I was one of five people dressed as zombies who were arrested for ‘potential breach of the peace’ in London on the 29th of April, 2011 – the day of the royal wedding. This is my account.
My friend Chris Farnell runs a zombie blog, and had heard there would be an event involving zombies for the Royal Wedding. As Chris lives in Norwich and I live in London, he asked if I would go along to take pictures and report for him. I had heard that Queer Resistance were some of the organizers and that there would be a gay zombie wedding as part of the celebration. I wasn’t sure on any of the finer details, but it sounded like fun.
I heard the event would be 10:00 – 12:00 at Soho Square. I had noticed that the Twitter hashtag #RoyalZombieFlashmob wasn’t moving at all that morning, but I didn’t think much of it.
I got zombied up in a bridesmaid’s dress, headband of white flowers, dark circles around my eyes and some ‘blood’ (lipstain) running down my chin & from a wound in each arm. My housemates said nice things about my costume and told me to have fun. I left my house in Archway at about 9:45.
On the way my mother rang and asked what I was up to. I told her “off to report on a zombie flashmob for the Royal Wedding”. She was tickled and said it was nice to see the tradition of alternative celebrations was still going strong. “Don’t eat any brains I wouldn’t eat, Kiddo.”
En route my friend Mary, a journalist with more than a passing interest in zombies texted saying she’d heard that the organizers had been arrested the night before, and be careful.
I got to Soho Square at maybe 10:45. Nothing much was going on. As I arrived a few journalists and photographers who were already leaving took my picture and interviewed me. They said it was a “damp squib of a story” and nothing was happening.
I heard from a couple of other stragglers that the organizers (apparently a guy called Chris Knight and some about five or seven others, reports differed) had been arrested the day before for ‘attempted breach of the peace’ and a large stage guillotine had been impounded. Apparently the plan had been to execute some royals in effigy.
Within Soho Square there were maybe twelve people there for the demo – one dressed as a crusader with a colander on his head, a couple of people with crowns made out of gold paper and everyone else dressed in pretty normal, boring clothes. I heard a few chants of “one solution: revolution!” Three film crews were milling about, bored, more photographers and journalists milling about, and a pretty obvious police presence. I decided to hang well back and stayed on the other side of the square to where anyone else was.
Journalists kept approaching trying to interview me about my aims and objectives as I was pretty much the only one who looked like a zombie. I was a bit embarrassed, given that I’d come to report on it too and had no idea about aims or anything else – I just happened to have dressed up. I explained I was mainly there to report on it too. Lots of people took my picture. I couldn’t really find anyone to speak to myself. Apparently I was the story. Whoops.
- After maybe twenty minutes the people who I’m lazily referring to as anarchists (probably republican but other than that I have no idea what their aims/objectives/sympathies were) cut a ‘zombie wedding cake’ – I finally came in closer to get a picture. Eventually I stood on a bench to get a decent shot past all the other press, but I noticed that many cameras were trained on me, not the cake, as they were there to report on zombies and I was the only one who looked like a sodding zombie.
The maybe-anarchists handed out slices of cake (chocolate sponge with some jam on top – very nice.) They kept saying anyone could have some cake, “even plainclothes police officers” – and they took great delight in pointing one guy out. He was slouched on a park bench in a hoodie (hood up) with his arms folded.
“The main thing we’ve been doing is plainclothes policeman-spotting. They‘re the ones that look shifty and uncomfortable” – Martin Wheatly, freelance photographer with Sinister Pictures
There was a hell of a lot of wandering around aimlessly, talking to bored journalists and posing for bored photographers. No one seemed to really know what was going on – we’d all turned up to see a thing which, as far as we could tell, wasn’t happening.
After a while Amy Cutler – a fellow zombie enthusiast who was also going to be recording events for Chris’s blog – turned up. We sat down in the grass while she borrowed my zombie blood (lipstain which I later needed to scrub with a nail brush to get off my skin – sorry Amy, should’ve warned you).
Two more cheery zombie enthusiasts joined us – I later learned they were Ludi and Erich. They got some snazaroo facepaint and brushes out of their bags and, with a plastic Starbucks cup full of water, Ludi started to paint Erich up as a zombie.
- Photographers surrounded us. This was the most interesting thing they’d seen so far.
While we were getting talking (and complimenting Ludi on her blood-spatter paint effect on the back of Erich’s head) a scuffle broke out towards one of the side entrances of Soho Square. I went by to take a picture or two but there wasn’t much to see: a line of cops blocking the exit with blank expressions on their faces and some of the maybe-anarchists saying that cops had taken their friend for no reason. One guy seemed to be waving his flag in their faces and the mood was turning.
