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Harmondworth Demo - timeline

imc london | 08.04.2006 08:46 | April 2006 No Borders Days of Action | Migration

This timeline for the demonstration at the Harmondsworth detention camp on 8 April was produced in collaboration between those at the demo and people in the Indymedia chatrooms.

16:50 Harmondsworth: Reports that 120 detainees started a one-week hungestrike in response to their treatment during the demonstration. They were prevented from leaving the building or approaching the windows. At least one person was beaten up while trying this.

14:18 Harmondsworth: People are now being let out of the police pen, and will be able to board the buses. It's like a comedy. They are being walked to the buses inside a pen. The policemen in front are walking backwards to make sure nobody escapes. 10 or so police vans are now in front of the London buses. The other buses haven't arrived yet.

2:05 Harmondsworth: The person arrested earlier has apparently been let go by the police. He had been handcuffed and placed in a van but has now been released. About 6 people remain surrounded by police away from the main group. Coaches are arriving but people are refusing to leave until those trapped are released. Three coaches are waiting.

14:00 Harmondsworth: The small group of demonstrators, who have been penned in, are being stop-and-searched under Section 60. Then Section 15 for unruly behaviour. Now the coaches are arriving to take the demonstrators back and people are moving towards them.

1:43 Harmondsworth: One arrest: A demonstrator has been arrested for failure to give personal details to the police. Police justified the arrest on the grounds that the person was suspected of anti social behavior (non-arrestable) and then he was arrested under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act for failure to provide the police with his name and address.

1:34 Harmondsworth: Calls from detainees have finished and the Samba Band is playing. People are banging pots and pans so that detainees can hear them and know the demonstration is outside. Police are refusing to let people demonstrate around the side as planned, so the detainees cannot actually see the demo. Individuals have tried getting to the field but it is blocked by police vans. One person has locked him/herself onto a fence and lots of cops are still trying to unlock him/her. Most people are penned in - if you leave you can't get back in.

1:25 Harmondsworth Around 100 yards down the road from the main demo in the police pen at the entrance, a group of about 30-40 protesters are contained by the police. There were some scuffles. A NUJ journalist was stopped from filming and assaulted by police who dragged him into the cordon set up around this group of protesters. He showed his press card but the Metropolitan police (who have only a couple of months ago been issued guidelines on respecting freedom of the press) said that the card could be faked but did not check the pin number. He was detained for about 20 minutes until another journalist complained. The protesters in the cordon are being released one by one but only after they have given their personal details. The police are apparently not reading the press section of the NUJ website.

1:05 Harmondsworth: There is a group of protesters being held by the police and prevented from moving. With them is an NUJ journalist who has been obstructed by police while filming. He has been stopped and having shown his press card the police claimed it was faked and forced him into the cordon. He is obviously outraged as the police have totally trampled on his rights and duties as a member of the press.

12:34 Glasgow: In Glasgow, the UNITY march has attracted about 100 people gathering outside the Home Office, Brand Street, in support of asylum rights. A very lively crowd. Moving off to George Square.

12:31 Harmondsworth Detention Centre: The police have imposed restricions on the demo. They won't allow any people in large blocs to demonstrate away from the pen, or to go back to the field where the detainees can see them. 3-4 police vans are also blocking the road that leads to the field. They probably won't allow anyone through even individually. The demo organisers are currently negotiating with the head of the police contingent.

12:17 Harmondsworth and Colnbrook Detention Centres: Many phone calls from inside from different people. Detainees are so glad about the demo and send solidarity. The most important call came from Colnbrook, a second detention camp which is right next to the Harmondsworth facility. The caller said security guards have beaten up and abused detainees. In protest, they have declared a hunger strike.

12:09 A phonecall from inside Harmondsworth detention centre: They are really touched that the demo is here - keep up the good fight. They are talking about the horrible conditions inside, the lack of medical care etc. Some people have been there for 3 years.

12:06 Harmondsworth Detention Centre: Someone from inside is calling the demo and they are amplifying their phone call on the PA system.

