Students!

THe Daily Mail made some interesting comments about yesturdays student demonstration in London and the subsequent trashing of the Tory Party HQ.
First they say that NETCU was disbanded in October 2010. The website is still up the last post being on the 25th when the second SHAC case concluded.
Then they say that NPIOU (who have files on 1822 of us at the last count) has had it’s budget cut by 20%.
The political police who reside on the 7th floor of Scotland Yard it would seem needed a boost and how could the government possibly justify cutting police child protection teams to the bone whilst allowing the bloated budget of NETCU, NDET, NPIOU to continue? Well a nice little riot is one way, let it happen and then terrify people about the consequences of allowing Class War and “animal rights extremists” (both seemingly blamed by a senior police officer in the DM) to be at liberty.
THe DM appears to say that FIT teams and the NPIOU should be given a big budget and licence to deal with the nasty anarchists.
Even more telling is police Inspector Gadget’s blog with one cop commenting at 08.08 this morning, “I would suggest NPIOU is a bit safer in regards its budget today”. Yes it would appear so, no doubt Nick Herbert’s speech later today will shed some light, I just hope that he remembers that when he was a student in Cambridge that his youthful high jinks did not count against him.
Regardless some people need to take security measures, no doubt the tablois will be posting up pictures of those wanted for arrest.

Police chief reflects on the surveillance society

Police chief’s ‘Orwellian’ fears
BBC News May 20th 2007

A senior police officer has said he fears the spread of CCTV cameras is leading to “an Orwellian situation”.

Deputy chief constable of Hampshire Ian Readhead said Britain could become a surveillance society with cameras on every street corner.

He told the BBC’s Politics Show that CCTV was being used in small towns and villages where crime rates were low.

Mr Readhead also called for the retention of some DNA evidence and the use of speed cameras to be reviewed. His force area includes the small town of Stockbridge, where parish councillors have spent £10,000 installing CCTV.

Mr Readhead questioned whether the relatively low crime levels justified the expense and intrusion.

‘Every street corner?’

“I’m really concerned about what happens to the product of these cameras, and what comes next?” he said.

“If it’s in our villages, are we really moving towards an Orwellian situation where cameras are at every street corner? “And I really don’t think that’s the kind of country that I want to live in.”

There are up to 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain – about one for every 14 people. The UK also has the world’s biggest DNA database, with 3.6 million DNA samples on file.

“Police want power to crack down on offensive demo chants and slogans”

· Present curbs are too light, Met chief to tell Goldsmith
· Rights groups say officers would be ‘censors in chief’

Vikram Dodd
Monday November 27, 2006
The Guardian

Police are to demand new powers to arrest protesters for causing offence through the words they chant and the slogans on their placards and even headbands.

The country’s biggest force, the Metropolitan police, is to lobby the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, because officers believe that large sections of the population have become increasingly politicised, and there is a growing sense that the current restrictions on demonstrations are too light.

Trouble at recent protests involving Islamic extremists has galvanised the Met’s assistant commissioner, Tarique Ghaffur, into planning a crackdown. His proposals are due to be sent to Lord Goldsmith, who is reviewing how effective the current laws are in tackling extremists.

The police want powers to proscribe protest chants and slogans on placards, banners and headbands. Human rights experts say that such powers could also be used against protesters such as animal rights and anti-globalisation activists. The civil rights group Liberty said the powers would make the police “censors in chief”.

Mr Ghaffur has previously advocated banning flag burning. But this document would take the police a lot further. Mr Ghaffur says there is a “growing national and international perception” that the police have been too soft on extremist protesters, which has led to rising anger across the country. “The result has been to create an imbalance in public perception that is manifesting itself in passionate responses from elements of the community not traditionally given to publicly protesting. What we are seeing in effect is a rise in the politicisation of middle England and the emergence of a significant challenge for capital city policing.”

As well as the absence of a law banning the burning of a flag, there is no law banning the burning of a religious text.

The police want powers to tackle a “grey area” in the array of public order laws. At present, causing offence by itself is not a criminal offence.

“There must be a clear message that we will not allow any extremist group to display banners or make public statements that clearly cause offence within the existing law,” the document says.

The document continues: “Is the sand shifting in our collective viewpoint around what constitutes ‘causing offence’? Equally, we need to have a clearer determination of current community perceptions around what ‘public offence’ actually means. We also need to think more laterally around how we police public demonstrations where ‘offence’ could be caused, while still respecting the British position around freedom of speech.”

The document, entitled “The widening agenda of public demonstrations and radicalisation”, says Islamic extremists have learned how to cause offence without breaking the law. It also reveals that the government has yet to implement the bill outlawing religious hatred which received royal assent in February. It says that the law may prove useless against extremists: “Virtually all activity by protesters could constitute insulting or abusive language, behaviour or banners towards particular religions, but would fall outside the remit of inciting religious hatred.”

