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I GOT AN ARTICLE IN THE GUARDIAN!

19 Jul

HOLY COW I GOT AN ARTICLE IN THE MUTHA-LOVIN’ GUARDIAN! Getting an article published in the Guardian has been on my bucket list since my early teens and holy hell I’ve done it. I wish it were about something more positive than having the Judicial Review claims dismissed – which was gutting on many, many levels – but this article was my silver lining.

Even if I did get Comment is Free trolls aplenty (a new one on me) I also got this Guardian BylineBOOM.

Arrest without crime – the truth of a royal wedding overreaction

The high court has ruled that 15 pre-emptive arrests were not unlawful, as the criminalisation of protest continues

On the day of the royal wedding I was arrested for a fictional breach of the peace. This week the high court has ruled that there was nothing unlawful about the police’s actions.

Four people in zombie fancy dress outside Belgravia Police stationI was in fancy dress on the day. That was it. One minute I was in a Starbucks near Soho Square with four other people who’d come for a zombie flashmob. Four hours later I emerged from a police cell with handcuff marks still visible on my wrists. If it can happen to a boring, middle-class white girl like me, it can happen to anyone. Continue reading

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Poem: Raise You

23 Jun

I generally veer away from letting my poetry get too explicitly political, just because I’ve seen it done really badly, but.. this one escaped. I’ve performed this a few times and it’s always gone down a storm, but I’m not sure about the performance-to-page transition (or, frankly, the punctuation) – all feedback appreciated.

All instances named in this poem are from real life (though they didn’t all happen to me.)

Raise You

We say “the owners of this shop have dodged six billion in tax – almost exactly the same amount which is currently being cut from disability benefits and people are dying as a result. These guys should pay their tax. It would actually save lives if these guys paid their tax.”
You say we’re intimidating shoppers.

We say “stop the arms trade! In this building right here, right now, people are making deals to sell arms to corrupt regimes who will use those weapons on civilians.”
You say we’re causing a breach of the peace.

I say “that’s my bike chain. See my bike helmet? See my bike? That’s my sodding bike chain.”
You say I’m carrying a weapon.

But we’ll see your bullshit
And we’ll raise you.

We’ll raise our voices, we’ll raise our fists
We’ll raise teams of legal observers to march in our midsts
We’ll raise awkward questions and what’s more as well
We’ll see your bullshit
We’ll call your bullshit
And we’ll raise hell. Continue reading

Day 5 of the Trial

4 Jun

For up to the minute updates, press releases, video evidence and more, go to the Pageantry and Precrime website.

Day five saw barristers acting on behalf of all four groups of claimants made their final arguments in response to the Met’s barrister, Sam Grodzinski‘s case the day before.

First Stephen Cragg acting for Bindmans solicitors on behalf of the Grow Heathrow squat which was raided by riot police the day before the wedding.

  • He pointed out that the raid was not about the fictional paint bombs which police had warrants for, it was about searching for Operation Brontide suspects who had committed criminal damage acts at earlier demonstrations. There was no evidence to link the suspects to the side, but officers were acting on “Commander Broadhurst’s hunch.”
  • “The two Operation Brontide officers on the site then went on to the Camberwell site”
  • If police were genuinely seeking to disrupt potential criminal damage before it happened it was odd that they left all the many tools which were around in the working gardens, but instead searched people’s wallets for their ID.

Continue reading

Day 4 of the Trial

1 Jun

For up to the minute updates, press releases, video evidence and more, go to the Pageantry and Precrime website.

NB: The final hearing is on Friday June 1st at the High Court (court 8) starting at 10:00 AM. It will consist of re-sponses from all the claimants’ barristers to the police’s barrister’s arguments. The hearing is expected to conclude between 12:00 and 1:00.

Day four saw the rest of barrister Sam Grodzinski responding to all the cases in turn, beginning with the first Judicial Review relating to pre-emptive arrests for breach of the peace on the day of the royal wedding.

To argue that there was not an unlawful policy of pre-emptive arrest or unlawful raids on squats, yet explain the Met’s actions Mr Grodzinski has to argue that all of the Met’s actions were completely proportionate. Continue reading

Day 3 of the trial

31 May

For up to the minute updates, press releases, video evidence and more, go to the Pageantry and Precrime website.

