SOCPA – violent arrests in parliament square this morning

Original article posted on Indymedia 22nd November 2006

barbara tucker, who had a major victory in court yesterday against police, was violently arrested in parliament square this morning, after trying to peacefully demonstrate with banners, as prime minister tony blair arrived for question time. member of parliament and left-wing leadership challenger john mcdonnell has written to the police commissioner for an explanation.

barbara tucker has been the victim of police harrassment over the last year as she continues her always peaceful demonstration against blair’s genocide in iraq and afghanistan. she has been reported for the offence of ‘unauthorised’ demonstrating on more than sixty occasions. she has also been charged with assaulting police officers, obstructing police officers, and highway obstruction.

in what increasingly looks like a personal vendetta, superintendent terry has held her in police cells for 23 hours before sending her to court without a lawyer, and then outrageously attempted to have her imprisoned while on bail for the alleged ‘highway obstruction’ offence. police also called for bail conditions preventing her from entering the designated zone around parliament, but this was thrown out almost immediately by a judge on appeal. superintendent terry even tried to have barbara sectioned under the mental health act, but thankfully she was accompanied by a solicitor at the time, who had never witnessed anything like it, and who forced the police to record ‘no further action’ on barbara’s file.

despite the scores of ‘reports’ for unauthorised demonstrating, police have so far failed to take barbara to court for all these breaches. the one case they did bring was thrown out by the magistrate as ‘void ab initio’ which is latin for ’empty from the beginning’ and suggests the whole case was flawed from the start. it is often a term used when judges believe a prosecution is malicious or corrupt, but they’re not allowed to state it in such stark terms.

since then, police have tried to stick to non-socpa charges against barbara, attempting to separate other alleged misdemeanours and have them heard out of context of the socpa issue. recently they have been trying to get an ‘obstruction of a police officer’ case heard, but yesterday in a pre-trial hearing, barbara won the right to put most of her cases together and have the context right in front of a magistrate – something which could blow a big whole in any police prosecution and open them up for severe criticism.

so, given the apparent police vendetta against her, and their bloodied nose in court yesterday, it didn’t come as much of a surprise to me to hear that she and steve jago (who has also been treated similarly by police, suffering several violent arrests and spurious charges while going about his peaceful protesting) were attacked just after 11.30 this morning.

the two protesters took up position on the small traffic island between parliament square proper, and the bottom of whitehall. they have done this before when blair passes for prime ministers question time, and they are both legally participants in brian haw’s ‘authorised’ demonstration in the square when they join him on for this on wednesdays. but today was different, and they were soon swooped on by several police under the command of inspector price of charing cross. the ‘socpa’ offence (which they weren’t committing anyway) is ‘reportable’ rather than arrestable, but this didn’t impede the officers as they pushed barbara and steve first against the railings, and then dragged them into parliament square where they forced them down onto the ground. barbara’s face was covered with mud as she was led off to the police van, and both looked very alarmed and distressed by the police actions.

delegates from a ‘unison’ union demonstration saw the whole thing and were shocked by the sight of peace activists being attacked in this way.

later, member of parliament john mcdonnell (who is standing against blair in a future leadership contest), came over to the square to collect information about what happened. he has written the following letter to the police commissioner, sir ian blair:

“22nd november 06

re: arrests in parliament square

i am writing as a matter of urgency to express my strong concern at the arrest of peaceful campaigners in parliament square this morning at approximately 11.40am.

my understanding is that the two campaigners, barbara tucker and steve jago, simply held up placards in the normal manner on the corner of parliament square as the prime minister was travelling to parliament for prime minister’s question time. this has been a normal practice associated with the ongoing peace protest in parliament square. however, today, a large number of police arrived on foot, pounced upon the demonstrators, and forced them onto the railings and onto the walled section of the square. this caused them considerable distress and physical pain with risk of further injury. i now understand that the protesters are being held in charing cross police station.

i believe that the police team was led by an inspector price.

i am writing as a matter of urgency to inquire into the whereabouts of the two peace protesters and to request an investigation into why this action was taken in this manner.”

the mp, who represents hayes and harlington, had to shoot back for a northern ireland bill, but promised to attend the square again tomorrow as part of brian haw’s 2000th day celebration.

solicitors have attended charing cross police station, but there is no news yet as to the charges against barbara and steve or about their well-being or possible release time. i will obviously update here as soon as there is any news.

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