I’ve since found video footage of it here:
As this was happening I spotted that three of the four roads leading off Soho Square were now lined with police, with police vans parked nearby. I went back to where our fellow-zombies were painting faces and said we should move now. We went out the one unblocked road, back on to Oxford Street. Amy Cutler joked that at this point the zombie demonstration had “split into demonstrators and zombies.”
On the corner of Oxford Street and Soho Street there was a Starbucks (55-59 Oxford Street, to be precise). We agreed it was a shame to get all dressed up with no place to go, so maybe we should go for a coffee. I was a bit wary about staying so nearby, but the other zombies (rightfully) pointed out that we were just being consumers now so there shouldn’t be any problem.
- We ordered coffee. We saw two women and one man, zombied-up, heading in to Soho Square with two small children. We ran out to get a picture of them and warned them it looked like it was getting nasty. They had American accents and one of the kids had a sign which said “princesses are pigs.”
As we went back inside the Starbucks we saw three or four (memories differ) police vans indicating left to turn into Soho Square. We took our seats by the window again and rolled our eyes that this was completely silly and disproportionate and the cops must be really bored today.
At around 11:45 about three or four cops came into the Starbucks and asked us to come outside. We picked up our stuff and followed them out. They lined us up outside the window of Starbucks and informed us we were being stopped and searched. We asked under what grounds – they said Section 60. This meant nothing to us so we asked what it was – they said they had reason to suspect we were going to disturb the peace.
I have since looked up Section 60 and it relates to having cause to suspect a person is carrying a weapon. This was clearly not a risk from us in the first place, and was even more clearly not a risk once they had searched our bags and found nothing more incriminating than cameras, bottles of water, facepaint and books.
I took down cops’ numbers and made notes as I went. My handwriting from this point was especially bad as I was shaking a bit, high on adrenaline. We knew we hadn’t done anything wrong, but it was scary all the same.
For the record, the numbers I noted down were:
According to Wikipedia this means that they were constables from Kentish Town.
I said if dressing like a zombie was a breach of the peace then I breached the peace every hallowe’en. The police in question clearly knew it was a bit ridiculous, and made quite pleasant chit-chat throughout. Constable Loughlin (EK477) who was searching Erich, upon hearing his accent asked “you over here on holiday? You enjoying it? Shame today’s a bit cloudy, isn’t it?” The officer searching Amy made chit-chat about the book in her bag (A Million Little Pieces) “Have you read that book?”
We asked if we could go now. They said they had to still hold us as the way we were dressed indicated that we may disturb the peace. We kept pointing out that we’d just been drinking coffee in Starbucks. They said that this was true but we might go on to meet others and create a disturbance elsewhere.
I have since seen footage (3rd and 4th videos) that James Newman, a man filming our stop and search, was searched and arrested himself. He was searched under Section 60, and arrested on the grounds that his own credit card with his name on it may have been stolen property. I wasn’t aware that any of this was happening at the time.
At this point I wanted to use my phone to text or call a friend, update the Twitter hashtag on the flashmob, etc., but an officer told me to put my phone away. I have no idea, looking back, whether that was something they had a right to request or simply a police officer’s personal preference. Either way, from 11:45 we were incommunicado.
I asked what we could do to prove that we were bored now and wanted to leave. The police seemed pleased to know we had changes of clothes and makeup remover with us and said that would count in our favour, but no, we couldn’t go yet. The stop and search process was apparently still going on, despite the fact that they’d finished searching our bags and pockets, and had given each of us our little stop and search forms.
There were five zombies: myself, Amy, Erich, Ludi and a girl we didn’t really get a chance to talk to, who the Guardian article identified as ‘Deborah, 19’. There were five zombies lined up along the Starbucks window and sixteen police officers.
Various press buzzed about photographing this. We kept being asked if they were “your friends” despite most of them having clearly visible press badges on lanyards around their necks.
- Then the police got news on their walkie-talkies, evidently from some superior who wasn’t there, that we would be arrested. They apologized, and informed us that we had to stay there until their colleagues arrived who would arrest us.
After maybe ten minutes more police officers in high-vis jackets arrived and handcuffed each of us. The handcuffs had a big black plastic separator between each wrist. We were cuffed with our hands in front of us, one hand facing left and the other facing right.