Day three saw the rest of the barrister Stephen Cragg speaking on behalf of the Grow Heathrow claimants whose squat was searched by riot police the day before the royal wedding, and then the barrister Sam Grodzinski representing the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police began his response to all four Judicial Reviews. Continue reading

Day 2 of the Trial

29 May

For up to the minute updates, press releases, video evidence and more, go to the Pageantry and Precrime website.

Firstly a clarification: the format for the four judicial reviews is not as stated in the post on the first day of the trial. In fact the barristers representing the plaintiffs will each make their cases, then the barristers acting for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police will respond to all of them, starting with the most recent and ending with the first one. Then the barristers acting for the plaintiffs will have an opportunity to respond.

Tuesday 29th May – Day Two in Court
This was a packed day which saw evidence from all four Judicial Reviews.
The First Judicial Review: 15 Pre-emptive Arrests for Breach of the Peace

  • It began with the first Judicial Review about 15 people arrested pre-emptively for breach of the peace (R (on the application of Hicks & Others) V the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis). Karon Monaghan QC showed video evidence of the stop and search and eventual arrest of the Charing Cross 10. The first video is available here. The second is here.
  • Ms Monaghan summed up with arguments relating to articles 5 and 8 of the European Court of Human Rights and brought up the fact that the detentions appeared to be punitive. “The intention was not to bring them to court, it was simply to remove them from the streets.”

The same barrister acting for Tuckers solicitors, represented both the second and third Judicial Reviews and they were presented side-by side. They have been split out here for clarity.

The Second Judicial Review: Minor Arrested Pre-Emptively for Criminal Damage

  • The second JR concerned a minor (known as M) who was 16 years old at the time. He was stopped by police while walking towards Soho Square carrying a megaphone. He was searched and subsequently arrested pre-emptively for criminal damage when police found two permanent markers in his bag. The minor had his DNA, fingerprints and photographs taken and he was held for eight hours. Eventually he was released without charge as, according to the police, “there was no evidence to suggest he would commit an offence.”
  • While the facts were not in dispute that the minor had two pens, a bulging backpack and a megaphone on his person, the stories from the police officers who arrested him varied. Initially the officers’ notebooks and the reports which they filled out mentioned the minor’s megaphone and his stated intention to protest and a ‘rude and obnoxious’ demeanor as the reason why they searched him. However, in their subsequent statements the officers had claimed it was M’s bulging backpack which had raised their suspicions as they feared it could contain rocks or spray paint.
  • It emerged that there were ‘anti-demonstration patrols’ of police going up and down Oxford Street on the day of the royal wedding.
  • The difference in the earlier and later accounts given by the officers was so large that the officers in question were called to the witness stand. Their testimony did not particularly clarify the facts. The barrister mentioned it was unusual that Constable Whitwell’s memory of the incident appeared to grow better and more complex as time went on.
  • In his testimony Constable Whitwell said he initially approached M asking ‘why have you got a megaphone’. M responded ‘I want to express my opinion, it’s my right to do so’. Whitwell stated that “to my mind this was very strange.” Constable Whitwell’s written statement mentioned that “a megaphone is not normally a tool for peaceful, non-provocative protest.”
  • The court was shown footage taken by a concerned passer-by of the minor’s arrest. The minor was in handcuffs, in tears, repeatedly stating “I didn’t do anything” while the passerby asked the police on why the minor was under arrest. The passerby, hearing the police’s reasons, reacted with audible disbelief and dubbed the police’s actions ‘precrime’.

The Third Judicial Review: Raid on a Squat in Camberwell

  • A squat in Camberwell was raided by the Territorial Support Group (TSG – i.e. riot police) on April 27th 2011 – the day before the royal wedding. Despite not being officially anything to do with the royal wedding the Metropolitan Police’s Gold Commander (officer in charge of the policing of the royal wedding) had received regular updates about the raid, and stated to the media at midday on the 27th that he was “relieved that no evidence of a conspiracy to disrupt the royal wedding had been uncovered.”
  • The TSG police officers who carried out the search were briefed by the royal wedding police team and instructed by commander Broadhurst and Commander Johnson who both held key roles in the policing of the royal wedding.
  • The search warrant was for stolen goods – specifically bicycles and computers. However no bike parts were seized – despite there being plenty around as a bike workshop was run on the property.
  • The items which were seized included computers, all toothbrushes from the bathrooms, and flyers about a zombie themed event in Soho Square on the day of the royal wedding (which were taken directly to the silver command officer). It was not in dispute that the toothbrushes were taken to obtain DNA.
  • “We are asking the court to draw inferences on what the motivations were of the police during the searches” the plaintiff’s barrister stated.
  • The police do not deny that there was an ulterior motive to the searches, or that the sole reason for the timing of the search was the royal wedding, but they insist that gathering intelligence on what they believed to be an extremist group was not the dominant motive, therefore it was not unlawful.
  • The plaintiff’s barrister argued that evidence gathering was the dominant motive but that the police did not have enough information to apply for a warrant on that basis, so the stolen goods was a cover story. (No stolen goods were recovered.)

