Policing of the no borders week of action.
[Thanks to NetPol for this report]
No Borders activists have condemned the policing of their conference / week of action held this month (February 2012), including the holding of activists for two nights in police custody after they were arrested for non-imprisonable offences, and the use of intrusive surveillance and data gathering.
One of the activists suggested the heavy handed approach was attributable to discrimination; “Think about who we support?! Migrants are the kinds of people the police love to hate and so they love to hate us too.”
Refusal of Bail
No Borders activists conducted a blockade at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre. The activists said they had conducted the protest in response to the practice of taking additional detainees as ‘reserves’ to the airports for charter flights in case illness or appeal prevented a removal. They claim that this practice had been held to be inhumane by a 2011 inspection report from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons as well as the Home Affairs Select Committee
Arrests were made for a breach of conditions of protest, under s14 of the public order act, and for obstruction of the highway. Both of these are very minor offences which carry a fine as maximum sentence. Despite this, the police denied the arrestees bail, and held them for two nights in police custody before taking them before Uxbridge Magistrates court. The prosecution then argued forcefully that they should continue to be remanded in custody until the termination of the No Borders conference – an additional two days. The court rightly dismissed the application. But the protesters had already effectively served a two day custodial sentence.
Police harassment of solidarity demonstration
Protesters turning up to support demonstrators appearing at Uxbridge found themselves subject to ‘section 60’stop and searches outside the court. An authorisation by police under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is intended to be an extreme measure, for use in situations where police anticipate serious violence, or that people are carrying weapons. It was clearly an inappropriate response to a group of people turning up to give their friends support in court, and unsurprisingly no weapons were found.
Protesters were told that they must give their name and address or they face arrest, and those who had travelled from other European countries, and were not sure of English law, complied. Activists accused the police of ‘blatant intelligence gathering’.
Later in the week No Borders activists were also subject to being ‘accompanied’ by uniformed police, apparently in order to dissuade them from carrying out further protest actions. This involved police officers closely followed protesters on foot and on trains, even to the point of following them to their homes. It is a police tactic that has frequently been criticised by protest groups, including the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), as being intimidating and grossly disproportionate.