I have been protesting against Sequani labs for about 10 years now. Often it was a quick demo en route somewhere else or just a couple of us deciding to go there one afternoon. Until 2006 before Staffordshire police (bored after the closure of Darley Oaks farm) arrived advised West Mercia police to eradicate ALL protest there was a fairly innocuous policing presence in Ledbury . In January 2006 Ledbury became a no go zone for ANY protest and in May 2006 operation Tornado was launched scooping up nearly everyone who had been outside the gates of either Sequani or a company associated with them. The state failed miserably to prosecute activists first of all using the NETCU handbook and making unlawful arrests resulting in apologies and compensation for myself and others, secondly they failed to convict 12 activists they arrested originally out of 14. Dave pleaded guilty and we all know what happened to Sean, they hammered him in court, made him out to be puppet master and therefore responsible for everybody elses actions. We are not puppets and Sean is not our leader but a much loved and respected friend, I hope to make this clear by attending a demo’ with no leaders or organisers. I am not responsible for the actions of other activists, nor am I an “organiser”. In fact I would like to make it clear I am seriously disorganised and I am attending the carnival as an individual.
Despite the fact that last time we had a demonstration in Ledbury I met with Chief Inspector Hancock and we agreed a route, this time it has been made crystal clear to myself and others who have liased with the police before that to take on this role involves taking responsibility for everyone who attends the demonstration. To put yourself forward as an organiser is to put your head in a noose, however affable Chief Inspector Hancock may be, we all know that Detective Inspector Williams is straining at the leash to round as all up.
At Sequani itself the police have generally been fair and polite since being sued. There have been 2 arrests one for writing in the dust (criminal damage), one for uttering the word murderer out of earshot of the actual murderers. Speaking for myself I do not think that the police have finished with us. Of course anyone who does something like smashing a window will be arrested but I think that since the Crown Court trial somewhere high ranking officers and CPS lawyers are learning from their mistakes and conspiring to stop protests at Sequani. They want to make it water tight this time and are simply biding their time after all promises have been made and far from stopping protests they have stirred up a hornets nest. They must be furious and even if protestors just turned up every week and stood silently outside the lab we would all still be at risk anyway. I feel that I am just waiting for the next police raid and have a choice to either stop speaking out altogether or to take some risks by carrying on. I have seen much on Indymedia about how loads of people will be arrested on this carnival, how risky it will be to attend etc. People might be arrested but my view is that those who are in a position where they do not want to be arrested will soon have to abandon all protest anyway. People have to make a choice about how far they are prepared to go and that choice must be respected by others, encouraging veganism is one of the most important roles there are right now (however the phrase “are you or have you ever been vegan?” springs to mind).
Sean is serving 4 and a half years for legal protest, Greg , Natasha and Dan are facing serious sentences for running a campaign, Heather is on remand for running said campaign, Mel has been fitted up by the police in the most callous way possible, Kerry, John and Jonny are serving 12 years for running a campaign. All have been made responsible by the state not for their own actions but for those of persons unknown. We have to evolve and adapt accordingly.
Make no mistake where vivisection is concerned they want ALL criticism silenced, they have already rounded people up for polite, legal protest, the police state is already here and we have to realise that the police are our enemies as much as the vivisectors. I am not for one minute suggesting as some have that it is OK to harm individual police officers but resistance using Fit Watch tactics, a good dose of suspicion of all police officers and defending ourselves are all a good start. I was so impressed by fellow activists at Climate Camp. When the riot police charged people did not meet them with violence but stood firm against them and stopped them in their tracks, no-one ran away and no-one lost their temper, all from where I stood remained disciplined and resolute.
I have read much about how the police are only doing their job, how nice they are etc on the one hand and how they are all scum on the other. I can only speak for myself but I think that the primary role of the police is to protect the powerful and they will be ruthless in doing so. Of course many police officers themselves will disagree and are in fact decent individuals who have joined up to protect the weak in fact but you only have to look at where senior officers allocate resources to see where the priorities are i.e big business and NOT the vulnerable, the elderly etc. I have met many decent police officers in my time who have been very kind to me and others. The fact remains that the rank and file either hate us and really want to hurt us, are told all sorts of fibs during briefings which they believe (I would love to be a fly on the wall), know the truth but go with the flow OR (tiny minority) they agree with us, leave the force and even become activists (one DS even served a prison sentence for ALF activities, very nice bloke). You can not however really tell if a police officer is being nice to you or trying to get information, the only safe option is to always assume the latter. I would not like to see a police officer attacked and to do so on a demonstration could cause other activists to get hurt, self defence is an entirely different matter. At Hillgrove in 1997 many activists went to prison after police officers wearing hooded tops with hidden cameras encouraged them to throw rocks at the house. Be wary of anyone you do not know, if the police are not attacking people why provoke them?
