It shouldn’t really surprise anyone. The Metropolitan Police after all is the force which lied about and tried to cover up its murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, and which lied about and tried to cover up its responsibility for Ian Tomlinson’s death. Now they’re attacking thoroughly peaceful tax protesters with CS spray:
Hundreds of people staged peaceful sit-ins at high street stores around the country as part of the latest UK Uncut day of action, designed to highlight companies it says are avoiding millions of pounds in tax.
In London protesters had successfully closed down Boots in Oxford Street – one of the companies campaigners accuse of tax avoidance – when police tried to arrest a woman for pushing a leaflet through the store’s doors. Other demonstrators tried to stop the arrest and at least one police officer used CS spray, which hospitalised three people.
Jed Weightman, one of those who went to hospital, said protesters had joined hands to try and prevent the arrest.
“One police officer sprayed towards us and because I was tall I got a lot of it in my face,” he said. “My eyes were streaming and I couldn’t see anything.”
Let me make this clear: attacked with CS spray for pushing a leaflet through a door. How on earth can the police not insist that they’re not the violent enforcers of the state, when the evidence is so clear that they are? No doubt they’re following the ACPO line (remember ACPO is a for-profit, 100% unaccountable organisation), believing their violence is justified because of the inevitability of violence in anti-cuts protests. Pity for them they have no evidence for that.
The cop in charge of the for-profit Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has defended recent Met policing of protests in London:
Orde admitted that use of text messages, Twitter and Facebook to organise campaigns in record speed had created “a whole new dimension to public order”.
The Metropolitan police faced questions over its handling of violent student protests last December, but Orde defended the use of “hyper-kettling” – corralling activists into an area then decreasing the space – despite admitting that it could “interfere with the rights of citizens”.
“I can understand the need for it,” he admitted. “[It is done] for the greater good, and that’s the really complex part of policing.”
Orde admitted he feared protests could become more violent as public anger grew over government cuts. He claims that the use of horses to charge protesters was, when “proportionate”, a “very useful, effective tactic”.
It was certain an effective tactic at the last student tuition fees protest outside Parliament. An event which had by all accounts started more or less entirely peacefully became increasingly violent as a direct result of en entirely unnecessary horse charge. The real question is ‘the greater good’ for whom? Certainly not students, teenagers, young people from underprivileged backgrounds or protesters. It’s a strange position to take for someone who has voiced fears in the past about the police being seen as the violent agents of the status quo, and his position on kettling is downright alarming.
Orde, the head of Acpo, a limited company run by police chiefs, criticised the lack of willingness of new protest groups that have sprung up around the internet to engage with police before protests. He said if they continued to refuse to co-operate, then police tactics would have to become more extreme.
“It is not good enough to throw our hands up in the air and say ‘Oh, we can’t negotiate because there is no one to negotiate with,’” he told Prospect magazine in an interview published today. “There are lots of people we can talk to, but they need to stand up and lead their people too. If they don’t, we must be clear that the people who wish to demonstrate won’t engage, communicate or share what they intend to do with us, and so our policing tactics will have to be different … slightly more extreme.”
So what he’s saying is that if students refuse to engage with police who lie about their own tactics and intentions, then they’ll be…beaten pre-emptively around the head for no reason? The more things change…
Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), a for profit organisation, has warned that the police should not be seen as the means by which the ConDems’ will is enforced:
Asked if there was a danger to the police’s reputation by repeated clashes at demonstrations, Orde told the Guardian: “Yes, if it is allowed to be played as the cops acting as an arm of the state, delivering the elected government’s will, rather than protecting the rights of the citizen.
“We need to be clear we are doing it as operationally independent, and not subject to influence by anyone as to how we do it.
“As long as that is maintained we can rebut any allegations that we are doing what we are told by our political masters to advance a political agenda. The police are not against anybody.”
Far too little and far too late. It’s become plainly clear even to children that the opposite is true – they are the state’s enforcers. Rebel against it and face pre-emptive civil liberties restrictions and unprovoked violence. Want some proof?
Tahmeena Bax, a third-year history student at Queen Mary University in east London, said she was hit directly over the head at least three times by a riot officer when police charged a group of kettled protesters on the evening of 30 November.
The incident took place at the north east end of Trafalgar square, close to the National Gallery at around 6pm, as protesters some distance from Bax lifted barriers protecting the police line. The police charged the crowd. “The police suddenly rushed forward and I couldn’t escape. I was hit at least three times, mainly on the right side of my head,” she told the Guardian.
Bax, 20, who had become separated from her fellow protesters from Queen Mary’s, staggered 10m away from the police and collapsed unconscious on the ground.