From looking at the Guardian online video (7:30) I can tell you that Amy’s arresting officer was definitely number ST 4519. Erich’s and my officers’ numbers are less clear, but it looks like Erich’s officer was number ST 4826, and mine was ST 4514. The area code ‘ST’ followed by a four digit number indicates that these police were Special Constables from Whetstone.
We were loaded into a police van which sat there for a long while. Deborah, 19, was loaded into a different van.
The van door was open and various journalists poked their heads through the door, including the Guardian journalist. We were told we’d be taken to a police station, though it took them ages to find out which one.
All the arresting officers (one per person) were cheery enough and amused by the situation. Every officer we dealt with was perfectly pleasant – they pointed out to us that Prince Harry was still single and played AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ in the van – but the fact remained that we were being arrested for wearing fancy dress (or, in my case, for wearing misapplied Max Factor Lipfinity lipstain).
It took an hour and fifteen minutes to get across London. During that time we went past Hyde Park and probably saw more of the crowds than we would have otherwise.
The handcuffs hurt. They sent shooting pains into my fingers intermittently. The officers explained that if I’d keep my hands perfectly still with the cuffs just resting between those two bones on each hand this shouldn’t hurt – but in a moving car, with one hand held horizontally above another (i.e. no way to rest my arms), this was virtually impossible. Also: we were relatively pleasant arrestees who they were being nice to. I’m sure if they’d disliked us the officers would have put the cuffs one or two notches tighter and it would’ve been agony.
On their walkie-talkies the police kept referring to us as ‘prisoners.’
In the van we agreed to wait for each other outside the station and go get a coffee or a drink afterwards. Deborah, 19, (we realised later) had not been around for this conversation.
- We arrived at Belgravia Police Station near Victoria at about 1:15. One by one we were booked in. Skip the next few paragraphs if you know the drill, but we didn’t, so this was a new one on us: pat-downs, shoes (including flip flops and the undersides of feet) checked, pockets and bags gone through. All my jewelery was confiscated as I apparently may have self-harmed with my two silver rings, hoop earrings and watch. As they took my watch I asked if there was a clock in the cells. I was told there wasn’t, but I could ask an officer what the time was.
The officer booking me in wanted to know if I “needed” my glasses. “Are those just reading glasses, or do you really need them to see?” I found myself channeling my middle-class uppity very well: When the officer failed to spell my name I did it for him in phonetics (“Echo, India, Sierra, Echo, Mike, Alpha, November…”); when I was told I could have literature on the arrest/on stop and search I insisted that I wanted it; when they asked how I was I glared and replied “bored”, and I insisted that they let me take a phone number from my mobile for my one call. When they asked who the phone number was for I replied (truthfully) that it was a friend of mine who is a journalist.
For the record: I was bricking it – but I’ve been raised with brilliant, informed, left-leaning organizations like Young Quakers and the Woodcraft Folk all my life; I did debate soc in sixth form and at uni; I regularly email my MPs and others for Avaaz/Greenpeace/Amnesty etc.. As such, I am probably in one of the top percentiles of obnoxious people who know their stuff. Had I not had such middle-class bluster and composure, I’m sure I would’ve just capitulated to feeling guilty, and like a criminal, from the start.
I asked how long we would be kept in until. The officer kept saying “until it’s over” or “until it’s died down.” When I kept asking for something more specific, a ball-park figure, c’mon, he shrugged and said maybe 7:00 PM.
We were each photographed with our arresting officer. Front, side, other side, and from behind (I have a remarkably distinctive derriere). We were then each shown into our cells.
For those not in the know: police cells are really boring. There is nothing there. Mine was a tiled room, which was cold despite the sunny day. The ‘window’ was glass bricks so you couldn’t see out of it. There was one bench with an uncomfortable wipe-clean gym mat-type mattress on it, with a pillow made of the same. There was a stainless steel toilet with no seat, no toilet paper, and no sink. I had to ring the little bell and ask for toilet paper, and had to ring the little bell to be allowed out to wash my hands in the sink outside the cells when I was done.
As we were evidently well-liked and clearly no threat we were given, variously: the books from our bags, cups of tea and blankets. Some of us were given ‘lunch’ (imagine your worst school dinners, then make it neon and inedible – seriously, I’m not fussy and I only managed about three spoonfuls) – some of the later book-ins weren’t fed as they’d been booked in after lunchtime (despite the fact that we’d all been detained since 11:45).
The officers also eventually gave me the literature I’d requested on the arrest*, but there is no getting around the fact that it was incredibly boring, we had no idea how long we’d be there for, what time it was, or whether we’d be charged.