The director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, said: “[The proposal] misunderstands the nature of law and free expression in a democracy and casts the police as censors in chief. It aims to protect people from ‘offence’ rather than harm, slates the CPS and muses wildly on ‘public perceptions’.”

After protests against the Danish cartoons in London, organised by a radical Muslim group, Scotland Yard received 100 complaints demanding action against the protesters.

A solicitor who has defended protesters, Mike Schwarz, said: “Causing offence, if there is no other ingredient, is not against the law.” He said such proposed powers would clash with article 10 of the European convention on human rights which protects freedom of expression.

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.

The limits of liberty: We’re all suspects now

Identity cards. Number-plate surveillance. CCTV. Control orders. The list of ways in which the Government has sought to manipulate and define the limits of our liberty grows ever longer.

Ten years ago, the novelist and polemicist Henry Porter would have felt silly speaking out about human rights in Britain. But that was before the most fundamental assault on personal freedom ever undertaken.

Published: 19 October 2006 The Independent

On new year’s day 1990, three days after becoming president of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel looked his people in the eye and spoke to them as no one had done before. It is difficult to read his words without feeling the vibration of history of both the liberation and the horrors of the regime that had just expired, leaving the Czech people blinking in the cold sunlight of that extraordinary winter.

This is what he said. “The previous regime, armed with its arrogance and intolerant ideology, reduced man to a force of production. It reduced gifted and autonomous people to nuts and bolts of some monstrously huge, noisy, stinking machine whose real meaning was not clear to anyone. It could do no more but slowly and inexorably wear itself out, and all the nuts and bolts too.”

That perfectly defines the true tyranny, where the state takes all liberty and bends each individual will to its own purpose. And here is the interesting thing that Havel put his finger on: no matter how brutal or ruthless the regime, the act of depriving people of their freedom starts the stopwatch on that regime’s inevitable demise. What he was saying was that in modern times a state can only thrive in the fullest sense when individuals are accorded maximum freedom.

I agree. Individual liberty is not just the precondition for civilisation, not just morally right, not just the only way people can reach their full potential, live responsibly and have fun; it is also a necessity for the health of government. Ten years ago I would have felt silly speaking about liberty and rights in Britain with the very real concern that I have today. But I am worried. And it’s not just me. Last month Le Monde asked “Is Democracy Dying in the West?”. In the spring of this year Lord Steyn, the distinguished former law lord, made a speech despairing at this Government’s neglect for the Rule of Law, which was followed by Baroness (Helena) Kennedy’s alarm call in the James Cameron Lecture.

The inescapable fact is that we have a Prime Minister who repeatedly makes the point that civil liberties arguments are not so much wrong as made for another age [my italics]. We have a Government that has ignored the Rule of Law, reduced rights and has steadily moved to increase the centralised power of the state at the expense of the individual.

So I don’t feel quite as silly or as alarmist as I might.

The relationship between the state and individual is really at the heart of any discussion about democracy and rights. In Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union it was the state’s mission not just to prevent people from expressing themselves, from moving about freely and unobserved, from pursuing their chosen careers and acting upon their religious and political convictions, but to stop them from thinking freely. It needed to occupy people’s thoughts – to take up a kind of permanent residency in the mind of the average citizen. And as the many psychological studies published in the Nineties make clear, this led to psychic disrepair on a massive scale – paranoia, clinical depression, chronic internalised anger and learned helplessness.

We fell morally ill, Havel said in that speech, because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore one another, to care only about ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility or forgiveness lost their depth and dimensions, and for many of us represented only psychological peculiarities.

Why am I harping on about communism? It died and was buried 17 years ago, at least in Europe and Russia. We’re into another century. We’ve got Google and speed-dating and globalisation and melting ice caps and reality TV and al-Qa’ida and al-Jazeera and Al Gore. We’ve moved on.

As a character in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys says, there is no period more remote in history than the recent past. Indeed, but we need to remember that recent past a little more than we do. For one thing, our knowledge of what existed on the other side of the Iron Curtain meant we valued and looked after our own freedoms much more than we do today.

It is perhaps the absence of an obvious confrontation between freedom and tyranny that allows Tony Blair to say that civil liberties arguments are made for another age. I profoundly disagree with this. It is dangerous arrogance to say that the past has nothing to teach us and that all the problems we face now are unique to our time.

During his speech to the Labour Party conference, Tony Blair said: “I don’t want to live in a police state, or a Big Brother society or put any of our essential freedoms in jeopardy. But because our idea of liberty is not keeping pace with change in reality, those freedoms are in jeopardy.”

What in heaven’s name did he mean by that? Liberty is liberty. You can’t update it. You can’t divide it. You are either free, or you’re not. A society is either just, or it isn’t. People have rights or they don’t. The rule of law is upheld, or it isn’t.

