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Cops off Campus: A reflection on police presence – a Birkbeck Student’s experience

10 Dec
photo: indyrikki.wordpress.com

photo: indyrikki.wordpress.com

After student protests, mass arrests and police brutality hit the headlines, news came that the Univeristy of London has obtained an injunction preventing further protests on its campus. This personal account from a Birkbeck student explains why one student will defy the protest ban, and join in a national day of action called for tomorrow, including protests at University London Union in Malet Street from 2pm.

Although I do support and whole heartedly encourage the many different political debates and activism around my campus I would not have entirely seen myself as politically active, until now. When I come to my university, and I have been here for three years now, I spend most of my time in the library with my head in books trying to understand the intricacies of the law. The incredibly slow pace at which it takes me to put all of the law into my brain requires me to sit in the library from the moment it opens until my classes start in the evening. I sit in my usual place every day, a window seat overlooking Senate House and Malet Street, and when my concentration lapses I stare out of the window watching the day unfold. This means I get to see a lot of what is going on campus. I have seen all the protests go past Senate House, heard the Samba band rousing the crowd, watched various causes gather at Malet Street and listened to the speeches on the steps of SOAS. Even though all of these occasions may have distracted me from my studies it has always excited me to see so many different people coming together to stand up for what they believe in, it gives me hope. The London university, probably one of the most pluralistic environments I have been a part of, with people from so many different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, sexualities and identities studying every day, coming together and joining in a constant dialogue and action. Being part of this environment has led me to learn about many different issues and ideas and made me, a person coming from a background of very little education and cultural diversity, a better, more worldly and confident person.

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Bail Conditions point the way to the potential future of protest

26 Nov

This is a guest post by Harry Stopes (@HarryStopes)

education-for-allThe use of restrictive bail conditions on protestors, many of whom have been arrested en masse, is a worrying trend evident in policing over the last two and a half years. The most recent example to be reported was that of Michael Chessum, the President of the University of London students’ union. He was arrested under section 11 of the Public Order Act, for failing to notify the police of a demonstration, and was bailed on condition that he refrain from engaging in any protest, at any university, or within half a mile of any university.

These bail conditions are supposedly designed to prevent re-offending, but in fact do nothing of the sort: the risk of a person committing a section 11 offence is unrelated to their ability to protest in general. ‘Universities’ are specified precisely because it is Chessum’s role to campaign on behalf of students at universities across London

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Spies in Blue Bibs

21 Oct
Police Liaison Officers at Tower Hamlets anti-EDL protest, Sept 2013

Police Liaison Officers at Tower Hamlets anti-EDL protest, Sept 2013

Are Police Liaison Officers – suspiciously friendly in their pale blue bibs and now commonplace at marches and demonstrations – really deployed simply to ‘facilitate protest’ and ‘ensure there are no surprises’, or is their role rather more duplicitous? For some time, campaigners from groups involved in the Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol) have suspected there is more to these officers, created in response to severe criticism by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary’s ‘Adapting to Protest’ report of intelligence gathering at the 2009 G20 protests, than their public image suggests. Continue reading

Mass arrest – an abuse of power

9 Sep

police film kettle

The arrest of 286 antifascists demonstrating against the presence of the English Defence League in East London on Saturday is another example of what seems to be a growing trend in public order policing – the mass arrest of people participating in unauthorised marches, rallies and processions.

The tactic of mass arrest is highly indiscriminate – no consideration is made of whether the individuals concerned are truly suspected of any offence. Netpol observers spoke to a boxing coach in East London yesterday, who had tried desperately to get police officers to realise that one of the people they had contained had simply been en route to his gym, which was round the corner from the police kettle. No-one seemed willing to listen to him. Continue reading

Force not facilitation at fracking protests

21 Aug

pressure point balcombe

Police actions at the Balcombe anti-fracking protests on Monday will have done little to reassure protesters that Sussex police has any interest in genuinely facilitating protest, or in ensuring the safety of protesters. 29 arrests were made, including that of MP Caroline Lucas, as police cleared protesters from the gates of the Cuadrilla site. Continue reading

Jason Bishop – new allegations of undercover policing of protest

25 Jul

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Netpol has been asked to publish the following statement on behalf of former friends of an activist known as Jason Bishop, who they now believe to have been an undercover police officer.
Netpol have published this statement as we feel it adds important information to the debate about undercover police officers.
This is the latest in a long line of disclosures relating to the infiltration of protest groups by specialist units of the Metropolitan police including the Special Demonstration Squad and later, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

After a detailed investigation by former friends and activists, there is now no doubt that the activist known to many people as Jason Bishop was an undercover cop working for the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS). Jason lived in Kilburn, with a flatmate we haven’t been able to trace who was involved in animal rights activism. He drove a landrover, and allegedly made his money from pirated dvds and software. Continue reading

Police set to get new dispersal powers

23 Jul

dispersal area crop

New laws being considered by parliament would allow police to disperse people taking part in a lawful assembly and arrest those that did not comply. There is no need for the demonstration to have been disorderly or violent – the only requirement would be that the dispersal was ‘necessary to reduce the likelihood of anti-social behaviour’. Continue reading

Political surveillance cannot be justified – Netpol statement on Police Spying.

12 Jul

Recent revelations about undercover policing have shown that a number of legal and political campaigns and organisations, including the Newham Monitoring Group, a partner organisation in Netpol, have been subject to covert surveillance operations.

While the police are keen to dismiss criticism as being merely an historic issue, applying to a bygone era, Netpol sees no reason to believe that things have improved in recent years. The covert policing of dissent still lacks any effective internal accountability mechanism or means of independent/public scrutiny. Continue reading

Why I sought judicial review of the police use of Kettling for indiscriminate fishing expeditions

27 Jun

By Susannah Mengesha

Source: @keithPP

Kettled protestors on November 30th. Photo by KeithPP

This month I was thrilled to receive successful decision on my judicial review case against the Police Commissioner regarding the police use of Kettling for indiscriminate intelligence gathering purposes.

The court held that the police must not demand protesters to give their name, address and date of birth, and demand that they be filmed, as the price for leaving a kettle. Continue reading

Statement on covert police surveillance of Newham Monitoring Project

25 Jun

Press release from Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) – one of the members of Netpol.

It is alarming that a Metropolitan police undercover surveillance unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), targeted Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) and serves as a reminder of the levels of corruption and misuse of power within the police that we have tirelessly campaigned against for years.

Our work supporting victims of police misconduct, racist violence and assisting the grieving relatives and friends of black people who died in police custody has contributed significantly to greater police accountability, transparency and racial equality in the UK. The police have actively sought to stop, disrupt or discredit this work and the people who support it.

Attempts to mitigate against negative publicity using unethical policing methods are indisinguishable from the sanctioning of a cover-up. Continue reading

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