(*Amy has informed me she overheard officers saying that they’d better let me have the literature on it “What, cell 9? Yeah, you’d better. She looks like the type that’d cause trouble if you don’t.” Thank you for telling me this, Amy. It makes me very happy.)
As it was, my copy of the procedures book had the relevant pages ripped out. I requested another. I read it, but it was virtually no use as it kept referring to other documents, laws, bills and statutes which I had no access to.
- When I got bored/worried enough I demanded my phonecall. I had written down my friend
- ‘s number on the leaflet I’d been given, which is just as well as the police claimed they couldn’t find the copy they’d made of the number when they confiscated my phone and everything else.The officer insisted on dialing the number, and wanted to know who he’d be speaking to. I replied “I’d hoped
- be speaking to her.” When it went to answer phone he handed me the handset and I left her a message. I asked the officer the time and he said 2:00. As I went back to my cell I checked with him again – no, whoops, it was 2:30. While it’s hard to tell what’s an honest mistake and what’s deliberately dicking someone about – since they’d already tried to confiscate my glasses, I was not inclined to assume the best of them.
Not being able to track the time in an empty room is a very strange, dislocating experience. Other things I did to keep myself entertained included yoga, sit-ups, singing (tiled room = amazing resonance) and attempting to sleep. The matt/pillow/blankets smelled musky and lived-in.
- At 3:45 we were released, one by one. We were told we were not being charged with anything and “it’s [the wedding is] all over now.” They advised us where the nearest sink was and told us to we should wash our faces and go home. I got the distinct impression from the officer doing this particular procedure that he thought I should be grateful. My friend Chris (of the
- ) has pointed out our release was almost exactly the time that Kate and Wills got into a cab and left the final public celebrations.
We didn’t wash our faces. Myself and Amy were let out first and we waited outside the police station for the others. Erich and Ludi turned up, but no Deborah, 19. We made enquiries and found out she’d been let out first, and had presumably just gone home. She was probably feeling the same mixture of shame, anger and harassment that the rest of us were, but without peers to laugh it off with.
- The four remaining zombies went to the nearest pub for a drink. We swapped contact details and spoke about what we could do, given that it was clearly an unlawful arrest. We bounced ideas, but nothing is confirmed or sorted yet. However, we did learn that we are all pretty damn politically-informed, and pretty damned uppity.
Erich, wonderfully, turns out to be Erich Schultz, the director of the London Independent Film Festivalwhere Robert Carlyle, ‘King of the Zombies’ was the head of the jury this year. (Too good. Just too good.)
We all laughed about the fact that we all had been to demos where we had anticipated trouble – where we wrote legal aid phone numbers on our arms, left ID at home, etc. but this wasn’t one of them. This, we thought, wasn’t even a demo: it was a picnic with fancy dress.
We went on to Regent’s Park where some friends of mine were having a (non-peace-breaching) picnic. The friends included my phonecall Mary Hamilton, who interviewed us there and then on her iPhone. The interview with me is here:
In retrospect, I would like to retract my statement about people “clearly antagonising” the police. I have since seen footage from up close of what actually happened. From across the square we could just see people getting wound up and loud, and we knew it’d be smart to get out of there fast.
The interview with the other three zombies is here:
So, what now?
We (four) are looking at our options. If Deborah, 19, wants to get in touch then please do. We were stopped and searched using legislation designed to prevent football hooliganism, and the police used the powers of arrest as an arbitrary method of dispersal. We were released without charge as there was nothing to charge us with – but they were clearly hoping we’d crawl away, chastened and grateful that it was over. However – and I can’t emphasize this enough – we weren’t doing anything illegal. This was police harassment.
This was pretty mild police harassment as it goes and almost every officer we met was perfectly pleasant – but this does not undo the overall shittiness that our right to free assembly was revoked and we were illegally arrested and detained simply because the police didn’t like the look of us.
We are looking into things such as Black and Green Cross, various legal aid, Liberty, maybe even the Twitter joke trial people.
When it comes to battles to fight, I never imagined mine would be the right to dress up like an idiot, but this is the one that’s happened to me and I’m not going to let it slide. Being arrested and detained for nearly four hours is not an expectable, acceptable, or legal consequence of wearing some fake blood.
Metropolitan police: you have messed with the wrong zombies.
83 thoughts on “Blog: Royal Zombie Flashmob Arrests”
Technical note: I’m not seeing the title attributes of the tags. So for example your first sentence reads as “Chris runs a , and had heard” etc. I’m using Firefox 4.0 on Windows XP SP3.
