Skip to content or view screen version

Thames Valley Police very unhelpful over Pensions Protest

Sarah L | 19.02.2005 09:19 | Repression | Social Struggles | Oxford

Thames Valley Police very unhelpful over Pensions Protest in Oxford. Unions very unhappy about this obstruction to peaceful protest

Thames Valley Police very unhelpful over Pensions Protest

Friday 18th February was a country wide day of action for Unison and other Trades Unions whose members will be seriously affected by the proposed change in the age of retirement. Public Servants usually earn less than those in the private sector and for their service expect better conditions. Any loss of these conditions will seriously effect our public services.
To launch this in Oxford a march from Carfax to Gloucester Green was organised for the lunch hour with a number of speakers. Around 150 people turned up only to find that the police had decided that we should not march from Carfax and therefore through Cornmarket because we would be perceived as a threat by the shoppers. We had no alternative but to assemble at County Hall as the police directed and take the march down New Inn Hall Street to Gloucester Green. None of the public who we passed showed any distress and holding up the traffic for the short bit of George Street would not have been a problem either.

There were more than usual police deployed to watch us including a police video officer and two mounted police. What were the police doing ? When were Oxford Trades Unionists anything but peaceful in recent years ? They should be able to discriminate between animal rights protesters and completely peaceful protests about pensions.
There will be questions asked of them by Green City Councillors on the Policing Board

Sarah L

Sarah L


Hide the following 3 comments

Police reply

19.02.2005 18:26

Dear all,

For information, this is the reply received from Superintendent Paul Sullivan. Unfortunately, it basically ignores my main points and concentrates on the issue of using Carfax or not, which was not something I mentioned. It gives no explanation as to why the police presence remained so over-the-top when it became clear that the march was in no way 'threatening' - and why the police thought that it would be threatening in the first place, given a long and proud tradition of demonstrating in the city centre. I have already mentioned that this kind of response does nothing but create tension between protestors and the police, and will press the point when I next meet Supt Sullivan in person.

Complaints to the police would be very welcome, as they always help me to back up my points. If no-one complains, they think I am just being more of a busybody than usual.




Dear Matt,

Thank you for your email concerning the Police Response to the march for
Pensions in Oxford City which took place earlier today, Friday. I am
sorry that you take the view that our response to this protest was both
inappropriate and disproportionate and I welcome this opportunity to
provide some detail to you in respect of our decision to resource this

Over a week ago we were advised by the organisers of their intentions to
hold a demonstration as part of a National Day of Action by Trade Unions
across the country. We made it clear at the outset that we would be
happy to work with the organisers to ensure that as with all the
protests, processions and assemblies that we manage within the City that
the maintenance of public safety and minimising disruption to other
users within the City Centre were our clear priorities.

Through the course of negotiation with the organisers, it became clear
that they wished to assemble at Carfax and process along Cornmarket as
part of their proposed route. In terms of maintaining safety and
minimising disruption, we felt that we could not agree to this proposal.
As you are aware, Carfax and Cornmarket are busy thoroughfares with high
volume pedestrian movement and Carfax in particular a busy drop off
point for buses, you are probably aware that with the current diversions
within the City Centre additional busses are being directed via Carfax
and it was suggested to us by bus companies that we could anticipate
between 150 and 200 bus movements during the time that the demonstrators
intended to be within the vicinity, I am sure that you will agree that
with so many pedestrians, demonstrators and vehicles there was the
potential for public safety to be compromised.

I can assure you that the police resources deployed to support this
incident were in my view appropriate and proportionate and designed to
achieve our objectives with the organisers. I can also assure you that
those resources were re-deployed to support our front line policing
effort once the demonstration had been concluded.

I look forward to seeing you again soon and of course I am happy to meet
with you if you wish to discuss this or any other matter relating to
policing within the City.

Paul Sullivan
Area Commander
Oxford City Police

Matt S

Police being economical with the truth

21.02.2005 02:04

1. The police were aware of the assembly point and proposed route a full three weeks prior to the march. The ODTUC appointed negotiater was told there was no problem with either. The police decided to have a problem 6 days before the march when the publicity had gone out.

2. The negotiater received 7 calls to work, and seven to home in one day alone with repeated threats that the section 12 of the Public Order Act would be used if organisers didn't submit to the police's demand to move the assembly point and route. The risk of her arrest was repeatedly mentioned. The Pub. Ord. Act is specifically to limit "fear" in a local community, and includes charges for affray and riot. It is not about road safety. The police had to stop buses from comin into Queen St to allow protesters to move up New rd. If it could be done for this assembly point then why not for Cornmarket. Who is afraid of trade unionists marching peacefully to demand decent pensions for all.

2. An alternative route avoiding buses (Cornmarket - St Micheals - New Inn Hall St) was suggested but was refused by police on the grounds it would frighten shoppers - the logic of this is that protests can only be held in an area where no-one else is present (or at least not shopping). Another reason given by the police was that there is a "blanket ban" on protests in Oxford town centre "due to problems with animal rights protesters".

3. Police redirected people assembling at Cornmarket to their appointed assembly place. A Sgt Henderson made it clear to organisers that if people carried placards down Queen St, then they must not display the slogan as "that would constitue a procession". The police were prepared to act on a single placard displaying "Hands of our pensions" slogan - hardly a safety issue.

4. Stewards were offered "a ride in a police van" to assist them get their placards to the new assembly place - of course the police are always helpful with TU demonstrations.

In the end protesters didn't go for mass arrest - thpough this was seriously considered - as it was thought it would divert attention away from the main issue of the day, which was to build the local government strike on March 23.

Ian M

Time to take on the police

23.02.2005 09:55

This is the latest of a number of occasions where the Oxford police have unreasonably denied basic rights to protest. Surely next time those of us who can afford the time and inconvenience should insist on carrying on the protest in a public place where we can have proper access to inform the public, and let's see if the police go for mass arrest. I for one volunteer.

Disgusted of Oxford