12:05 Harmondsworth Detention Centre: Reports of detainees trying to go to the front part of the facility so that they could see and hear the demo. But they were violently prevented by the security guards. Now there is a protest inside the detention center.

12:02 Harmondsworth Detention Centre: A number of people are talking through the PA system. Everyone is listening intently, even the police. Ali from the Rahimi family talked about their hunger strike and how they were backmailed by the guards to break it. Someone else from Iran talked about how he did a 23-day protest in front of the Home Office and was detained in Harmondsworth for 40 days as a result. People from the London Noborders group and the Detainee Support group are also speaking.

11:58 Harmondsworth Main Entrance: Around 200 cops. Speeches are now being made. Two Iranians are speaking. One just recently released from Harmondsworth is talking about conditions inside. Forward Intelligence Team police taking loads of pictures as usual. It doesn't look like there's any chance of getting out of the pen.

11:40 Harmondsworth Detention Centre: People from Birmingham have arrived at the front gate and are walking on the highway. The police are leading coaches to the highway, then letting them park nearby, and people have to walk to the detention centre. There is a lot of police everywhere, maybe just as many as demonstrators. People are standing at the front gate by the car park. Detainees can't see the demo from there as they are kept on the other side of the building. Apparently, later the police will allow the demonstration to go to a field where the they can see it from their windows.

11:35 Harmondsworth Detention Centre: The bus from Reading has arrived. There are now about 250 people altogether. They are in a pen at the entrance of the detention centre. The Samba band are playing. There is a small sound system where people can make speeches. There are plenty of banners with slogans such as: "asylum not a crime", "freedom of movement for all", "close down this racist prison", "no borders, no nonations, stop deportations". Some anarchist red and black flags can also be seen.

11:20 Birmingham Coach: This coach was redirected and led by a police van. It was not allowed to go to the initial starting point of the demo. Some officers even assaulted a Noborders activist when he tried to talk to them and forced him back on the coach. The coach is now parked away from the detention centre and people will have to walk through on the highway to get there.

11:05 London Coaches: People have left the coaches, they are in a field, from there they can see the detention centre. Noborders people are negotiating with the police. They want to walk to the detention centre so that detainees can see them. The police are arguing that "they have to take into consideration the concerns of local residents," who according to them, had complained about noise at a previous demo. This is funny because they live in a row of houses right next to a busy dual carriageway. The police do not seem to be invoking any legal powers apart from this. As the phone report ended, the London Noborders people started to walk towards the front gate of the detention centre, across a field, shouting "No borders, no nations, stop deportations!"

The police have got a pen with them (fences they use for crowd control). It seems they are planning to pen-in the demo. The problem with the front gate is that detainees can't see the demo if it happened there. That's why the plan was to have it by the side of the detention centre, in sight of the windows.

10:54 London Coaches: Police have diverted the coaches that people are travelling on from London to Harmondsworth. Demonstrators are not allowed to go to the front of the Harmondsworth detention centre, where the demonstration was supposed to start. Hatch Lane, in front of the camp gates, is currently occupied by police. The coaches are being redirected to a bypass road away from the detention centre. It is unclear what legal powers the police are invoking to accomplish this feat.

10:06 London: Three coaches are leaving, accompanied by a police van and a four-wheel drive car. The demonstrators on the coaches include people from the Ivory Coast, Kurdistan, Iraq, Iran.

9.46 London: People are boarding the coach. The FIT (Forward 'Intelligence' Team) are following them while filming.

9.25 London: About 100 people are having their morning coffee at the Square social centre, waiting for the coaches that will take them to the demonstration. People from the Ivory Coast, Kurdistan, Iraq, Iran are amongst them. Outside, the police Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) are taking photos of people.

9.15 Birmingham: The coach set off just after 8am with about 30 people on, including 2 kids. They are armed with leaflets and banners, pots and pans for making noise and a guitar. A few asylum seekers are also participating. One of them is a member of the Rahimi Family and Birmingham's Anti Racist Campaign. Food Not Bombs have brought some nice vegan food and cookies.

imc london