But Blair believes there is nothing that can’t be modernised, updated, pared down or streamlined to keep pace with change. And liberty is no exception to the modernising fury which serves as New Labour’s only ideological foundation. What the Prime Minister is saying in this cute little Orwellian paradox is that in the particular circumstances of the war on terror and the rash of crime and anti-social behaviour, we must give up freedom to be free.

What an odd idea! Who is to decide which freedoms are essential and which can be sacrificed to make us secure? Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Lord Falconer or the former Stalinist and now Home Secretary John Reid?

“Those who would give up essential liberty,” observed Benjamin Franklin, “to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither freedom or safety.” That’s exactly right because you can’t barter one for the other even though that has been the tempting deal on offer from the British and American governments since 9/11. The truth of the matter is that relinquishing our rights in exchange for illusory security harms each one of us, and our children and grandchildren. Because once gone, these rights hardly ever return.

But let’s just return to the first part of that statement by Tony Blair – the bit about him not wanting to live in a police state, or a Big Brother society. Don’t get me wrong, we do not live in either a police state or a Big Brother society – yet. But there is no Englishman alive or dead who has done more to bring them about.

The trouble is that it’s happening so very quietly, so very discreetly that few really see it. You have to concentrate very hard to understand what’s going on and put the whole picture together because so much has been buried in obscure corners of legislation.

We used to believe in innocence until guilt was proved by a court. Not any longer. That distinction disappeared when the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act came into force and police started taking innocent people’s DNA and fingerprints and treating them as a convicted criminals.

We used to believe in Habeas Corpus. Not any longer. Under terrorism laws, suspects may be held for 28 days without being charged. Now the Home Secretary wants to make that 90 days, and Gordon Brown seems to share that view.

We used to believe that there should be no punishment without a court deciding the law had been broken, and that every defendant had the right to know the evidence against him. Not any longer. Control orders effectively remove both those rights and John Reid said recently that he wanted stronger powers to detain and control, and stronger powers to deport, which would clearly require the UK to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights.

We used to believe that an Englishman’s home was his castle. Not any longer. A pincer movement by the Courts Act 2003 and the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 put paid to the 400-year-old principle that entry into your home could not be forced in civil cases.

We used to believe in the right to be tried by jury. Not any longer. The Government plans to remove trial by jury in complicated fraud cases and where there is a likelihood of jury tampering. It would like to go further.

We used to believe there was a good reason not to allow hearsay evidence in court. Not any longer. The anti-social behaviour order legislation introduced hearsay evidence. The maximum penalty for breaking an Asbo can be up to five years in jail. Hearsay can send someone to jail.

We used to believe in free speech, but not any longer. People have been detained under terrorism laws for wearing anti-Blair T-shirts. Walter Wolfgang was removed from the Labour Conference for heckling Jack Straw about the Iraq war. A woman was charged under the Harassment Act for sending two e-mails to a company politely asking them not to conduct animal experiments. Her offence was to send two e-mails, for in that lies the repeated action that is now illegal. A man named Stephen Jago was arrested for displaying a placard quoting Orwell near Downing Street. It read: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” And a mime artist named Neil Goodwin appeared in court recently charged under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act for what? Well, doing an impersonation of Charlie Chaplin outside Parliament. His hearing was a grim comedy. Mr Goodwin’s statement to the court concluded: “In truth, one of the first things to go under a dictatorship is a good sense of humour.”

We used to believe that our private communications were sacrosanct. Not any longer. The Regulatory Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and its subsequent amendments provide such wide terms for the legitimate tapping of phones, the interception of e-mails and monitoring of internet connections that they amount to general warrants, last used in the 18th century under George III.

I could go on because there is much more, but I worry about boring you and I know I am beginning to seem obsessed. There will be many reasonable people among you who will argue that the fight against terrorism or some other compelling problem makes the removal of a fragment of liberty the best option available to us. A little bit here, a little bit there doesn’t really matter, particularly when it involves somebody else’s rights. Without thinking very deeply, we say to ourselves “if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to fear from these new laws”. Not true. There is something to fear – because someone else’s liberty is also your liberty. When it’s removed from them, it’s taken from you even though you may not be able to conceive of the circumstances when you might need it. A system of rights must apply to bank managers, illegal immigrant cockle pickers and every type of defendant otherwise it doesn’t count.

Cumulatively, these small, barely noticed reductions in our rights add up to the greatest attack on liberty in the last hundred years. No wonder the Prime Minister dismisses traditional civil liberties arguments as being made for another age. With his record he can do nothing else.

In an e-mail exchange between him and me in the spring, he suggested a kind of super Asbo for major criminals. This is what the unmediated Blair sounds like. “I would go further. I would widen the powers of police to seize cash of suspected [my italics] drug dealers, the cars they drive round in and require them to prove that they came by them lawfully. I would impose restrictions on those suspected of being involved in organised crime. In fact I would harry, hassle and hound them until they give up or leave the country.”

