The UN’s Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai is visiting the UK next week. We assess what has changed in relation to the freedom to take part in protests – and what issues remain a concern – since his last official visit three years ago.
Netpol was one of a number of groups who met Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, when he last visited the UK in January 2013. His report on that visit was published in June 2013 [, 588 kB].
Next week we are meeting him again. Here are some issues we think he should consider – and a reminder of how in a number of important respects, little has changed since his last report. Read more
Researchers question violence and harassment against protesters and police’s role in seeking to undermine the legitimacy of the protest
A new report on the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) operation at the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp in Salford from November 2013 until April 2014, produced by researchers from Liverpool John Moores University and the University of York, has raised serious questions about police violence and harassment against protesters “including gendered violence experienced by women” and “the dominant media and public portrayal of the protest and the protesters, including the role played by GMP in influencing this portrayal”.
The report’s key findings highlight how, although the Barton Moss protest was overwhelmingly peaceful, the nature and scale of GMP’s operation had the effect of undermining the right of protesters to protest peacefully. It argues that “violent behaviour and harassment were central features of the policing operation”, with several women reporting “sexualised violence by GMP officers”, drawing particular attention to the role played by the force’s specialist public order Tactical Aid Unit. Read more
Crown Prosecution Service expected to drop further cases as a result of judge’s ruling on ‘slow walking’ protest at Barton Moss anti-fracking camp
A District Court judge in Manchester has ruled that two protesters, John Wasilewski and David Cohen, who engaged in a ‘slow walk’ at Barton Moss anti-fracking camp in February 2014, were not guilty of aggravated trespass. A third defendant, Boris Roscin, was found guilty because he had knelt down in the road.
UPDATE 7 February 2016: The CPS has formally discontinued a further 20 similar cases and up to 20 more are currently under review.
The headlines said an independent investigation into the policing of anti-fracking protests at Barton Moss in Salford had “cleared officers of brutality”. Netpol looks more closely at the report.
In March 2014, as a response to controversy over the policing operation at Barton Moss, Greater Manchester Police & Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd set up an ‘Independent Advisory Panel on the Policing of Protest’. Its remit was to “provide strategic advice on how police manage major demonstrations” and on 16 October, it published the findings of its first investigation, into policing at the anti-fracking camp in Salford. Read more
The association representing trades councils across the Manchester metropolitan area has warned Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd of an erosion of the right to protest and calls for a review of the activities of Greater Manchester Police’s Tactical Aid Unit
Along with evidence that some Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officers are breaching force regulations by failing to wear shoulder identification and serious questions about the impartiality of GMP’s policing operation at Barton Moss, Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd now faces a call by trade unionists for an urgent independent review of GMP’s public order unit. Read more
The release of ‘Memoranda of Understanding’ between drilling companies and the police in both Greater Manchester and Sussex raises more questions about the impartiality of policing operations targeting anti-fracking activists
In February 2014, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Sir Peter Fahy, was widely reported complaining that anti-fracking protesters at Barton Moss, Salford, were “constantly try and provoke officers and are personally insulting to them” and insisting the policing operation was entirely impartial. He told the press:
“We have to be there to ensure the protest is peaceful and to balance the rights of the protesters and those wanting to carry out drilling on the site which are both lawful activities. The police are stuck in the middle.”
But was Greater Manchester Police (GMP) really just a neutral participant, placed in the difficult position of negotiating the competing demands of protesters and the drilling company IGas? The release of the Memorandum of Understanding (, 695 kB) that GMP signed with the company, following a Freedom of Information request by Netpol, suggests otherwise. Read more
The conduct of Greater Manchester Police during a recent pro-Palestine demonstration is under scrutiny as photographs show a number of officers failing to display identification numbers, in breach of force regulations.
Concealment of the identification numbers of police officers, or simply failing to display them, has been an issue for at least a decade: the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s report into the policing of a pro-hunting Countryside Alliance protest in Parliament Square in September 2004 said that officers were instructed to wear “yellow jackets with black epaulettes containing their numbers” but that there were “clear examples recorded on CCTV of some officers ignoring this instruction”. Read more