Police attempt to break up demo outside Harrods

Taken from Arkangel

Anti fur demonstrators protesting against the world famous Harrods store in Knightsbridge, London on Friday 27th October were accosted by police officers, as the officers attempted to intimidate peaceful protestors.

In a scene that can only be described as farcical, and something that could have come from a sketch from the Monty Python team, an hour into the demonstration police officers from British Transport arrived and asked the demonstrators to remove the anti-Harrods banner which had been attached to a London Underground (LU) sign. The protestors complied and two protesters then held the banner away from LU property. Immediately, 3 police officers from the London police force, the ‘Metropolitan police’, arrived on the scene.

The officers then ordered that the banner be put away – as there was now a new offence of “depositing a thing on the highway”, the officers wouldn’t be more specific and refused to elaborate on this new law. Interestingly however, the senior officer present a Sergeant commented that the police had been in discussions with the Prosecution Service and it had been agreed that holding a banner now constitutes breaking the law. One of the officers even commented that if the banner was touching the floor, then the law is being broken.

This unusual decision by police and the Prosecution Service may give an indication that the crack down on peaceful protest recently is something that has been ordered by a higher authority and is more to do with politics than upholding any laws.

As protestors responded by holding the banner off the ground, this ‘deliberate and wilful act’ of defiance on their part did not go down very well with the officers responsible for “protecting society”, who then proceeded to demand that the banner be removed altogether. However, the protestors, convinced that this was an abuse of police powers, declined to take down the banner. The two principle campaigners organising the demonstration were then ordered to give their details, in order for the police to notify the prosecuting services that an “offence” had been committed.

Having failed to get the banner removed via the new ‘banner offence’, the officers became increasingly agitated and proceeded to cite the law of obstructing the highway. It was clear that no obstruction was taking place and once again the protestors politely declined the request, at which point the officers grabbed the banner and confiscated it. In addition, a bag that belonged to one of the campaigners who had left it for a few seconds was similarly seized by the officers. However, the campaigner managed to hold on to it. An officer warned that if it was left unattended again it would be seized.

By this time a sizeable crowd of members of the public had gathered in order to witness this ‘comedy of errors’, and having failed to stop the protest the police officers left the “scene of the crime”. The crowd were informed by protestors of what had occurred and that it was “taxpayer’s money that was paying for this sort of behaviour.”

Campaigners who were at the scene later commented, “We didn’t let this stop the protest, it just made us more determined, and everyone started carrying placards instead, which actually worked better in the dark.”

In December last year, Harrods, which is Europe’s largest department store, applied to the High Court for an injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Their application was for a 10 metre exclusion zone around the store, which would have pushed the protests across the road, and a ban on the use of megaphones, which would have effectively ended the peaceful protests.

After over 6 months of legal action, 4 High Court hearings, and a mountain of documentation, film footage and photos, an order was granted by the High Court which effectively allowed the protests to continue as they had prior to the injunction proceedings occurring.

Harrods remains the last department store in the UK to stock real fur, 5 years after Parliament banned fur farming. Last winter Harrods stocked a wide range of fur coats, fur trim and fur boots and other accessories. Animals used to make fur garments at Harrods included mink, blue fox, silver fox, musquash, rabbit, beaver, wolf, coyote, chinchilla and squirrel.

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