A witness, Katia Ganfield, said: “I saw her curled up in a ball. There was no response from her. We were all in shock as we didn’t think a young girl would be hit to the ground like that.”
Mr [Jody] McIntyre described what happened: “I was in Parliament Sq with my brother and we saw everyone running to one of the corners so we ran and made our way to the front.
“One policeman hit me with his baton in the shoulder then suddenly four or five of them picked me up, and dragged me from my chair. They carried me quite violently and against my will and put me on the pavement.
“Eventually after about 5 minutes, my brother was let through.
“What was even more shocking though, later on I had moved to the other side of Parliament Sq and I was sitting in my wheelchair in space in the middle of the road. A policeman recognised me from the earlier incident and came running over, pushed me out of my chair and dragged me across the road. This was completely unprovoked.”
Mr. McIntyre has not yet decided whether he will make a complaint against police, but was eager to make the point that this is not an isolated incident. “I’ve been to a lot of these protests and people are always violent with me” he said.
“Even though I’m in a wheelchair, I like to think we’re all equal human beings. There was plenty of violence towards students yesterday, and even though I’ve had media attention, all of this violence is equally disgraceful. But this is standard police behaviour.”
The police watchdog launched an independent investigation today after a 20-year-old student was left unconscious with bleeding on the brain after being hit on the head with a police truncheon.
Alfie Meadows, a philosophy student at Middlesex University, was struck as he tried to leave the area outside Westminster Abbey during last night’s tuition fee protests, his mother said.
After falling unconscious on the way to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Mr Meadows underwent a three-hour operation for bleeding on the brain.
His mother Susan, 55, an English literature lecturer at Roehampton University, said: “He was hit on the head by a police truncheon.
“He said it was the hugest blow he ever felt in his life.
“The surface wound wasn’t very big but, three hours after the blow, he suffered bleeding to the brain.
“He survived the operation and he’s in the recovery room.”
Do you think it’s an act of insanity for a police officer to stop and search someone taking a photograph of a sunset? Tell that story to any reasonable person and they’ll say you made it up, but the truth is stranger than fiction. Matthew Parris recounts the story:
He [BBC photographer Jeff Overs] was there [Andrew Marr Show] to describe an attempt by the Metropolitan Police to stop him photographing a sunset over St Paul’s Cathedral. The officer had been acting, she said, under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. She’d been stopping loads of people taking pictures that afternoon “and nobody’s complained”. I mentioned that I’d been moved on from among the pigeons in Trafalgar Square when recording (into something no bigger than a Dictaphone) for a radio programme about wild animals in London. Mariella said she thought it was sinister.
I think it’s worse than sinister. It’s plumb stupid. Is there anything you could call a presiding human intelligence at work in our counter-terrorism operations? Has nobody in the Met heard of Google Street View? Do senior officers talk to junior officers about priorities, and if so, do they think it likely that al-Qaeda would use operatives carrying professional photographic equipment, rather than disguised as tourists with mobile phones? Do they think that if an officer has reason to suspect someone of taking pictures for the purposes of terrorism, the appropriate response could ever be just to tell them to stop?
For those of you eager to find out what the plods are and aren’t allowed to do as regards photographers and Section 44 have a read of this:
* If police stop and search you, the first thing you should ask is on what grounds they are conducting the search and under what powers.
* Police are able to conduct searches under a number of different pieces of legislation but they usually use either the Public Order Act, the Criminal Justice Act or under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
* Unless you are stopped while driving a car, you do NOT have to give your name or address.
* Police officers are obliged to ask for your given ethnicity. Once again, it is up to you whether you choose to answer or not.
* If police use Section 44 of the Terrorism Act they are entitled to view any images you have taken but they are NOT allowed to delete them. They can only do so with a court order.
* Under Section 58a of the Terrorism Act, police are only allowed to stop a photographer taking pictures of officers if they reasonably suspect the photos are intended to be used in connection with terrorism.
* Whether you are stopped and searched, or merely stopped and accounted for, the police officer should hand you a record of your stop.
Yet of course abuses under Section 44 continue. Take photographer Jerome Taylor:
I was on the South Bank of the Thames trying to compose a shot of the Houses of Parliament last week when two police officers stopped me.
Despite living in London for the past five years I had never photographed the Houses of Parliament before. I wish I’d never bothered. Just as I’d finished fine-tuning my first composition, two officers appeared. “Excuse me, sir,” said one. “My colleague and I would like to perform a stop-and-account on you. Don’t worry, you haven’t done anything wrong.”