I’m sure that echoes many people’s desire just to be rid of these awful people. But think about it for a moment: Tony Blair is a lawyer, yet nowhere is there any mention of due process or the courts. Apparently it will be enough for the authorities merely to suspect someone of wrongdoing for them to act. And the police won’t be troubled by the tiresome business of courts, defence lawyers or defendants’ rights. I wonder what Vaclav Havel would think of such a suggestion. Certainly, he would be all too familiar with the system of arbitrary arrest and state persecution that Blair seems to be suggesting.

Blair dresses up his views in a vocabulary of modernisation and inclusivity. Yet when he talks about rebalancing the criminal justice system in favour of the victim, it takes just a few moments to see that this will be achieved by doing away with the priority in our legal system of protecting the accused from miscarriages of justice. He simply wants to reduce defendants’ rights in order to satisfy public demand for more prosecutions.

It is now plain that he intends nothing less than to open the ancient charters of British rights in order to tip acid into them.

The way cabinet ministers think of themselves today and what they do are at odds. They think of themselves as reasonable, tolerant, humane and liberal people, but their actions tell an altogether different story. This brings me to the Big Brother state that Tony Blair says he doesn’t want to live in, but which has nevertheless rapidly come into being during his premiership.

Most people have very little understanding of what the ID card scheme will actually mean for them. They think that it just involves a little plastic identifier. But it is much more than that. Every adult will be required to provide 49 pieces of information about themselves which will include biometric measurements – probably an iris scan and fingerprinting. If you refuse to submit to what is called, without irony, enrolment, you will face repeated fines of up £2,500. The Government is deadly serious about this thing because of a simple truth. They want to know pretty much everything there is to know about you.

Personally, I find the idea of having a card repugnant and I cannot believe it will be long before policemen are stopping us on the street and asking for our papers. But this is by no means the most sinister aspect. Every time your card is swiped when you identify yourself, the National Identity Register will silently make a record of the time and date, your location and the purpose of the ID check. Gradually, a unique picture of your life will be built, to which nearly half-a-million civil servants are apparently going to have access.

But of course you will never be told who is looking at your file, or why. And nor will you be able to find out.

MPs must take responsibility for passing this invasive law but they cannot be blamed for the other half of the Big Brother society that is upon us. I refer to the total surveillance of our roads in a linked-up system of Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras. These cameras cover every motorway, major dual carriageway, town and city centre and will feed information from billions of journeys into one computer, where the data will remain for two years.

The decision to put British motorists under blanket, round- the-clock surveillance was never taken by Parliament. It just happened. As the cost of processing enormous quantities of data came down, the police and Home Office just simply decided to go ahead. Traffic cameras became surveillance cameras. This, I gather, is known as function creep, and, as always, half the pressure comes from technological innovation.

We are about to become the most observed population in the world outside North Korea, and absolutely no work has been done on how this will affect each one of us and what it will do to our society and political institutions.

I worry that we are not alert to the possibilities of social control. No matter how discreet this surveillance, it increases the spectral presence of the state in the everyday consciousness of each individual. I grant that it is a slow process and that it is nothing like the leaden omnipresence of the Stasi in the GDR. But I think we’re heading for a place from which we will not be able to return: the surveillance society where the state will crowd in on the individual human experience and threaten the unguarded freedoms of privacy, solitude, seclusion and anonymity. We may continue to attest to the feeling of freedom but in reality we will suffer more and more restrictions. Inexorably we are becoming subjects not citizens, units on a database that may be observed and classified by a Government which is taking control in areas where it has never dared in democratic times to trespass before.

Where this will all lead I cannot say, but I do know that it is neither good for us nor for the state. Humans work best when they have the maximum freedom, and so does government. As our Government gains more power in relation to us, confusing itself on the way with the entity and interests of the state, it will become less responsive to our needs and opinions, less transparent and less accountable.

Havel said of the Communist tyranny in that glorious but sombre new year’s day speech: “None of us is just its victim. We are its co-creators.” That is true of any society. And I believe we all need now to acknowledge what has happened to British rights and do something about it.

Firstly, there needs to be some kind of formal audit made of the rights which have been already compromised. An exact account. Linked to this should be a commission looking into the effects of mass surveillance. Second, we need a constitution which enshrines a bill of rights and places our rights beyond the reach of an ambitious Executive and Parliament. Third, we should be writing to our constituency MPs or clogging up their surgeries – asking what they are doing about the attack on liberty. And fourth, all schoolchildren should be taught about British rights and freedoms, what they mean and how they were won. History, as the National Trust is fond of saying, matters. Rights and liberties are as much a part of our heritage as St Paul’s Cathedral and Shakespeare’s plays.

This may all sound rather prescriptive but I have become certain over the last two years that we need to do something to save us from our Government and the Government from itself.

This was taken from the Summerfield Lecture given at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, on 12 October as part of the annual literary festival. Research by Emily Butselaar

A terror raid that doesn’t make the headlines – despite chemical explosives and a rocket launcher *updated*

by Charlie Kimber
7 October 2006

Here’s a police seizure of weapons that wasn’t splashed all over the front pages.

