Reposted with permission from Transition Heathrow
Beginning tomorrow morning and lasting all week at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand a number of different campaign groups, squatters, lawyers and individuals including Transition Heathrow are taking the Police to court over the Royal Wedding squat raids and heavy handed policing that occurred in the run up to last years wedding.
The judicial review could have groundbreaking implications for policing of protests in the UK and is particularly important with the upcoming Olympics.
The day before the Royal Wedding, our squatted community market garden project ‘Grow Heathrow’ was raided by 40 riot police at 7am in the morning along with 4 other squats across London. Why they chose to pay us an unwelcome visit remains unclear. Our part in the court case is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon so please follow our twitter to find out how it all goes in court.
We are still incredibly angry over the disproportionate raid and act of political policing that occurred last year, lets hope the courts see sense and send out a message to the police that they cannot do anything they like to put people off political protest.
The only other big question that needs answering is: will the police be submitting as evidence the ‘dangerous vegetables’ they found that morning?
With less than a week to go until the Judicial Review into the ‘preemptive’ arrests begins at the High Court, Daniel Randall, one of the Charing Cross 10, speaks of his experience.
On the day of the Royal Wedding, myself and nine friends were detained outside Charing Cross station before being arrested and taken to Sutton police station, where we were held until we were eventually released without charge. We believe this happened because we are republicans.
We had gone to Trafalgar Square on the morning of the wedding because we had an event on Facebook announcing a republican protest. When we arrived, the massive numbers of both police and private security (as well as the sheer volume of people in the square) made it clear that holding any kind of protest would be impossible. Whoever had organised the event on Facebook had obviously reached the same conclusions as there was no sign of any republican presence whatsoever. We decided to go instead to the street party in Red Lion Square, Holborn, organised by the pressure group Republic. While we were waiting outside the station for another of our friends to return from the shops, British Transport Police (BTP) officers became interested in who we were and what we were doing there. They searched us under Section 60, finding the homemade placards one of us had brought and a loudhailer. As the BTP was searching us, one of their officers said “the Met have been going round, rounding up people before the wedding, to make sure there’s no problems” (see here). We’d heard about the squat raids that had taken place the night before, and the BTP officer’s comment confirmed our suspicions that the police were using pre-emptive arrests as a political tactic to keep republican voices off the streets and out of the public eye.
The BTP told us that the Metropolitan Police also wanted to speak to us, so detained us outside the station until a group of over 20 officers, including members of the Territorial Support Group, arrived and placed us in a “kettle”. After some time, they moved in and arrested us. We were told we were being detained arrested to “prevent a breach of the peace.”
We were held in handcuffs, without being told where we would be taken and if we would be charged, until we were marched onto a (unmarked, civilian) coach and driven to Sutton police station. Only four of us were booked into cells; the rest were held (still in handcuffs) in the yard of the police station. Eventually a senior police officer emerged to tell us they had decided the threat had passed and that we were free to go.
We believe that what happened to us was unlawful, and that it was part of a politically-motivated policing operation that was also unlawful. The powers accorded to the police by Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act allow them to make arrests in cases in which a breach of the peace is “imminent”. Nothing we did or said, or anything in our behaviour, could possibly have given them reason to believe this was the case. We were arrested because of our political opinions and the belief that, because of those opinions, we might do something which might cause a breach of the peace at some point in the future.
The implication of our arrest was that, on 29 April 2011, it was illegal to be a republican within a designated area. We believe that what happened to us, and other Royal Wedding “precrime” arrestees, has dangerous implications for democracy and civil liberties in Britain. The British state cannot be allowed to get away with attacking freedom of thought and expression in this way.
Judicial Review of Preemptive Royal Wedding Arrests
Fifteen people who were arrested preemptively on the day of the Royal Wedding have been granted permission to challenge their arrests by way of Judicial Review. The claimants, who were arrested from different locations across central London, had not committed any crimes. Those arrested included people on their way to peaceful protests, as well as people the police merely suspected of being on their way to protests. None of the claimants were charged and all were released almost as soon as the public celebrations had finished.
“It is our view that the treatment of our clients was unlawful under common law and was in breach of their fundamental rights under the European Court of Human Rights articles 5, 8, 10 and 11,” said a spokesperson from Bhatt Murphy. “The apparent existence of an underlying policy that resulted in those arrests is a matter of considerable concern with implications for all those engaged in peaceful dissent or protest.”
Those arrested include members of the ‘Charing Cross 10’ who were on their way to a republican street party, the ‘Starbucks Zombies’ who were arrested from an Oxford Street branch of Starbucks for wearing zombie fancy dress, and a man who was simply walking in London and was stopped and arrested by plainclothes officers because he was a ‘known activist’. The arrests have been dubbed ‘precrime’ in many circles.
The arrests, all said to be to prevent anticipated breach of the peace, are part of a trend on the part of Metropolitan Police of using increasingly heavy-handed tactics against peaceful protestors, which manifested itself most recently in the threat to use rubber bullets against students protesting against the rise in tuition fees. Such tactics create a ‘chilling effect’ which dissuades others from protesting in the future.
The use of such tactics, which on the day of the royal wedding appears to have gone so far as to include a policy of carrying out preemptive arrests in order to intercept and prevent public protest and other dissent, raises questions of constitutional significance with regard to the role of policing in a democracy. The granting of permission for a Judicial Review means that those tactics will now be subject to the full scrutiny of the High Court in a 5 day hearing some time in the next year.
Bhatt Murphy is a leading civil liberties firm which specialises in police misconduct, prisoners’ rights, deaths in custody and immigration detention.