Police Harass Gloucester Animal Activists Part 2

Two activists from Gloucestershire Animal Action were holding an information stall in Stroud on 24th August 2007 when they were approached by police.

One officer’s attitude towards the two individuals became immediately obvious when he began the ‘anything to shut us down and shut us up’ routine and proceeded with comments such as “You are blocking the public highway” ”. The activists were clearly not blocking anything and were set up outside an empty shop.

The statements continued; “We could do you for littering”, “We have had complaints about the imagery on the front of your stall and we want your details. One of the stallholders replied “I would rather not give my details, Have I been anti social?”, “No, but we believe you have committed the offence of blocking the public highway”. The police then warned the activists of impending arrest and told them to stop taking photographs on a camera phone.

When one stallholder continued to refuse to provide his details (as is his legal right to decline such information) the PC moved in for the arrest whereupon the activist went limp and fell to the floor.

The stallholder was then dragged into a vehicle by four police officers whist angry members of the public shouted at police in protest at the blatant police bullying and intimidation taking place. The Mayor of Stroud who was present in the area during the arrest was also horrified and joined onlookers in contempt for the illegal arrest.

We were later informed that the mayor apparently reprimanded the police for their extreme tactics against freedom of expression.

After arriving at the police station the stallholder was interviewed during which an officer admitted the interview was only “to cover his back” in regards to his use of force. After a seemingly not-so-sincere apology from the police the stallholder was released from custody with “No further action” taken.

Needless to say the so-called ‘apology’ from the police does not mark the end of this situation and legal action against the force and officers in question will (as always) be the next step in this ordeal.

Local press were present during the whole ordeal and said the arrest had a very good chance of making front-page news as the force used by the police was so excessive and many onlookers were distressed by such brutality.

(..And here is the article below which was printed in today’s local Stroud newspaper)

Young campaigner arrested in High Street
Original article at Stroud News and Journal
Wednesday August 29th 2007

SHOPPERS watched in disbelief as a team of seven police officers dismantled an animal rights stall set up by two young campaigners in Stroud High Street.

Shortly after, one of the pair, Chris Potter, 17, was bundled into the back of a police car after mounting a sit down protest when officers demanded his name and address.

The youngster and friend Ziggy Ramone, 26, from Nailsworth, had been running a stall on Friday to raise awareness of animal testing and the fur trade.

But despite agreeing to move on, the first officer to arrive called for backup and Chris was arrested after refusing to give his details.

Police, who were called to investigate a complaint about the stall around 2.15pm, said the pair did not have a trading licence and were potentially obstructing a public highway.

While no trading licence was required, the pair were accepting donations and should technically have applied to the district council for a collection permit.

But many shoppers who saw the incident felt the police were heavy-handed and could have handled the situation in a less confrontational manner.

Town mayor John Marjoram, who witnessed the incident, was surprised by the police response.

“For the past 25 years there has never been a problem with people who are campaigning and not selling things,” he said.

“It’s part and parcel of being a liberal town and it helps add to the colour of the street.

“They were directly behind a letter box so I couldn’t see how they were blocking the street.

“I felt it was extraordinary to have so many police there for two youngsters.”

David Michael, 51, from Springhill, Stroud, also watched as officers made the arrest, dismantled the stall and seized a pot of donations.

“It was quite overwhelming and was an incredible over-reaction,” he said.

“I think it’s fantastic that young people are taking a stand as so many are disenfranchised these days.”

Another shopper, Gill Rogers, who was visiting Stroud from Bristol, said: “Does it honestly take seven policemen to move on one young man?

“I didn’t want to sign his petition but I did feel sorry for the guy.”

Another shopper handed over £20 when he saw what happened.

Chris, who has campaigned for Gloucestershire Animal Action for the past year, sat on the floor in protest after what he felt was an unreasonable request for his details.

“For the police to turn up and start demanding my details I felt was a little intimidated,” he said.

“We were just giving out information.”

Ziggy, a professional model, echoed her friend’s concerns.

“Lots of people stopped and we certainly weren’t forcing our opinions on anyone,” said the former Stroud High School pupil, who added that they never ask for money.

According to Stroud District Council’s licensing department, groups do not require a permit to set up a stall if they are not trading.

Commercial services manager Phil Park said: “If people are not actually selling anything they do not need the council’s consent.”

However, a collection permit, which is available free of charge from the council, is required if money is handed over, even if it is a donation.

Chris was released by police without charge less than an hour after his arrest.

A Gloucestershire police spokesman said Chris, from Gloucester, was arrested for refusing to give his details.

“There are rules and regulations governing the setting up of these stalls,” he said.

“If he had given his details in the first place, which is something he later did in the custody suite, it would have saved everybody a lot of time and hassle.”

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