Help us raise £2500 to pay for 500 face coverings to distribute to protesters
With the police granted extraordinary discretion by the courts to obtain and retain personal information of protesters, the time has come to everyone taking part in a protest to cover-up their faces.
Wearing a face covering during a protest is entirely legal. Only in limited circumstances can the police require you to remove a mask or scarf and seize it, if a section 60 order is authorised by a senior officer “in anticipation of violence”. This allows the use stop and search powers without grounds for reasonable suspicion, in order to look for weapons.
During arguments over a 2013 appeal against the recording of information about people attending public protests, even London’s police chief admitted a face covering is the most effective way to avoid police photographers and overt intelligence gathering by his officers.
Since then, in March 2015, the UK Supreme Court granted what amounts to judicial approval for the mass surveillance of UK protest movements. From now on, every protester should considering taking the Met’s advice and covering up their face to avoid unwarranted police surveillance. Read more
On Sunday 24 and Monday 25 August, teams of trained, independent ‘Community Monitors’ will observe and record the actions of police officers during this year’s Notting Hill Carnival in west London.
Netpol’s Community Monitoring Project has organised local community scrutiny of the policing operation at the Carnival, working with a group of activists centred around the Community Monitoring Project – West London. ‘Community Monitors’ will observe and gather evidence, talk to attendees about their experiences of street-level policing, hand out legal rights information, and deter police abuse. Read more
In this age of mass surveillance, data analysis, and in-depth profiling, there are good reasons for keeping your name and address off the police database when stopped and searched.
Netpol and our partners in Green & Black Cross frequently stress that police powers to stop and search do not include the power to demand a name and address. Sometimes, however, the police decide not to pay much attention to individuals seeking to assert their rights and instead use stop and search powers as a de facto ID check. Read more
An open letter to Theresa May, Nick Herbert and Bernard Hogan-Howe has been published by a collective of organisations opposing police stop and search policy, including Netpol. The letter calls for, amongst other things, the suspension of s60 stop and search powers, which allow the police to stop and search whoever they wish, without any need for ‘reasonable suspicion’.
There is strong evidence that s60 is disproportionately used against the black and Asian population. In a recent study of protest policing published in July this year, Netpol found that
“s60 is also inappropriately used at political protests to target particular social groups, such as young people, or to harass individuals who are known political activists or associated with particular political groups.”
Nowadays with most of us having a camera on our mobile phones, more and more people are able to film the actions of the police during a stop and search and are choosing to do so.
However, there are a few basic suggestions that may help you to be better prepared, can ensure that deciding to film the police makes a difference and can mean any footage has genuine value as possible evidence.
Why stop and film?
Ordinary people stopping and filming the police can mean that officers behave differently than they would if no-one was watching and recording their actions. This might make the experience for the person who has been stopped far less intimidating or threatening.
The more often the police are filmed stopping people, the more officers may come to expect that they may be filmed in the future, which can influence the way they generally treat people and whether stop & search powers are routinely used indiscriminately. Read more
A detailed new report launched today by the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) highlights how promises made by the police to ‘adapt to protest’ after 2009’s G20 demonstrations in London have been forgotten in a remarkably short space of time and a far more intolerant ‘total policing’ style response to protesters has developed in the UK.
The report, which covers a fourteen month period from late 2010 to the end of 2011, paints a bleak picture of the state of the freedom to protest in the UK. It documents how the tactic of containment known as ‘kettling’, the use of solid steel barriers to restrict the movement of protesters, the intrusive and excessive use of stop & search and data gathering, and the pre-emptive arrests of people who have committed no crime, have combined to enable an effective clamp-down on almost all forms of popular street-level dissent. Read more
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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
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
Re-post from Random Blowe
Last Friday, the Metropolitan police assistant commissioner and national Olympic security co-ordinator, Chris Allison, told the Guardian that his officers are monitoring Twitter and other social media for signs of disorder and, in particular, for organised protest, but that “there doesn’t appear to be anyone who wants to protest against the Games”. This seems like a pretty bold statement to make when there have been demonstrations of one kind or another in every previous Olympic host city. And even if Allison is at least partly right and no-one ‘appears’ to want to protest, is anyone wondering why so little has been formally announced, with just over four months to go before the opening ceremony?
It is undoubtedly the case that critical voices opposing the impact of the Olympics have been fairly weak and disjointed, so the underlying local unease and resentment that many of us are aware of has hardly registered amid the relentless cheerleading from the London Organising Committee and the corporate sponsors. However, speaking to people I work with locally, even those who are generally enthusiastic about the Games, this growing unease results from fears about the level of Olympic security and what it will mean in practice. I live just a mile away from the Olympic Stadium and it does seem less like an event we are actively part of and more like something about to crash-land on us at any moment. For example, the imminent presence of large numbers of armed police Read more
By Saqib Deshmukh
You had to wonder and at the same time be extremely concerned about mass kettles and any rights to free assembly and movement suspended on the 4th of February 2012 in Leicester. The police used their extensive Public Order powers to limit the right of people to protest against the English Defence League (EDL) marching through Leicester City centre. From where I stood (kettled) EDL marchers could wander without hindrance in the city centre, making gestures of defiance and enjoying the actions of the police.
It was business as usual in Leicester, EDL were free to march again and this time the new Mayor and Leicestershire Constabulary acquiesced to their demands and allowed them to march through the city. In contrast Leicester United Against Fascism (UAF), independent anti fascists and groups of young Muslim people were tightly controlled.
I have attended a number of EDL demos up and down the country over the last three years as a Legal Observer and stewarded at the UAF demo on the 4th of February and in 2010. In both years together with the Network for Police Monitoring and agencies such as The Racial Equality Centre (TREC) and the Highfields Centre I have co-ordinated the deployment of community based Legal Observers.
In some towns and cities experienced legal observers from across the UK have been deployed, but in Leicester we took a different route. By training up people from local agencies and community groups we are recognising the local knowledge and understandings that they will have. The Legal Observers are representative of the communities but also have clout at street, so are well placed to be effective monitors. As always the Legal Observers are independent and document police mobilisation and use of powers. In March 2011 Network for Police Monitoring published a report on policing at the last EDL rally in October 2010. Read more