Long live the zombie incursion! …er, well, you know what I mean. Have you considered a protest lurch?
Argh. I mean the [A] tags – just imagine that those are triangular brackets. Unhorsed by my own
Heya, editing as I go, but yes. Got it covered (I think).
If it’s any help, there does seem to be some precedence for compensation for wrongful arrest (not to mention assault, noting the marks left by handcuffs), in a similar case a few years ago that involved claims of breach of the peace, during an event of the monarchy: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1453491/Anti-monarchy-protesters-win-police-damages.html . Also, don’t know if http://www.freedomtoprotest.org.uk/FTP2suingpolice.pdf is of any help.
you can see him getting arrested in this footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOli98fgBP0&feature=player_embedded
it truly is disgraceful
I think your first step is to determinedly complain. It would be tricky to take any sort of legal action (though that would be relevant if they had charged you with anything), but the Police do have a robust complaints procedure.
Begin by contacting the station and stating you wish to make a complaint about the arrest. Give them the date etc and the police officer’s numbers you wrote down (go you for doing that!). If the police officers weren’t from that station then see if the station you were taken to can tell you where you should send you complaint: it sounds like it’s the legitimacy of the arrest that was the main problem, so you need to track the order to arrest ye.
It is legal to arrest someone to prevent them committing a crime (including rioting, breach of the peace etc), but there have to be reasonable grounds to think you would be going to commit a crime. Even if they had intel on some aspect of the event as a ‘protest’, you weren’t involved in that aspect of it, weren’t near everyone else and were engaged in peaceful coffee drinking. They didn’t find anything on you and so it seems unreasonable. Even if they mistook you for ‘organisers’ they had failed to arrest the night before, since you were zombie-dressed, they need more than ‘it’s possible’ to arrest you.
The search sounds especially dodgy since he quoted a law and told you it was a different one – that certainly breaches the PACE 1984 code on stop and search (c.f. the codes for what they are meant to do on arrest, searching etc, though I assume that’s what you were given to read in your cell).
If you contact/write to the police station and don’t get a result get your MP or someone equally scary to follow it up – indeed all four of your MPs. Once you know which station to complain to, set out the facts (why the search and arrest were ‘unreasonable’ – for the search there would also have to have been reasonable grounds you had a weapon if that was the article he was searching you under).
The person, inspector or whoever, who issued the order to arrest you should then be investigated by a superior officer, who will send you their findings. These can then be appealed if you are not happy with the result.
After complaining to the police station you could complain to the Police Complaints Commission, but they hardly take up any complaints (a tiny percentage) so the ‘complaining to the police station’ procedure is better.
In your complaint you could try making a freedom of information request about the intelligence or information they had that led to the heavy police presence and arrests at the event, but I’m not sure of the status of that sort of thing when there may be ongoing investigations…
Anyway you sound like you were brilliant and heroic. Well done for setting all this out too: it’s so powerful in your own words. Hope my suggestions may be handy (it’s the legal training kicking in) and good luck with taking this somewhere!!!
Jen you are amazing. Thank you so much for all of this.
That’s brilliant – thank you loads, it’s really useful!
Good on you Hannah. I read this with great interest. I get the feeling that police involved in your arrest weren’t that bothered about what you were doing (or not doing – you weren’t doing anything), but they were acting as puppets for unseen people above telling them what to do.
I think it’s dreadful what’s happened to you and I’m glad that you dealt with it with such dignity and intelligence. If you were twenty years older I would start chatting you up now.
“I get the feeling that police involved in your arrest weren’t that bothered about what you were doing (or not doing – you weren’t doing anything), but they were acting as puppets for unseen people above telling them what to do.”
that could just as easily be expressed as- the police were the police.
This is a really awesome writeup! Thanks. I’m really glad we were able to quickly give interviews – nice one on contacting Mary as well : )
Couldn’t have been detained with better company 🙂
Would not be in the least bit surprised if ‘Deborah’ was an undercover cop – sounds quite like them to have the undercover follow you until you were arrested then put in a different van and taken for debriefing. Rediculous, but exactly what the this rotten state does to try and interact with its detractors and overhear their conversations.
Did they return your phone?
Ooh, good point. Deborah as an undercover cop isn’t something we’d thought about at all. We just felt bad for her, especially when we read she was only a teenager.
Yes, thankfully phones and cameras were all returned unscathed, but after the way the UKuncut protestors in Fortnum & Mason were treated a few weeks back, we were expecting the worst.
