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Police Behaviour at Bush protests - Better or Worse? No more anti-terror search

Jesse S. | 21.11.2003 03:46 | Bush 2003 | Repression | Terror War

In London, I haven't witnessed a single anti-terror search during the week of anti-Bush protests. Did the Liberty case in the High Court have an effect on the police tactics or was I just in the wrong places to witness the searches? If you were searched in London, please let Liberty know, since they lost the High Court case and are due to appeal it next year.

At the DSEi 2003 arms fair, I witnessed at least 8 anti-terror searches (one of which was actually a mile from the protest site). This past few days, I didn't see any anti-terror searches. If the police have actually stopped using the section 44 searches against protesters, that's great news!

As for other police behaviour, it didn't seem like much had changed. Police were certainly friendly to people marching at the Stop the War Demo, but variable to people at other things (such as the Resist Bush Tea Party).

I witnessed the tactic of "preventing a breach of peace containment" at Victoria, two arrests where the police were needlessly causing people a great deal of pain, a heavy handed snatch squad arrest attempt at Buckingham Palace, and massive, massive, massive numbers of police. It sounds as if there were 40-50 arrests in the past two days, but I only witnessed 2.

It would be great to have some comment to this post. I'm interested in knowing what kind of behaviour people have witnessed from the police. (and if people were searched - what powers were they searched under? -section 60, section 44, reasonable suspicion? Liberty is asking for information people who were searched or harrassed by the police during a protest (or witnessed this at the protests). They have provided an online form for people to fill in (you don't have to give your real name, but they ask that you provide details that will allow us to reach you later for validation.

Did people have any good/bad experiences with having Liberty's volunteer legal observer team on hand at some of the events?

About me: I'm normally a Legal Observer at NVDA events, but recently I've worked closely with Liberty on the DSEi Anti-terror searches High Court case. I'm not a volunteer for Liberty in any other capacity.

Regarding the Liberty High Court case about anti-terror searches. Their case was lost because they only had 25 anti-terror search receipts from people who attended protests in London. In order to win the appeal they will need more. Anyone who wishes to submit a receipt, should do so by post after filling in. Details are on the form that is downloadable at their website-

Alternatively, retain your police documentation, and fill in their online form.

Jesse S.
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Hide the following 12 comments

I was searched

21.11.2003 10:29

I was searched after I had made use of the right of free speech that Bush himself had praised before coming to the UK. When walking past Downing Street yesterday I saw him getting out of his limo so I shouted "shame on you Mr. Bush!" so loud that he must have heard it. A split second later I was dragged away by a Police officer, searched and asked for my details. He said that free speech is welcome but anything you say against the president is an offence. What kind of free speech is that???


Section 44 was used

21.11.2003 11:15

I saw two people being searched in Green Park, on Wednesday 19th at around
2:30pm. They were wearing suits and nazi like armbands with a $ replacing the nazi cross.
I approached them after afterwards, and they told me the people had searched them under
anti terror laws (so I assume sec 44). I don't know whether they got a receipt...


I was searched as well, twice

21.11.2003 11:21

I was searched outside Buckingham Palace around 9 AM and then near Downing Street at about 10:30.

Both times I was on my own, so I suspect the reason people weren't stopped and searched later in the day was simply that there were too many people on the march.

Amusingly, I had a load of elastic bands in my pocket (for a completely unrelated purpose) and these caused the police a lot of confusion...



Police were shrewd

21.11.2003 12:12

I didn't see any stop and searches and generally thought the police were tactically very very shrewd. Their massive numbers meant that any attempts by activists to have a bit of a go at places or break-aways were quickly controlled. In fac, that is the key word - control. I felt they were always under control of any situation, especially the official march where the use of barriers, vans, cops etc was so constraining that we were never allowed to become a huge number of people walking freely around London.

In terms of police tactics, some things from the anti-war protests through to DSEi and now this are very clear:

1. The enforcement of protest: if you are on a pavement, watching, or walking by the side of a demo, the police throw you in, or stop you leaving even when you are clearly not a protester.

2. The use of surveillance: they have a complete knowledge of where we are at most times and are able to respond at speed with large numbers.

3. The targeting of the Samba band: the biggest threat to the cops is the Samba band and they know it so they continue to pen, attack, abuse and assault them to diminsh their influence and hunger to protest.

4. The copying of protester tactics: we've got critical mass, they've got it too; we've got our social centres providing food and drink, so have they; we use mobiles to communicate, they use headsets, and jam our signals; we break into small groups, so do they.

I was never once attacked or assualted and always managed to get free from kettled situations, but we must be really weary about the normalisation of policing like this - 5000 police, 14,000 police whatever, these numbers and tactics become normalised by default and it is very disempowering.

Perhaps we need to reevaluate our strategies.


we need this war

21.11.2003 14:18

Ok, bush isn`t the man i want to live together in a flat, but the war against the crazy islamist is important, they are a danger for democracy. Sure, there is more freedom possible at all, but untill we have a revolution we need defence against those who wants to reduce our rights. Look at the iraq, before the war starts. It`s not the place, you want to live, is it? Saddam Hussein and his fellowers fight a war against the people who lives there. They cut people there hands off, if they steel something. Kind of babaric.


i found them to be more pushy if anything...

