Tag Archives: police

The Police Haven’t Learned From Kingsnorth

Following the release of the report into the Kingsnorth climate camp protest, Emily Apple doesn’t think so:

None of the civil liberties concerns raised by activists and politicians in relation to the camp are addressed. In fact, the report praises the police for meeting one of their key objectives of “facilitating peaceful protest”, which is simply not true. Facilitating protest must include adherence to all human rights law, including the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. Stating that, during a protest which extended over several days, the police facilitated one march at the end of the week ignores all the civil liberties abuses which took place at the camp itself.

While no mention is made of the use of excessive violence by officers using batons strikes against peaceful protesters, the handwriting of officers is criticised, with fewer than 25% of all forms legible. However, instead of criticising the need for 8,000-plus searches, the report laments the fact there weren’t more details to put onto the police database. The fact details of thousands of protesters has been entered into a database is not examined, nor is the admission this information is disseminated to the Forward Intelligence Teams (Fits), and that people should not give the police personal details if they do not want to end up on such a database.

It’s such a fundamental demonstration of what’s going wrong in this country. Young people in particular care a great deal about environmental politics, and attended the Kingsnorth climate camp in large numbers – entirely peacefully. Not only did the police respond with represssion, intimidation and violence, but the report into their behaviour then whitewashes the entire affair. Not a word from elected representatives, indeed under Jacqui Smith the Home Office pursued climate protesters aggressively in public from then on. It’s yet another result of the way in which the Home Office manages everything – they develop a solution (aggressive policing against an increasing ‘climate protest threat’) without there even being a problem (Prove there’s a threat? You must be joking!). Then they try propaganda to justify their behaviour, but it’s always lies.

The next climate camp will take place between 27th August and 3rd September. I’d like someone who’s intending on going to get in touch please, and discuss how best to record the camp’s achievements and the inevitable police repression.

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Met Police Still Unaccountable?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Gemma Atkinson is the latest in a long line of entirely innocent people to have been abused by the Metropolitan Police via the Terrorism Act. Section 58(a) is the crazy amendment making it illegal to photograph a police officer if the images are considered “likely to be useful” to a terrorist. You can hear her story (and see the video at the centre of the story) for yourself above, but here it is in a nutshell:

The opening part of the mobile phone clip shows two uniformed police officers searching her boyfriend, Fred Grace, 28, by a wall in the station. Atkinson said she felt that police had unfairly targeted Grace, who did not have drugs in his possession, and decided to film the officers in order to hold them to account.

Seconds later, an undercover officer wearing jeans and a black jacket enters the shot, and asks Atkinson: “Do you realise it is an offence under the Terrorism Act to film police officers?” He then adds: “Can you show me what you you just filmed?”

Atkinson stopped filming and placed her phone in her pocket. According to her account of the incident, which was submitted to the Independent Police Complaints Commission that night, the officer tried several times to forcefully grab the phone from her pocket.

Failing to get the phone, he called over two female undercover officers from nearby. Atkinson said he told the women: “This young lady had been filming me and the other officers and it’s against the law. Her phone is in her right jacket pocket and I’m trying to get it.”

An argument ensued, Atkinson said, and five police officers – four of them undercover – backed her into an alcove, insisting they had the right to view her phone.

She said she was detained there for about 25 minutes, during which her wrist was handcuffed and a female officer told her: “We’ll put you under arrest, take to you to the station and look at your phone there.”

A second female officer approached her and said, incorrectly: “Look, your boyfriend’s just been arrested for drugs, so I suggest you do as we say.”

Atkinson claims the male undercover officer who initially approached her repeatedly threatened her with arrest, stating: “We believe you filmed us and that’s against the law so we need to check your phone.” When Atkinson protested, the officer replied: “I don’t want to see myself all over the internet.”

Yet again we have the Metropolitan Police thinking that they answer to noone for their behaviour. Fortunately Gemma’s set about proving them wrong. A judicial review, an immediate complaint to the IPCC and trial by Guardian – more nightmares for the force which constantly tries to paint officers such as these as untrained rookies, but they never are. There’s something rotten in the Metropolitan Police, and we can only hope that people like Gemma, and those who also captured Met violence and abuse on camera at the G20 protests shortly afterwards, will continue to do what our politicians refuse to do. One way or another the Met must be brought to heel.