For the next 10 minutes I was questioned about my evening and asked to give my height, name, address and ethnicity – all of which was recorded in a form that will now be held at the nearest police station for the next year. The form explained why I had been stopped: “Using a camera and tripod next to Westminster Bridge,” it read.
When asked about Taylor on the BBC, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Britain’s for-profit advisory quango for the police said:
On BBC One, [Chief Constable Andy] Trotter reaffirmed that the two police officers should not have used Section 44 powers to stop Taylor. ‘It’s hard to understand why Jerome was stopped,’ he said. ‘There was no need to do a stop-and-search in that case.’
He added that it was not ‘an offence to take a photograph in a public place. ‘These powers were brought in to protect the public, not to oppress,’ Trotter told BBC One.
Trotter’s comments only reaffirmed guidelines issued by the Home Office that specifically say that photography is legal in the UK and that powers given by the Terrorism Act 2000 shouldn’t be used to prevent photographers from taking images in public.
ACPO says Section 44 was brought in to protect, not to oppress, however yet again when push comes to shove, the police (and Met in particular) do everything in their power to oppress. Matthew Parris is right later in his article when he says all the surveilling a terrorist need do can be done in complete privacy on Google Earth – it’s not just absurd to suspect numerous, clearly law-abiding photographers of terrorism, it’s just plain stupid. But hey that’s the standard of policing we have in this country. They have guidelines from the Home Office and ACPO not to behave like this, yet they persist with next to no accountability.
Following a damning series of articles in The Guardian, the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU), and their sister organisation the National Domestic Extremist Team (NDET) are attempting to justify their existence by raiding and arresting four animal rights activists for conspiracy to commit criminal damage.
NETCU and NDET are run by Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Denis O’Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, will next month release the findings of his national review of policing of protests and has already signalled he anticipates wide scale change. His inspectors are considering a complete overhaul of the ACPO units, which they have been told lack statutory accountability.
Wearing balaclavas, police officers from four different forces carried out the raids yesterday, smashing through doors and spending over ten hours searching two houses. Witnesses to one of the raids described the police as “intimidating” and “threatening”.
Lynn Sawyer – a resident of one of the houses – who was not arrested stated “This was a massive fishing expedition to promote NETCU’s facade of effectiveness whilst attempting to stop protest through pure terrorisation.”
Apart from computers and mobile phones, the police were also interested in financial documents, evidence of travel and association in support of animal rights extremism. Evidence of such extremism included banners, leaflets and a poster from VIVA, a well respected vegetarian/vegan organisation.
Fitwatch activist Emily Apple stated that “This was an entirely disproportionate policing operation undertaken by an increasingly desperate unit. The threatening nature of these raids and using items such as NGO posters and leaflets as evidence of extremism demonstrate NDET’s dubious definition of domestic extremism and their willingness to intimidate protesters and criminalise dissent.”
Notes for Editors:
1. More information on The Guardian’s investigation – http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/25/police-surveillance-protest-domestic-extremism
2. A third ACPO unit dealing with domestic extremism, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, is also being investigated.
3. The term “domestic extremism” does not have a legal definition and has been invented by these units.
4. VIVA are supported by a wide range of people including Joanna Lumley, Michael Mansfield QC and Sir Paul McCartney
The European Court of Human Rights may have ruled it illegal to hold DNA profiles of innocent people on the national database, but that hasn’t stopped the Home Office:
More than 90,000 innocent people have been added to the national DNA database since a landmark human rights ruling that keeping indefinitely the profiles of unconvicted suspects was illegal, according to new figures.
The disclosure comes as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is pressing the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to withdraw guidance to chief constables to carry on collecting DNA profiles of innocent people. It says it will take enforcement action if the chief constables fail to act.
Liberal Democrat research, based on parliamentary answers, shows that 433, 752 profiles have been added to the DNA database since the ruling by the European court of human rights in Strasbourg on 5 December last year – the equivalent of 1,480 a day.
It’s unthinkable that ACPO – a for-profit advisory body should have the power to be able to instruct chief constables to defy the court’s ruling, and heartening that the EHRC has decided to do something about it:
The EHRC has given ACPO 28 days to confirm that the advice to chief constables will be withdrawn and replaced by advice that complies with the law. If ACPO fails to do this, the commission will consider taking formal enforcement action.
The Home Office repeatedly insists on the importance of the database, yet over the last year the number of detections as a result of matches to it fell, whilst its cost doubled to £4.2 million. It pointedly doesn’t comment on why, under those circumstances, there is a need to breach human rights law by continuing to store profiles of innocent people.