21.11.2003 14:32

i rarely breach the law on demos (although i support those who do, if the cause is justified). one thing i dont like is this tendency for the police to herd people into groups, often forcibly. if i see a line of cops moving into position behind me, i try to merge into the passing pedestrians and regroup, but it seems they're now looking out for this tactic, and twice i was pulled back and forced into a 'corral'.
terror legislation is another matter, but is this described above actually legal ? surely according to law (ha ha wot a joke), the cops are meant to either detain you, or let you go....

george 2nd

£5 million on policing, what a waste of money

21.11.2003 15:39

I think I saw a couple of women being searched next to some park, as I was leaving around 7 30, not sure of the details though.

One thing that annoyed me was, on trying to find my coach home, I attempted to look down one street that seemed to have a coach or two down the bottom, but was stopped by police who had blocked off the road. The road was in the middle of nowhere, hardly the drive way to Buckingham Palace or whatever, but still after explaining that I was trying to find my coach home, I wasn't allowed down. The words of the policeman? "You won't be going home then". It was the most pointless, pedantic closure of a road ever, and I was the only one anywhere near, so it was hardly likely to open the floodgates. I asked why I couldn't just look down. He kindly informed me that it was a "sterile zone". Is this the opposite of Bush's "free speech zones" I wondered, and I asked him what exactly this actually meant. "Whatever you think it means" was his ever so courteous reply. "Absolutely nothing then?" I said.

Luckily, it wasn't the right street and I eventually managed to find my coach, but neither me or the policeman knew this at the time.


Iraqi regime does not fall under the category of 'crazy islamist'

21.11.2003 16:19

Jonny, you seem a little mislead. Iraq was a secular state under Saddam Hussein. Human rights abuses carried out by the regime were done not in the name of Islam but in the name of Saddam and the Ba'ath Party, for the maintenance of its power and control over the people. Any regime that now comes to power in Iraq, may well cut peoples hands off in the name of Islam, that is the cat the US and UK have in a twist of outright genius let out of the bag. The rise to power of Muslim extremists like it or not was kept in check by the brutalities of Saddam's regime. Your logic would suggest that we should be attacking Saudi Arabia, for they do cut peoples hands off, and it is an Islamic country. We should be attacking the USA for their flagrant use of the death penalty that includes the execution of minors and the mentally incompetent. And finally we should be attacking Israel for its [legally condoned] use of torture [psychological or otherwise].

Milo Minderbinder

stop and search

21.11.2003 16:35

i and 3 friends were stopped and searched near to the american ambassador's house last night. on my stop/search form it clearly recorded that sec 44 (2) terrorism act was used.


Police abuse of powers

21.11.2003 17:32

Thing is the now we are 'at war' the police think they can get away with anything they like. I really, really hate the idea of them forcibly taking my photo. So a couple of friends and me had scarves on.

We were followed by at least 10 of them (more than 2 each). They kept hassling us, asking 'why the masks?, why the masks?' I did try and explain about the photos (been arrested several times unlawfully for being masked before - this is true because always released without charge!). Said I was happy for them to follow us to ensure we weren't 'shady' characters etc, but just didn't want my photo taken. After this had gone on about an hour. They stop and searched us under S1 of PACE (reasonable belief that we had offensive weapons or stolen goods). When we challenged this that there was no S60, and it wasn't an S44 search they said that unless we complied we'd spend a night in the cells because they would arrest us under S25 of PACE (obstruction of highway).

Thing is, I think it really wound them up because we knew the law better than them. They ended up saying 'dunno what kind of laws you have in wales but it don't happen like that here'. SO we told them that even if they arrested us under S25 it was not imprisonable so under PACE guidlines they couldn't keep us in overnight. Then the one in charge said 'well you shouldn't have just sworn at em then, cos now unless you let us search you we'll do you with abusive behaviour under public order'.

Thing is, when your in small groups they can do what they like, and they know it. They'll always be the same, its why we were there. We just need to keep on chipping away.

I think the important thing is to always resist them and not let them have an easy life. Yeh they threw us in the cordon, but they had to work at it :-)


Police Panic at Hyde Park Corner

21.11.2003 18:44

Once again I am very disapointed in the police handling of the situation. Blatant heavy and unneccesary treatment, disorganised and dangerous. The police were inciting violence yet my photos did not come out very well because the police smashed it when they pushed me into the group. They could not provide any reason why we were detained saying we had no rights. There was ALOT of vans closing down the whole street - so sorry folks you have them to blame if you were on a bus going home.

There was no person in charge on the ground and they did not have a clue what to do - no laws being broken generally has that effect to the police. Although they did like the tunes and I feel proud.

How many other crimes were made whilst the police are looking dumbfounded into a bunch of cyclists!


trying to push me into a cordon for filming

22.11.2003 00:09

i was filming the unlawful 'kettling' of the samba band at oxford circus last night and a cop came over, grabbed me, and told me i was going in the cordon. i was shouting he couldn't do this as all i was doing was filming and this wasn't unlawful. he told me not to film, and tried to pull me towards the cordon. some well-dressed bystanders intervened and he grudgingly let go of me. the bystanders offered to be my witness, but i didn't feel like pushing it, so set off down the road and was followed in a very intimidating way by a couple of FITs. i managed to slip away between some people, but the whole evening showed me how the police operate outside the law with intimidation and how they particularly target the samba band.

it is important for a concious crowd to develop to support and protect the samba band in these situations, either through acting as legal witness, or helping those with big drums to move swifter in situations to avoid the police. a conscious crowd could get in the way of the police trying to surround samba bands, and allow them to stick together and continue playing.