Don’t Let Met Get Away With More Lies!

Bob Broadhurst would have you believe the outrageous police tactics and violence at the G20 protest in April was the result of undertrained bobbies, inexperienced in protest policing. As Apple points out, don’t you believe it:

However, while it is true that there were inexperienced City police on the frontline, it is disingenuous to imply that they were responsible for the worst of the violence. Most of the major cases of police brutality that have emerged from the G20, including the attacks on Ian Tomlinson and Nicky Fisher, were carried out by territorial support group (TSG) officers. These TSG members are level 1 trained – the highest level of public order training available in the police service – and have faced many allegations of violence.

Of course she’s right. Rookies weren’t the problem here. The conditions for a police riot were set up weeks earlier – they were ‘up for it’ apparently. And what about the extraordinary, preemptive violence against the entirely peaceful climate camp? Broadhurst can’t really think he’ll get away with such bare faced lying, but of course the real systematic problem with the Met was never going to be dealt with. As the miners before them, the climate protesters were seen by police and government as threats to the state as they wanted it to be. Ken Loach suggests that’s indeed the function of the police in our society – to enforce the status quo by violence.

I don’t subscribe to quite such an extreme analysis, but there’s an element of truth to it in looking at police behaviour that day and subsequently. So expect more Met lies, expect more collusion by the Home Affairs select committee, and the odd lowly scapegoat. And then soon after for this whole sorry cycle to continue.

Now the Metropolitan Police…Tortures?

It’s not something they’re not already known to do. But still the newest claims about the Metropolitan Police’s behaviour are shocking:

Metropolitan Police officers subjected suspects to waterboarding, according to allegations at the centre of an anti-corruption inquiry.

The torture claims are part of an investigation which also includes accusations that evidence was fabricated and suspects’ property was stolen. It has already led to the abandonment of a drugs trial and the suspension from duty of several officers.

However, senior policing officials are most alarmed by the claim that officers in Enfield, North London, used the controversial CIA interrogation technique, in which water is poured on to a cloth covering the suspect’s face, causing them to feel they are on the point of suffocation.

Alan Johnson has his work cut out for him. New Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has already abandoned the concept of ‘institutional racism’ as a viable tool to use in Met reform, and has supported his force after the G20 policing disaster (what is going on with the IPCC investigation by the way?). Is it any wonder that fundamental human rights might also be being breached by these thugs?

Met Surveillance – Unlawful!

It’s a blow for the Met, a triumph for peaceful protest and campaigning organisations:

Police surveillance of a peaceful campaigner was deemed to be unlawful today in a ruling that liberty campaigners say could change the way officers are allowed to monitor protesters.

The court of appeal ordered the Metropolitan police to destroy photographs its surveillance teams had taken of arms-trade campaigner Andrew Wood, ruling that they breached his rights under the European convention on human rights.

Superb news. It’s a hammer blow against their forward intelligence team (FIT) units, with their policy of precriminalisation of entirely innocent protesters and campaigning organisations. This is something they allegedly do to Greenpeace all the time and it’ll be interesting to see the immediate repurcussions of this ruling.

Wood, a member of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, had been photographed by a Met surveillance unit in 2005 as he left a meeting in London.

His initial claim that the police action had breached his rights was dismissed by the high court in May last year. But today at the court of appeal in London two out of three judges agreed there had been a “disproportionate interference in the human right to privacy”.

Lord Justice Dyson said: “The retention by the police of photographs taken of persons who have not committed an offence, and who are not even suspected of having committed an offence, is always a serious matter.”

Lord Collins said: “There was a very substantial police presence … when I first read the papers on this appeal, I was struck by the chilling effect on the exercise of lawful rights such a deployment would have.”

The case follows an investigation by the Guardian that revealed police had been targeting thousands of political campaigners in surveillance operations and storing their details on a database for at least seven years.