The Fourth Judicial Review: Police Raid on Grow Heathrow Squat
Grow Heathrow is a community gardens project on the site of former plant nursery. It grows herbs, vegetables, and runs art workshops and bike workshops. It is well-loved by the community. It was also raided on the 27th of April (the day before the royal wedding) by TSG riot police. The claimants in this Judicial Review are represented by Bindmans solicitors with Stephen Cragg as their barrister. This case didn’t get very long before the court broke up for the day.

  • It was pointed out that geographically this had very little to do with the royal wedding.
  • The reason for the search was intelligence/a suspicion about the royal wedding. The police were searching for paintbombs (glass bulbs filled with paint). None were found
  • As at the Camberwell squat, none of the residents had any intention to go to either the royal wedding or anti-royal wedding demonstrations.
  • Up to 40 officers arrived with a “surprising show of force”. When the residents asked to see search warrants they were grabbed and pushed. No one saw any warrants for over 40 minutes.

Coming up on Wednesday the 30th:
Wednesday in court (from 10:00 AM onwards) will see the conclusion of the submissions for the claimants in the Grow Heathrow Judicial Review and the beginning of the police’s defence for all four cases.

Day 1 of the Trial

28 May

For up to the minute updates, press releases, video evidence and more, go to the Pageantry and Precrime website.

Monday 28th was the first day of what’s set to be a five day hearing with judges Lord Justice Richard and Lord Openshaw. The hearing will encompass four Judicial Reviews which are:

  • one Judicial Review into the pre-emptive arrests for ‘breach of the peace’ on the day of the royal wedding
  • one Judicial Review into the pre-emptive arrest of a minor for ‘criminal damage’ the police believed he would cause (evidence: two pens)
  • one Judicial Review into the raid on the Grow Heathrow squat the day before the royal wedding – for which a supposed link to rupublican extremism was the excuse
  • one Judicial Review into another raid on a squat in Camberwell for which – again – a supposed link to left wing extremism was the excuse given.

The first, and largest, Judicial Review is expected to take two days.

On Monday 28th of May Karon Monaghan QC, representing the arrestees, set out her arguments:
In the morning she set out the framework of other cases involving protest, dissent, and arrests and stated that the police’s actions on the day of the royal wedding demonstrated a ‘self-evident policy which equated the intention to protest with criminal conduct’. She stated that ‘what it [this case] not about it the right to protest being absolute – it is not’ but that on the day of the royal wedding the police acted with an ‘impermissably low threshold of tolerance’ which had the effect of ‘the suppression of a dissenting voice’.

  • ‘The fact that others may take part in criminal conduct does not mean that my clients lose their right to free expression or their assembly rights … an individual assessment must be made.’
  • It was brought up that the state is not merely under a negative obligation to not prevent public protest – it may be under a positive obligation to actively facilitate protest.
  • In all the cases the violence which police claimed they feared would soon breach the peace was violence which coming from provoked monarchists – therefore the police were under a specific obligation to facilitate any intention to protest.
  • Mentioned the ruling of Lord Roger on a breach of the peace case – when Lord Roger concluded that ‘Police must take no more steps than is necessary to prevent it [a breach of the peace]’ therefore the police – by handcuffing and arresting protestors instead of, say, asking them to go away – acted disproportionately.
  • In the afternoon Karon Monaghan QC went through the individual cases of pre-emptive arrest one by one.
  • None of the officers went through the process or came to the conclusions necessary to affect a legal arrest – they were simply acting on the instructions of their superiors.
  • Police officers aren’t simply employees. Each officer’s authority comes directly from the crown and each officer is individually accountable for their actions – therefore it’s unlawful for an officer to fetter their own discretion.

Coming up on Tuesday 29th:

  • Arguments related to articles 5 and 8 of the European Court of Human Rights
  • The video of the Charing Cross 10’s arrests will be played
  • The barrister acting for the Metropolitan Police will begin.