This week a British National Party election candidate has been accused of possessing the largest amount of chemical explosives of its type ever found in the country.

That’s right, the largest ever – imagine if he’d been an Asian man. Home secretary John Reid would have held a special press conference and it would have led every news bulletin.

The home of another man charged with similar offences contained a rocket launcher and a nuclear biological suit as well as BNP literature and chemicals!

Robert Cottage of Talbot Street, Colne, and David Bolus Jackson of Trent Road, Nelson, made separate appearances in court charged with being in possession of an explosive substance for an unlawful purpose.

Cottage was arrested at his home on Thursday of last week, while retired dentist Jackson was arrested in the Lancaster area on Friday.

The 22 chemical components recovered by police are believed to be the largest haul ever found at a house in this country. Cottage stood as a BNP candidate in the Pendle council elections in May.

Christiana Buchanan, who appeared for the prosecution in Jackson’s case, alleged the pair had “some kind of masterplan”.

response to above article here

NUJ condemns policing of ‘Sack Parliament’ event

The NUJ has expressed deep concern over the heavy-handed policing of a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament (9/10) during which a professional photographer was injured.The union is gathering evidence to mount a possible claim against the police.

Marc Valleé (left) was taking photographs in the vicinity of Parliament Square when he received injuries which resulted in him being taken to hospital in an ambulance.

Reports estimated that at least 800 police officers were on duty to police around 150 protestors, consisting of many anti-war and peace campaigners, as well as people who have been campaigning against the SOCPA no protest zone around parliament.

A number of arrests took place during the afternoon and some journalists were seen to be roughly handled by the police as they tried to push people back.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear, who happened to be in Parliament on union business, witnessed the protest and was shocked at what he saw. He said: “There was a totally disproportionate police presence and an overly aggressive attitude towards around 50 people sitting on the ground.

“I spoke to one observer and asked was there anything we could do. She said, let people know what’s going on. I complained to the MP I was meeting about the heavy-handed policing and stressed that the right to protest should be respected.

“The NUJ is appalled to hear of Marc’s injury and we are in the process of gathering evidence about the incident.”

Another journalist told Indymedia: “During the day about a dozen or saw assorted journalists, camera people, photographers etc found themselves inside the ring of police holding ‘the bulk’ of the protesters – either because that’s where they wanted to be or because they got trapped there. I’m not aware of any of those being allowed to leave the pen in order to file their photos etc – unlawful but sadly not unusual dispite new guidelines issues to the police on treatment of the press.

“Journalists outside of the pen were generally treated with some respect and apart from being hassled to move from places where you could actually see anything, they were generally allowed to get on with their jobs and not threatened with arrest for most of the day.

“At one stage I heard a police office tell a courious onlooker that they needed a lawful reason to be present in the square and that they were either press or protester or shouldn’t be there. It seemed that as far as they were concerned at that stage, there were only three types of people; police, press and protesters. However, that changed as time went on and eventually the police were ordered to hand out warning notices to everyone present, including the press, explaining that their presence was unlawful and they must move of face arrest.

“Obviously journalists carrying out their jobs in parliament square, a public place, could not be commiting the offence of taking part in an unlawful demo and therefore not lawfully arrested but that didn’t stop the police threatening to do just that. I saw several members of the press take these warnings, read them and then move away.

“Worse still, I spoke to several of the journalist who had been inside the police ring. When they were finally allowed to leave along with the protesters (one by one over the space of a couple of hours) they were forced to give their names and address (plus show proof of ID).

Apparently this was so that the police could report them for summons for an offence they could not actually commit., ie. taking part in an unlawful protest. Additionally, and this is the most worrying part of the whole thing, they were then told that they must leave the area or face arrest and were then escorted from the square!” [END]

Video of police oppression at the ‘sack parliament’ demo (youtube external link) here

So many causes, so little time

Unless you have permission, it’s illegal to demonstrate near the Houses of Parliament. But that wasn’t going to stop Mark Thomas, who set out to make a record number of protests in one day

Thursday October 12 2006
The Guardian

So many causes, so little time

Last summer, my friend Sian was threatened with arrest for having a picnic in Parliament Square. The police had said her meal was a political demonstration, as she had the word “Peace” iced on a cake. Under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (Socpa), which restricts the right to demonstrate near the square, she should have got permission from the police six days before getting the victoria sponge out of its Tupperware container. As the law insists that one person counts as a demonstration, anyone wearing a CND, trade union or Vote Conservative badge in Parliament Square could, in theory, be arrested for demonstrating without permission.

Most people know that this rule was brought in by Labour to kick the peace campaigner Brian Haw out of Parliament Square. What many do not know is that it does not just apply to the square, but to a designated zone covering a sizable part of central London. So if you wanted to stand outside the Channel 4 building, 10 minutes’ walk away from the square, with a badge saying “Please don’t repeat Friends any more”, you would need police permission.