As well as having some good experiences of the police for example the Cambridgeshire traffic cops who warned me about a very bad bubble on my tyre (no fine or points) which could have caused a nasty accident, the sergeant who brought me in news papers when I was in Charing Cross police station for a few nights, the actual vegan policeman who told us to keep up the noise levels outside Park Farm and gave the manager a very short shrift… I have had some eerrr interesting challenges as well. Pride of place comes to PC Manton for smashing my femur and face when he shook me off a tripod, being interviewed as a suspect (unbeknown to me) whilst suffering severe blood loss and on a morphine infusion, having to sit in the public gallery full of cheering police officers when he was acquitted of GBH at Peterborough Crown court, learning that non activist witnesses had been threatened with death and arrest and then finding that the cheeky gits are using my limp, facial and leg scars to positively identify me as they did at Climate camp via the PNC!
Other “highlights” include enduring a forcible strip search just for being an animal rights activist (although the Met’ professional standards were very good and I was financially compensated), annual raids on my house, repeated arrests and attempts to remand in custody, Superintendant Pearl (head of NETCU) colluding with HLS to have my house taken off me by them (failed hah hah), attempts by Thames Valley Police to have me struck off the NMC register (Nurses and Midwives Council, failed again) , false entries on my PNC record by Sussex and Cambridgeshire(for example drinking a bottle of beer from HLS hospitality being sexed up to domestic burglary, non existant breach of bail convictions) and being asked to be an informant. My point is that the police are a massive organisation, they tend to stick together and although you may have good experiences from individuals, sometimes unexpectedly they can go to extreme lengths to hurt you, they also break the law frequently. However at present there are many weapons with which to fight back, I have found the IPCC and police officers within professional standards to be good , bad and indifferent at dealing with complaints I have had 6 upheld so far. Legal action against police officers who break the law also works and I have successfully sued 6 times. Contemporaneous documentation, dictaphone, video and stills evidence are absolutely vital weaponry in combating police excesses and my view is that it is not a bad idea for everyone to take responsibility for this.
I will be on the grass verge opposite the train station in Ledbury at 12.00 on Saturday 6th September 2008. I intend to be thoroughly law abiding and peaceful but will most certainly be active in monitoring the police especially if they start misbehaving. I would suggest the following to all who come:
Bring warm clothes, water, food, notepad, pen, camera, useful phone numbers e.g solicitor, money, map of the area, medication, medic alert bracelet (if you wear one) and anything else you may need for example if you are an medic please bring your kit. Alas I don’t think burgers, tea or coffee will be making an appearance so be prepared.
The people of Ledbury are rather undecided about the lab’ and protestors get a lot of support, some locals will attend. I think it is not a good thing to alienate ordinary folk, courtesy to the locals, not dropping litter, etc and being aware that they are fed up with the almost constant police presence at Sequani and complain about it would go a long way to keep them happy. It goes without saying that some of them are Sequani workers/ hunters/police and hate us but generally speaking the person on the street is open minded despite the police and Sequani telling them that we are going to smash up their homes, cars and businesses. There are lots of independent shops in Ledbury including 2 health food shops and an internet cafe that does soya lattes mmm. Ethical shop keepers should of course be supported by activists. Bear in mind the person in the street makes a brilliant witness if the police get violent be nice to him/her.
Toilets are within the town centre, the police have threatened to arrest activists for peeing in fields and woods, don’t get caught!
If arrested people will probably be taken to Leominster police station (which is on an industrial estate NOT the town centre) or Worcester near Foregate St station as this is where people have been taken in the past. Hereford police station is being rebuilt.
Police will be there from all over the country, FIT will be there. You will be photographed, monitored and bullied. My very personal view is take a leaf from Fit watch’s book film them back, keep your cool, know your rights, complain if they behave unlawfully , defend if attacked using minimal force and do not upset them (too much). If arrested NO COMMENT! If a situation arises please be aware that your house may get raided maybe the same day maybe a year later and if for example you get good footage of a police officer beating up an activist THEY WILL COME LOOKING FOR THE FOOTAGE, get it somewhere safe.
If anyone fancies hill walking you could get the police to chase you up the nearby Malvern hills which are utterly wonderful, lovely views and might let them work off some steam. There are even springs which you can fill bottles up with. There is also a vegetarian cafe near the beacon at St Annes Well, vegan chocolate cake etc, etc.
The press will be there. Please bring banners, eye catching things if you want.
Animals are tortured in Sequani every day and they are trying to stop us questioning this through 145 and 146 SOCPA. As well as banners highlighting the plight of the victims of vivisection, banners highlighting the fact that we are losing what used to be the right to protest and could face prison for challenging the atrocity of vivisection.
These are very personal views. Feel free to agree or disagree.
See you all there
Filed under: Protests, SOCPA | Tagged: carnival against vivisection, lynn sawyer | Leave a comment »