And now we revisit the DNA database ruling. The European Court of Human Rights tells the government it’s in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights – Jacqui Smith sidesteps the ruling entirely. Who’s to say, political crisis aside, that she’ll behave any differently in this instance?

Time For a Constitutional Revolution

Polly Toynbee has it exactly right:

Seize this moment to make real constitutional change, bring in proportional representation for the Commons, a fully elected Lords and clean party funding. It’s too late now for a fag-end government to command the power to do it. Hubris and the arrogance of a huge majority caused Blair to abandon reform in the early days. Now it would smack of last-gasp gerrymandering to save parliament’s sorry necks. But a formidable array of reformers is gathering to demand a referendum on the principle of PR and Lords reform to be added to the ballot paper at the next election. Let the people decide if they want to blow fresh air into parliament. It means ­coalition governments instead of de facto coalitions inside the shells of the old parties, whose sham unity disguises differences as wide as Alan Milburn on the right to Jeremy Corbyn on the left. Your vote should determine the colour of the coalition.

Voting reform must now be a top priority for anyone seriously claiming to represent the will of the British people. This lot have had opportunity after opportunity to reform themselves, but have conclusively blown it. Only PR and an elected House of Lords/Senate can now possibly bring this crisis to an end. I would personally prefer moves towards a written constitution, with the necessary constitutional convention bringing in all voices currently excluded from the political process into mainstream politics, but these two measures are surely needed as the barest minimum right now to get the people back on board the political process. The alternative, as George Monbiot shows, is more of the same:

Any politics that does not endorse the liberal economic consensus, which challenges the concentration of wealth or power, or which doesn’t accept that growth and consumerism can be sustained indefinitely, is off-limits. Just as the suffragettes were repressed because their ideas – not their actions – presented a threat to the state, the government and the police must suppress a new set of dangerous truths. By treating protesters as domestic extremists, the state marginalises their concerns: if people are extremists, their views must be extreme. Repression, in a nominal democracy, cannot operate accountably, so the state uses police units which are exempt from public scrutiny.

The potential to continue down this road to disaster remains: ID cards, governmental data sharing, precriminalisation, police behaving like unaccountable militias, superdatabases are all hanging over our heads as a means of ‘protection’, yet they do nothing of the sort – they perpetuate the attitudes which caused the economic collapse and led to the current political collapse. If we really are fed up with this drive towards ever more illiberal means of of control, the solution is obvious (and now perhaps politically unavoidable) – a decade-overdue constitutional revolution. It’s time for a new settlement to guarantee the right people in with progressive priorities, not the current, illiberal, dishonest rabble.

Met Police Misled the Public?

Unthinkable I know, given the lies they’ve perpetrated about Jean Charles DeMenezes and their role in his death, but the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has now confirmed they’re investigating the Metropolitan Police for the false  information it released about the circumstances around Ian Tomlinson’s death in the immediate aftermath of the G20 protests on 1st April:

The IPCC deputy chair, Deborah Glass, said: “Not only the Tomlinson family, but also many members of the public and MPs have raised with us concerns about whether the police either misinformed the public about the circumstances of Mr Tomlinson’s death or failed to correct misinformation about how he died.

“I have therefore decided that, not only will we investigate the family’s specific complaint about the content and timing of the MPS media communications on the night of 1 April, but that we should also seek to determine, as far as practicable, the state of knowledge that both the MPS and City of London police had about any police contact with Ian Tomlinson between 1 April 2009 and 7 April 2009.”

I’ll admit the motivation isn’t clear, but it’s certainly one of the two. They said they’d had no prior contact with Tomlinson before his death, and then claimed that they were attacked by the crowd with bottles. Neither statement was remotely true. Medics did tend Tomlinson after his final collapse, but only one bottle was lobbed, and the perpetrator was dealt with by the crowd itself. But why would they not correct their mistake (if that’s what it was) when the evidence was seen and recorded by numerous sources? Could it be lies, collusion, bluster and corruption had worked too well in the past not to be tempted by this time?