While some have chosen to challenge the law by noncompliance – such as Maya Evans, who was arrested and fined last December for reading out the names of those killed in the Iraq war by the Cenotaph – others have chosen a less confrontational approach. If the police need to issue licences for each and every lone demonstrator, they said to themselves, what would happen when a whole load of lone demonstrators arrive at the same time for individual permissions to demonstrate? So, the past three months have seen mass lone protests, in which about 150 people test police bureaucracy by getting licences for each and every one of them. The police can only refuse to issue the licences on the grounds of public safety or public order

Inspired by these mass actions, I decided that I would demonstrate all over the Socpa zone – and, being an upright citizen, get permission to do it. So, last week, I nipped into Charing Cross police station to apply to have 21 individual demonstrations on the same day in the designated area.

Through earlier protests, I have got to know the man who coordinates the requests quite well. PC Paul McInally now handles most of the Socpa applications. “What can I do for you today, Mark?” he asks, as we sit in the interview room.

“I’ve got 21 forms for you.”

“Right then,” he says in a businesslike fashion, “let’s go through them.” I like PC McInally. We sort of bonded a few months ago when I handed in an application to demand the immediate sacking of Superintendent Terry.

“You want to sack my direct superior!” PC McInally had spluttered.

“Yes, please.”

“I’ve got to go and ask him if you can have a demonstration calling for him to be sacked?”

“I believe so.” I said. And although he shook his head when he left the room, he was smiling.

The area covered by Socpa is covered by several police stations, and now PC McInally sat flicking through the 21 forms sorting out which would deal with which request. “This one is on the Belgravia patch; so is this one. Ah . . .” he pauses, “this one is Parks police.”

All in all, four police groups are needed to give me the permission I need: Charing Cross, Belgravia, Lambeth and the Parks police.

Nick Woodward from Belgravia gets in contact about the demos on his “patch”. He is altogether a different type of officer – he handles a moustache like he fought in the Battle of Britain and sports Coldstream Guards cufflinks. If Terry-Thomas had ever joined the Nazis, he would behave a little like Woodward. “Mark, Nick Woodward,” he bays down the phone.

“Hi, how are you?”

“I’m well, thank you,” he says. “Though I am a little disappointed that you have decided to waste our time in this manner. I’ve now got to open eight separate files on this.”

“As you know, I am very concerned about these issues,” I tell him. “As you can see, my first demonstration is to reduce police paperwork.”

“Yesss,” says Nick. But I know he really wants to say, “You’re a bloody shower.”

But permission is given, and this Monday I set off with the aim of doing 21 demonstrations in the Socpa zone in five hours and 15 minutes. Each demonstration would be 10 minutes long, with five minutes travelling time between them. The police agreed that I could have two assistants to keep time, check the route and carry the banners.

Sam is the banner caddy. Originally we wanted to use a golf bag to carry the placards. “Ah, Downing Street, sir,” he would have respectfully intoned. “You’ll need a ‘Hang Blair Banner’.” Unfortunately, we don’t know anyone with a golf bag, so I recondition my wheelie bin to carry the placards. Tony is my timer and route checker.

And this is how I do …

10am, Parliament Square: Demonstration to Reduce Police Paperwork

The place is swarming with cops who have turned up to police the unapproved Sack Parliament demonstration. On arrival in Parliament Square, we are all promptly photographed by the Forward Intelligence Team for police files. Big Ben strikes 10 and up the banner goes.

10.15am, Portcullis House (MPs’ offices): Demand that MPs Don’t Take Other Jobs – One is Enough!

We arrive two minutes early and the timer insists we keep the banner face down until we are officially allowed to start. A line of police officers face us. Tony the timer counts me in “Three, two, one, demonstrate!”

New police arrive, shoving warning notices into our hands about unlawful demonstrations. The cops who have been standing opposite us remonstrate with their newly arrived colleagues. “They’ve got permission, they’re OK.”

The new cops look confused and Sam opens the lid of the wheelie bin, where we have stuck copies of our police approval to the inside of the lid. The police peer into the wheelie bin, and say, “Right. OK then.” And skulk off.

10.30am, Tattershall Castle pub boat at the Embankment: Demonstration to demand that Pub Boats Give us Fishing Rights off the Bows or Give us Death!

10.45am, Hungerford Bridge: Demonstration to demand Trolls for London Bridges

Stopped by the police, who check permission. Cross the bridge shouting, “We need trolls! We are overrun with goats! These goats coming over here, stealing our jobs, getting the best houses! It wouldn’t happen if we had trolls. And I bet they would keep the underside clear of dead Italian bankers, too.” I really should get a proper job.

11am, Jubilee Gardens: Demonstration to Ban Static Mimes

Those mimes who dress up and paint themselves silver and then stand still for money – what is the point of a mime that does not move? To me, this is just an advanced form of begging. I sit immobile with a hat in front of me. No one puts any money in. I must have twitched and spoiled the purity of the moment.

