Our hypothetical campaign situation resulting in a civil liberties cluster-fuck happy reading…
Vivisector: I am a vivisector at ToxiKill Ltd.
Protester: I am a campaigner that thinks that ToxiKill Ltd does pointless and dangerous experiments on animals which cost human lives as well as animals I am going to protest outside the lab.
Police Evidence Team: Note new campaign started against ToxiKill Ltd – three campaigners ID currently unknown.
Vivisector (to police): Someone is outside our business holding a placard with a picture of a dog that has been killed in animal experiments, even though this is something I routinely see at work, I don’t like being reminded of my unethical job and I feel slightly uneasy.
Police (to Protesters): Someone has told us you have been “anti social” by displaying a banner which depicts animals which have died as a result of vivisection. Using Section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002 I am asking you for your names addresses and date of birth (although I don’t have any power to ask for DOB I will tell you that you could be arrested if you don’t give it).
Police Evidence Team: Campaigners identified.
Campaign continues for four months with police presence at every demonstration including evidence gatherers.
Protester (to other protesters): Here’s an idea, why don’t we protest against the companies supply ToxiKill Ltd with lab cages?
Other Protester: That’s an excellent idea, why don’t we do some demos against the people who supply them with animals as well?
Police Evidence Team: Campaign tactics have changed suppliers of ToxiKill now being campaigned against tactics peaceful although suppliers say they feel distressed by the protests and they feel that the profits are down since the campaigning started.
Protester (via Megaphone to Arrowlight Biosciences limited): We are here to stay, Arrowlight until you drop ToxiKill we will be here every day!
Police Evidence Team: Blackmail noted.
Protesters then trespass onto Arrowlight property which is a civil offence not a criminal matter unless they are asked to leave then if they refuse it is a criminal matter of aggravated trespass.
Bob (Arrowlight) 999 call: It is Bob here from Arrowlight, protesters are outside our doors which a banner and shouting we feel scared even though there are three of them and they seem calm and two hundred staff members!
Police (arrive at Arrowlight): Under section 14 of the Public Order act I am moving your protest over the road which is roughly 200 metres from the entrance of Arrowlight outside some other place. Making your protest ineffective.
The demonstrations continue for 4 months some protesters are recorded swearing at a van delivering beagle puppies to ToxiKill, police don’t take action but document the swearing.
Meanwhile, Operation LibertyHoover is started.
Police take statements from staff and ask if people would be willing to testify in court if needed. Many staff members agree as they are told it could stop the protests all together. They don’t really care for the right to protest they just want the protests to stop.
Police called to Arrowlight after protests knock on the windows and shout “puppy killers” and “how do you sleep at night animal abusers”. Even though this is a possible section 5 public order offence the police are told not take any action to stop the protest.
One month passes…
The three protesters are raided, their companion animals are let onto the streets and one activist is pushed down the stairs whilst handcuffed behind his back. All computer equipment, campaign materials, clothing, cars and phones are taken the houses are stripped bare.
They are held for twenty hours and questioned by CID and various other officers they are shown emails which they have sent calling for others to protest and told about phone records that show a clear leader in the eyes of the police.
Questions like “who updates the website” and “who is the leader” are asked. “Someone must be organising these demonstrations! Who is the leader?” The police focus on one protester who has been something of a liaison with the press and also seems to (according to phone records) phone other members of the campaign more than others have phoned him.
Police continue to look for a hierarchy even though it is just a couple of individuals who care about animals and have a common goal of stopping vivisection. There is no leader, people are told about times and dates of demonstrations if they wish to attend they are welcome to. The police make the person who turns up on all the demos and makes more phone calls the leader.
They are all charged with Section 145 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act for “Conspiracy to interfere with contractual relationships so as to harm animal research organisation”.
The bail conditions disallow them to attend any animal rights events, speak with other activists and they are given a curfew where they are to be at home between 1900 and 0700. One activist suffers from depression waiting for the trial to start after being disallowed to speak with their friends they find the bail conditions unbearable.
The trial starts a year later, all three plead not guilty, the jury are told about certain security precautions as the trial might make them a target for animal rights extremists. The jury fear for their safety and they start the trial with the mindset that the defendants are dangerous individuals. Extra security is added in the court room to heighten this fear and people giving evidence give it behind a screen as not to be seen by anyone else in the court room.
Witness (ToxiKill worker): I felt intimidated by the protesters I didn’t like the way they said I killed puppies. I found it hard to work at times thinking about having to drive past them again.
Police evidence is shown and a person who isn’t even a defendant swearing at a white van is aired for the first time. Also video footage of protesters knocking on windows is shown, this footage also doesn’t include any of the defendants knocking on the window.
The trial is dragged out for four months, two of the three are found guilty and one is given a 14 month suspended sentence. Although the jury don’t know this, they assume that people wouldn’t face years in prison for so little.
The others are sentenced to four years.
Four years in prison, for:
- One person who wasn’t even a defendant swearing on a demonstration (harassment)
- Other people who weren’t defendants knocking on a window. (harassment)
- Statements from workers saying they found it difficult to work with the protesters outside. (harassment)
- Statements from witnesses who said they were intimidated although the protesters were outside a high security laboratory site with five security on the gate. (harassment)
- Telling your friends that there is a demonstration on Tuesday (conspiracy)
- Telling a supplier you would continue to protest until they stopped doing what they were legally allowed to do (blackmail).
Previous to SOCPA these offences were a section 5 of the public order act and were about as serious as swearing in the street at anyone.
SOCPA takes tiny offences such as Section 5 and then for use against animal rights protesters makes them into huge crimes for which activists can face years in prison.
People can ignore the facts and keep saying it’s only because they are animal rights that they get raided all the time, and you can live in denial that it will never happen to your movement. These laws make a mockery of the freedom to protest and should be recognised for how much they destroy our civil liberties regardless of the movement.
First they came for the animal rights protesters.
I was not an animal rights protester:
Then they came for <insert your movement here>
Then there was no-one left to speak out for me.
Disclaimer: The names of companies, individuals are fictitious and are not intended to resemble any real person or business.