Update, got slightly more news on the elusive Deborah, 19. My friend Chris ‘Chickenhawk’ Farnell found this here:
12.58 Joseph Dyke, one of our student journalists, emails about the kerfuffle in Soho Square:
Five people belonging to the “government of the dead” were arrested near Soho Sq. The five were arrested after going into Starbucks dressed as zombies.
Deborah, 19, a student from University of East London said the protests were related to the Royal Wedding. She said her tutor, Camilla Power, had been arrested the day before. She said: “We must have offended someone by being zombies. But it is fun to dress as a zombie. The police say we could be going to disrupt the wedding, but we were not doing any damage”
Camilla Power is a reference that checks out – now we just need Deborah.
Deborah, if you’re reading this, please get in touch. All five making a group complaint/action will be stronger than just four of us.
Camilla Power is Chris Knight’s partner, I would suggest trying to contact her through him – he’s fairly easy to find, he does this sort of street theatre stuff a lot and his details are all over the place. He was also arrested the night before, he was planning on bringing a guillotine with him on the day.
Firstly, sorry to hear you had a shitty day, and thanks for writing this up so others can read about it.
Definitely speak to Green and Black Cross Legal, they will give you all sorts of helpful advice – they’re connected to (amongst other organisations) the Climate Camp legal team, who’ve been dealing with wrongful arrest stuff for some years now. They’ll also know what other organisations may be useful to you, including but not limited to some of those you listed.
Stay uppity! Well done on documenting this and good luck in the important fight ahead.
You may be able to get legal help under no-win no-fee from pretty much any solicitor which does actions against the police. You know about Green and Black Cross, you may want to consider going to Bindmans solicitors who have a specialist actions against the police department and who seem to win quite a lot.
Thanks for documenting this, it’s sad that this is the case but this is more and more becoming a problem. and it’s nice to know what the situation is.
I advise you file a formal complaint and request compensation to protect your reputation (this can be used against you in future if you don’t) and to help this happening again in future.
Any man puts his hands on me is my enemy.
Sorry you had to go through that but well done for writing about it!
Interesting account. Nobody else seems to have mentioned this so it may be that I’m putting 2 and 2 together and making 15, but my assumption from hearing about the original set of arrests has been that the police probably took the “Don’t forget your maggot confetti” line on the protest website at face value, and decided they couldn’t risk the possibility, however small, of someone landing a handful of worms on the royals.
Very possibly. I didn’t even see the website before I went. Link please?
Main site seems to be down, but this is a copy of it (scroll down for flyer and info below it).
To add to the confusion, it seems that, unrelatedly, both Democracy of the Dead and Queer Resistance planned zombie-themed protests for Soho Square – one related to the wedding, and one about cuts.
The Queer Resistance event met with similarly shoddy treatment as yourself – write-up here:
Note they’re already in contact with GBC Legal and would appreciate witnesses etc – I imagine they’d be very pleased to hear from you with your similar story.
You may (or may not) remember me from the Prof Elemental gig a few weeks ago. Anyway I just wanted to add my voice of support to everyoneelses. Standing up for our right to protest feels like it has never been more important and I absolutely hope you can take this further. Abuse of the powers we as a people grant the police is abominable and in recent months that abuse seems to be getting more and more commonplace!
Wow – I am really surprised by the massive over reaction of the Police and I presume the Palace, but I guess I shouldn’t be – a satirical show here in Australia got prevented by the Palace from doing an alternative commentary on the wedding.
I hope you pursue this and get results – being deprived of liberty on a day where you wanted to have some innocent fun for no reason at all is really horrible, and an abuse of power.
This is horrible. You are awesome. Go get them!
This is unbelievable and disgusting behaviour by the British police.
One thing I would certainly do (in addition to the suggestions above) is write to Prince William directly with a one-page description of what happened on the day of his wedding. I wonder what his reaction will be to realising that the Met was acting as a private “good taste” army, ostensibly on his behalf.
While you’re writing, you may want to write (separately) to the Queen, the Mayor of London and the Prime Minister. I get the impression that the “powers that be” don’t realise quite how out of control the Met has become.
Well done for fighting this. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that the Met had a budget for compensation for wrongful arrest. But arrest should not be purchasable.
You really did experience some horrific treatment and I hope that you can get somewhere with making them realise the idiocy of their actions even if you don’t manage any kind of compensation.
What I find ironic is that, from everything I have seen of him, Prince William would probably have found the whole zombie thing funny and thought it was a brilliant idea…Cliff’s suggestion above is a good one and I for one would be interested to see the results.