11.15am, London Aquarium: Demonstration to Stop the Killer Rays – For Steve Irwin’s Sake!

The old GLC building, County Hall, was sold to a private consortium by Mrs Thatcher et al and is now private property. So I spoke with the landowners to try to get permission. “We don’t allow demonstrations,” said a clipped voice. “This is private property.”

“By the Thames embankment?”

“Yes, we own it and security will ask you to leave.”

Security are on the lookout on the day, but I sneak under the radar with a small unapproved banner. Sian arrives with tea and a cake; this one has “Stop The Killer Rays!” iced on it. We eat our cake in illegal protest pleasure.

11.30am, St Thomas’ Hospital: How are you going to stop MRSA when the soap dispensers in the gents were bust last week?

Just a quick one here, as time is tight.

11.45am, MI5 Building: Give MI5 a Nameplate

MI5 has no sign outside of it saying it is MI5, and I am convinced that they are not getting all of their post.

12 noon, Magistrates Court: Demand that Judges Wear Clown Wigs

Neil Goodwin is up before the judge today; his crime is dressing as Charlie Chaplin and standing in front of Downing Street with a sign saying “Not Allowed”. He was arrested for demonstrating without permission. He pleads guilty and is given a conditional discharge.

12.15pm, Channel 4: Big Brother is Shit

PC McInally had said, “What about the three nuns and the schoolkids who walk past? They could find the wording offensive.” So I take a covering banner just in case. Sam and Tony are to shout “Nun!” if they see anyone likely to take offence and I will cover the offending word with a banner saying “Not Very Good.”

12.30pm, Adam Smith Institute: Freemarketeers? You couldn’t survive without government contracts

After I have been shouting up at their offices for a bit, someone from the institute appears and says, “It’s the Adam Smith International Institute that gets all the DFID [Department for International Development] government work – different organisation.”

Shout “Sorry” to the three floors of office workers who are now looking out the window, scrape dignity off floor and go!

12.45pm, Department of Trade and Industry: Stop the Export of Torture Equipment

Self-explanatory.

1pm, New Scotland Yard: Sack Blair as Commissioner, Replace Him with PC McInally

Very popular choice as a lot of passing cops smile in support. Do a quick interview with Channel 4 News. “Don’t the government need this law in times like this?” they ask. “Are you implying that this law will help fight terrorism?”

“Yes.”

“If all that stands between us and a terrorist attack is a licence from the police, we are all doomed,” I reply.

1.15pm, St James Park tube station: Sack the Private Tube Companies.

Speaks for itself.

1.30pm, EU Commission: Take Kongra Gel Off the Terrorist Organisations List

Kongra Gel is a Kurdish organisation which the EU and UK have wrongly claimed is a terrorist group. Nick Woodward warned me that I could get arrested if I do anything to support Kongra Gel, as this would break the anti-terror law. Cunningly, my slogans are in Kurdish, which means he will have to get them translated to check.

1.45pm, QE2 Conference Centre: Stop Hosting the AGMs of Arms Companies

2pm, Westminster Abbey: God is Dead, Shut the Abbey

A bloke told me I had a first-class ticket to hell.

2.15pm, the Treasury: Gordon, Burn Everything Before the Tories Get Back In!

Shout out, “Tell him to destroy everything! And don’t you lot cooperate with them when they get in!” Raises a few smiles with the civil servants.

2.30pm, the Citadel: Cut the Ivy, It’s Spoiling the Concrete!

Ivy is horticultural terrorism! On our way to the next demo, we bump into police on horseback.

2.45pm, Department of Health: Stop Patricia Hewitt Speaking Like a Patronising Tw*t

“What are you demonstrating about?” grumbles a rather fierce-looking elderly gent with glasses and a frown that suggests he once worked in a prep school. I hold up the banner.”Oh, I quite agree. She’s awful,” he says before getting on a red omnibus home.

3pm, Parliament Square: Make Protesting Mandatory

The square is full of police, whose massed fluorescent jackets hurt the eyes and prob- ably breach EU light-pollution regulations. On Whitehall, the police explain that although I am allowed to demonstrate in Parliament Square, because the police are still arresting folk from the anti-war demonstration, there might be difficulty.

The cop in charge arrives. “Right then, I am assigning these two officers to you. They will escort you into the square, find a bit of it that isn’t in the thick of the melee, and make sure you can legally demonstrate without getting any hassle from any of the other cops.”

With that, I am given my own personal escort through a landscape of cops and protestors. They walk either side of me; I feel like the Noël Coward of protestors – “Demonstrating without a personal police escort? Simply not done this season, old boy.” A surreal end to a surreal day. However, I have now set the record: 21 demonstrations in five hours and 15 minutes in the Socpa zone. Anyone care to try to beat it?

