
This escalation in aggressive police tactics has coincided with a campaign of pressure from supporters of the onshore oil and gas industry, conducted mainly through the pages of the Times newspaper, which has called for the police and courts to respond more robustly towards the anti-fracking movement. Read more
Video evidence of an assault on Tuesday by a Lancashire Police officer on a Fylde borough councillor, Roger Lloyd, points to an escalation of more ‘robust’ and aggressive tactics by police against anti-fracking protests at Cuadrilla’s shale gas exploration site near Blackpool.
This is the latest in a series of decisions made by local police that is likely to make it more difficult for protesters to know with any certainty what treatment they are likely to receive and whether police will genuinely protect their right to protest.
Feedback from supporters who took part in last week’s Domestic Extremism Awareness Day was very clear – people believe strongly that the freedom to protest remains valuable and important and deserves protection from efforts by the state to undermine and disrupt its effectiveness.
Campaigners resent the smearing of their activism as ‘extremism’, not only because this label is evidently so easy to apply without the slightest evidence, but because it seems deliberately intended to drive away wider public support. Read more
Launched in 2013, Netpol’s annual “Domestic Extremist Awareness Day” takes place on Monday 6 February. This year, we are calling for a complete end to the meaningless but sinister use of the ‘domestic extremist’ label against all legitimate political dissent.
As we have argued repeatedly over the last couple of years, the term “domestic extremist” means pretty much whatever the police want it to mean.
It is a critical justification for state surveillance on protest movements in the UK, but both the government and the police have struggled to devise a credible definition robust enough to withstand legal scrutiny. As a result, Prime Minister Theresa May’s flagship counter-terrorism and safeguarding bill, announced back in May 2016, is currently floundering precisely because government lawyers have still been unable to codify ‘extremism’ or ‘British values’ in ways that are compatible with fundamental rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Read more