“potential breach of the peace”?? you mean “you haven’t done anything, but you **might** commit breach of the peace later on”?? that is AWESOME!
but why stop at breach of the peace? why not “potential grevious bodily harm” or “potential murder”? ooh – “potential regicide”!!!
i think you got off lightly there…
Hannah that sounds like a horrible experience and out of order behaviour by the police. My older daughter and her ex were wombles and he was at the republican party in Red Lion Sq.
They’ve had occasion to complain about police treatment over the years and took it to court. I emailed the link to this and suggested they might get in touch to advise but they don’t always read my emails 🙂 So if you hear from Sara or Alessio it is via me.
Not sure if you’ve seen this. A guy who was filming your arrest got himself stopped and searched as well.
Full report is here: http://4therecord.org/2011/04/30/democracy-in-the-uk/
Added a link in the article. Thank you. I’m trying to get in touch with him.
I am the guy who was filming your stop and search. There was certainly abuse of the law on April 28 and 29. It was clearly political and now brings us in line with China and North Korea even if only for a few days. The problem started with terrorism because we accepted that if someone had a plan to commit a terrorist act then that person could be arrested before commiting the crime. In this case unless you have a plan which shows you are going to commit a crime then clearly they have no right to arrest anyone without that evidence.
Hannah, advice was
Tell them to contact Bindmans http://www.bindmans.com/ who are handling similar cases or Bhatt Murphy http://www.bhattmurphy.co.uk/
Here is the second part of the video
I am sending an e-mail to Bindmans today.
I recommend your group do the same since it was clearly abuse of the law.
How old was Deborah?
I’m no lawyer, but having read up on Section 60 CJPOA, I’m surprised that it is still around, considering the heavy criticism that Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 received at the hands of the ECrHR (in Gillan v UK, where the arbitrary nature of the search powers were found to be unlawful. I don’t know if Section 60 has been challenged on these grounds but if it hasn’t, there seems to be a good case there.
As for being arrested “on suspicion of planning a breach of the peace” – that sounds like an impressively vague charge, and certainly seems like it goes against the ECHR, and possibly domestic law. While researching section 60, I came across R (on the application of Laporte) v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire ( UKHL 55) which involved breach of the peace and section 60, and the House of Lords unanimously found that just stopping people to prevent a breach of the peace (later in the day, somewhere else) was going too far. Given that judgment, it is hard to see how arresting on mere suspicion of planning a breach of the peace would be acceptable.
Of course, challenging this sort of action in the Courts can be time-consuming and expensive, with little chance of getting any return – but hopefully you’re all in contact with decent lawyers who can sort all this out.
Officer on film at 1:20 stating
“breach of the peace as you know is a very… a wide interpretation of what breach of the peace could be. The fact that someone wants to look like a zombie in the street might draw some looks etc, but in itself is pretty inoffensive.”
Part of the problem seems to be that the police aren’t actually told what the law is. I was speaking to a former police officer (now a constitutional / human rights lawyer or sorts) a while back and they commented that while police officers are given legal training, what they’re told doesn’t always match up with the law. Certainly reading what’s written, most of the officers seemed perfectly friendly and reasonable, but were “just following orders” – so the problem would seem to be much higher up the chain.
On breach of the peace, it is apparently defined in R v Howell (Erroll)  QB 416: “there is a breach of the peace whenever harm is actually done or is likely to be done to a person or in his presence to his property or a person is in fear of being so harmed through an assault, an affray, a riot, unlawful assembly or other disturbance.” (quoted in the case I linked above) – it is all about “violence or threatened violence.”
I think that police officer is making an understatement when he says that dressing up as zombies is a “wide interpretation” of breach of the peace (although maybe some people were afraid that you’d eat their brains?).
How about the European Court of Human Rights? Article 12, right to freedom of peaceful assembly? I’m sure these videos would easily win the case. All these arrests are clearly politically motivated orders from the top.
Looking at the case law on this, there are also possible claims under Articles 5 (liberty and security), 8 (privacy), 9 (freedom of thought etc. – vague argument here) and 10 (freedom of expression). There’s also a good case for the arrests being unlawful under domestic law, never mind the European stuff.
> (although maybe some people were afraid that you’d eat their brains?)
They’d be sadly disappointed if they tried to eat the Met officers’ brains!
First they came for the zombies,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a zombie….