Mass lone demonstrations are held every third Wednesday of every month in Parliament Square.
Application forms to demonstrate on http://www.markthomasinfo.com

NETCU lackeys of the vivisection industry!!

Six SHAC USA activists have been given prison sentences and fines for running a website, for more information and to support the six go to www.shac7.com

Surprise, surprise NETCU are gloating again even though none of the 6 have done anything other than run a website and the fact that NETCU do not actually operate in the USA (or do they???).

NETCU informs us that their masters, “the pan-global biomedical research community watched with interest as sentences and fines were imposed by the US District Court Chief Judge , Anne E Thompson”.

NETCU also says something about “a campaign of terror”, which is an odd phrase as no-one was harmed but we are talking about vivisectors who are a dramatic and sensitive bunch.

“Terror” is a word which evokes images of death, destruction, maimed limbs, torture, murder, bombs, stuff like that. It also brings to mind what animals go through in laboratories and abattoirs and fur farms, NOT a few phone calls, pranks and a bit of paint on the front door.

I have received a few threats, been unlawfully arrested, been hospitalised by a police officer, had property stolen by the other side, etc so does that mean that I am the victim of a “campaign of terror” as well? Of course not, it would be an insult to all those who lost their lives or were permanently maimed on 9/11, 7/7, in Iraq, in Palestine, in Darfur, in Bosnia and every other mass atrocity which humans inflict on one another. In Darfur children are being torched and raped, peoples limbs are being hacked off, let us all get this into perspective.

Now if animal abusers are tortured and killed “campaign of terror” might be an accurate description. Until and if this ever happens the police should stop being such drama queens and the vivisectors should stop whining.

After all because animal rights activists are such nice people (and do not spend their time cutting up those who cannot fight back) it is highly unlikely that anyone will ever be harmed by our actions even though those who choose to cause property damage face greater penalties than those who maim, rape and kill.

Protestor held at gunpoint, handcuffed and arrested for swearing

Taken from Indymedia UK 18th September 06

outside downing street this evening barbara tucker was arrested by machine-gun carrying police, thrown against the railings, and rear-restraint handcuffed.

her alleged crime? – behaviour liable to cause alarm or distress – namely swearing.

peaceful barbara tucker (left) stood outside downing street early this evening, with her pink ‘ blair’s genocide’ banner round her neck, and a yellow placard quoting the human rights article of free expression (suspended by h.m.govt.).

after the court hearing last week, when lawyers trashed the police socpa case against her and also had bail conditions lifted, we all thought there would be some respite from the met’s clear campaign of intimidation and harrassment, while further cases go through the court. indeed, yesterday, it appeared that was the case, when her protest drew no police attention. (http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/09/350931.html)

but this evening she was approached by two officers from charing cross police station who claimed not to know who she was, nor that she has been the subject of 50 previous reports for ‘unauthorised’ demonstrating. as per usual, they claimed that she had not notified her demo, despite the fact that she notified by email on march 6th and has had numerous meetings with the police since then.

also, rather than ‘report’ her for possible summons, these two officers threatened her with arrest! she started shouting the place down, pointing out that last week’s court case had been thrown out by the judge as ‘void ab initio’ – meaning it should never have even come to court and had been flawed right from the start. she shouted about harrassment, and amongst this outburst, she used some swear words. the diplomatic protection officers came out from behind downing street gates, and brandishing their machine guns, including actually pointing one at a supporter who was trying to get close enough to take down police identifications as she was thrown against the railing, they used handcuffs behind her back to effect an arrest under section 5 of the public order act.

this legislation is often used by police against persons who swear at them, doesn’t usually require rear restraint, and is generally dealt with by an on-the-spot fixed penalty notice. however in barbara’s case, two vans turned up, she was bundled in the back of one and taken to charing cross police station, where she was held for nearly four hours. there she managed to speak to her lawyer eventually, but this was after an independent police review team kicked up a fuss. police had told her that the lawyer didn’t want to speak to her, while he was being told that she was being abusive and could not speak to him.

police were originally talking about holding her several hours for interview (virtually unheard of for a section 5 offence), but under intense pressure and multiple phone calls from her lawyer, she was finally released at around ten this evening. she refused to take the penalty notice telling the police to send it directly to her solicitor’s ready for appeal.

this endless campaign of intimidation against this lone peaceful woman is indefensible. the metropolitan police must surely have taken leave of their senses. their only defence is that she notified them of her demonstration by email rather than on one of their application forms, and because of this they have embarked on this endless course of harrassment. notification by email is surely not a criminal offence, and anyway, peaceful people should not need to notify anything anyway.

it is time the police, and particularly superintendent terry, came under proper public scrutiny for their actions. at the very least, terry and his associates should have a restraining order put on them to stop them approaching the vicinity of barbara tucker

. in another small illustration of the contempt these people have for free speech, one of her supporters had to rescue her banner and placard after they had been thrown in a passing refuse cart by police at downing street.

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