Regardless of how polite the police were the arrest was clearly made on spurious grounds to serve a political purpose rather than out of any real concern for the protection of the public. It marks yet another departure from policing by consent and as such the incident should be of real concern to communities.
Thanks for taking the time to write it all up and I hope you are successful in pursuing this through complaints or court action.
It’s going about facebook that two people got sexually assaulted by coppers having been arrested for possession of a zombie leaflet.
Allegedly, a transwoman was genitally groped by a Met officer before searching, apparently to determine her physical sex. She was probably part of the Queer Resistance group, at a guess. I read about it here:
Whenever you have a complaint about any official body always copy the letter to your MP. It concentrates the minds of officialdom as MPs are duty bound to follow up constituents complaints.
What happened to you is outrageous and I hope that you can take some legal action which might deter the police from behaving like this in future. In the meantime, I think the public should know more about what the police are doing for our ‘protection’, while putting all our liberties at risk, through the press and other media. Your account is immensely readable – have you thought about writing, for example, to the Guardian about it. They have an ‘Experience’ feature every Saturday in the weekend magazine – at the end of the article it says “Do you have an experience to share? Email email@example.com“.
When will you morons realize the government is the problem here. They don’t give a shit about people and are terrorizing the public deliberately. Quit voting for this shit. News flash: it don’t matter how nice you are, they want to fuck with you all the same. That’s what they do to everyone else. You were peaceful and police were violent toward you. So much for the violence trade for violence principle.
After the fact, I realized that our little group of zombies may have been the only ones to make it through without arrest, I was shocked to find that just moments after meeting you outside of starbucks you were arrested.
I was discussing this story with a friend a couple of days ago. Whilst I was outraged by this apparent case of the police blatantly abusing their powers, my friend raised a different question — he asked if there had been any reports from “the other side of the story”, citing the staff at Starbucks as an example.
His point was that the vast majority of available information on this story appears to be from blogs and twitter, which (whilst undeniably valuable) are largely unverified (and potentially allow people to distory the facts).
This is an interesting point, and rather an annoying one from my perspective. Whilst I personally believe these blogged accounts of what happened, any discussion of them is potentially weakened by the lack of credible news sources reporting the story. Sure, it is *mentioned* in the Guardian (and very very briefly in the Telegraph), but certainly not in any damning detail.
This is a repeated problem, and a big one. Remember how long it took for the credible news sources to report on the circumstances of Ian Tomlinson’s death? I do. The blogosphere was going nuts over the story for several days before the Guardian picked it up (and the other news sources followed). If the video of his assault hadn’t emerged, it would still be considered “just another conspiracy theory reported on blogs”. If it’s this hard to get people to take notice of police *killing* an innocent man, it’s going to be almost impossible to get them engaged in much smaller cases of police abuses of power.
So, to get to my point, I guess what I’m saying is that I’d be *really* interested to hear about any follow-up action on this, Hannah. An upheld complaint, or successful legal action for unlawful arrest, is something that cannot as easily be written off as just “someone blogging nonsense”. This would be something that people would find much harder to ignore or dismiss.
We’ve been granted permission for a Judicial Review. https://hannahdoublebarrel.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/judicial-review-of-pre-emptive-royal-wedding-arrests/
Good work, and good luck (again)! Will be good to see how it pans out.
I found this page after a link was posted by a Facebook friend – thank you for putting your story online.
Are you able to put in a Subject Access Request for paperwork held by the police regarding your arrest? If they are holding any paperwork related to you and the arrest, they would presumably have to supply you with copies. It might give you some details of the story they’ve documented, which may significantly differ to what actually happened.
This is really interesting, Hannah. I had posted about the Zombie Wedding at http://www.colouringacorner.com and assumed it would be a really enjoyable, original event. One of my readers sent me your post today and I’ve referred to it in my blog as an update to my original post. It’s a really interesting side to the events that took place that day- thanks for putting it out there.
Useful information. Fortunate me I discovered your site by chance, and I am stunned why this twist of fate didn’t came about earlier! I bookmarked it.
What was the outcome of this? Read so far, got hooked, and want the rest of the story. Please update!
Heya, I’m collating all the zombie stuff here. https://hannahdoublebarrel.wordpress.com/zombies/
We have a court case happening soon. Fuckers are not getting away with it.
Any update on outcome?
Yes – we (zombies & others arrested on the day for no reason – turns out there were lots of us) are with Bhatt Murphy – and some are with Bindmans – and collectively we’ve been granted permission for a Judicial Review into the apparent policy of pre-emptive arrest. Court dates are provisionally this summer.
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