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a day of seriously disorganised police farce

rikki | 15.06.2006 23:21 | SOCPA | Repression | Social Struggles | London

court appearances for brian haw, barbara tucker and the five jericho protestors. mark barrett's magna carta burning outside downing street. barbara tucker's 29th police 'report', and lots of bungling police.

'bliar' and the copy of the magna carta
'bliar' and the copy of the magna carta

the burning document
the burning document

barbara tucker - 29 not out
barbara tucker - 29 not out

this morning, barbara tucker appeared at horseferry court to plead 'not guilty' to taking part in an unauthorised demonstration on 26th march this year. she made a long statement about the fact that she had notified police in advance of her intention to protest and was part of brian haw's long standing demonstration anyway.

brian haw had been due in court on the same charge, but then some bright spark at the met must have noticed (or perhaps he read it here) that on that date, brian's demo was still exempt from socpa legislation as the high court had not yet found in favour of the government appeal against a previous ruling. so instead, with one day to go, they notified brian that instead they were charging him with obstruction. this charge arose from his trying to stop them taking away a pink banner that belonged to him while they attempted to arrest barbara. the pair are mounting a counter charge of malicious prosecution and assault.

brian accompanied barbara to the court and stood up to have his say. judge evans was not happy to hear brian's views at length. both brian and barbara pointed out that in their night-time raid last month, the police not only removed brian's placards, but also removed evidence pertinent to the case, as well as sensitive legal documents containing information vital to the defence. since the police have been unwilling to return this stuff or even say where it was kept, it throws the whole case into jeopardy for obvious reasons. when brian started talking about tony blair's illegal war and the genocide of the iraqi people it was all too much for judge evans and he cleared the court.

meanwhile the jericho five were also pleading not guilty. the israeli army illegally raided the jericho prison within twenty minutes of the british relinquishing control. as soon as the palestinian solidarity group heard about it they informed the met of their plan to hold a demo at downing street that evening. among those protesting were mp jeremy corbyn, along with fifty or so others. police were warning that the demo was 'unauthorised' and were attempting to collect names and addresses of participants in order to 'report' them for the crime. only five have since received summonses. this is an important human rights test of the socpa law as the law does not allow protest within twenty-four hours of notifying the police under any circumstances. clearly this protest was demonstrably necessary and spontaneous, and so the law will be severely tested by the human right to free assembly and free speech.

later today, mark barrett and dan idler arrived at downing street having walked thirty-five miles overnight from runnymede on the 791st anniversary of the signing of the magna carta. they were commemorating the fight for 'liberty under the law' that removed the king's right to behave with impunity. they are calling for a new political settlement and forming a civil rights movement, bringing together various organisations and pressure groups to work towards a written constitution to rein in the executive's arbitrary use of power and build a more just and better society for us all in the future. (more info at

mark made a short speech outside the gates of downing street and attracted a crowd of tourists including a french school class. he donned a blair mask and set fire to the copy of the magna carta he had brought with him from runnymede.

at the same time, another protestor (blimey, hasn't anyone heard you're not allowed to do this sort of thing anymore!), mark evans, handcuffed himself to the railings at downing street. while mark was finishing burning the magna carta, four police motorbike armed cops swooped in to deal with mr evans. he was protesting about inadequate checks on psychiatric patients released into the community after he'd suffered a random knife attack for which he's had inadequate compensation. police released his cuffs and took some details - then handed the matter over to some charing cross cops that had turned up.

more police farce ensued when a woman officer started hassling mark barrett and telling him she was reporting him for unauthorised protest. he was refusing to give his name and address until she explained under what authority she was demanding it, and the poor woman kept going back and forth to the van and was being ordered to carry on. but it slowly dawned on amused activist supporters that she'd been told he was the one handcuffed and eventually she had to back down and apologise when the mistake became clear.

gradually some police drifted off, and the two marks went off to watch the football, but then at that point the incorrigible barbara tucker arrived over from parliament square with her new pink banner. after unfurling it and wandering around in front of the gates a bit, she got a warning from a cop to leave or she'd be reported. barbara maintains that she has notified the police of her continuing demonstration and as they have to give permission under the law, and as they cannot reasonably put conditions on her mobile one-woman protest, she must be authorised. copies of her notification are in the hands of the met commissioner, charing cross police, the independent complaints commission, her soliciitors, and judge evans among others.

the police gave her till 5.15 to move, which she didn't, and after a few more minutes grace, an officer comes to fill in a 'report' form. this was her 29th!! and she took the opportunity to make a full and frank statement about the continued police harrassment of her legal right to protest. once they'd filled in all their forms, the police left, leaving barbara once again standing outside downing street with her pink banner in the sunshine.

despite 29 reports, the only summons she has received is the one for the 26th march. the hearing is next week the 22nd at horseferry road.

meanwhile at parliament square a police car drives past brian and another very professional upholder of the law sticks her tongue out at brian and calls out 'piss off' - the number plate of the police vehicle was taken. this incident reminds me of the off-duty shout of 'wanker' from forward intelligence team photographer 'neil' in the early hours of the 23rd may as he passes brian in the square.

the legal ramifications of the police raid on brian's site continue. his solicitors have been trying to establish under what legal grounds the police acted, and the police seem to be finding it hard to clarify this, citing laws that did not actually give them the authority to act thus. since it's been pointed out that they have effectively snatched legal documents and sensitive evidence relating to court proceedings both against the police from brian, and against brian by the police, they seem concerned to allow him to come and retrieve what he wants. however, if they did indeed act illegally, then they should surely return everything to him at the square as soon as possible, rather than suggesting he come and select items.

the battle continues. the farce continues. but while this all seems so amusing, ridiculous, and comical, let us also not forget the real point. that the whole reason for brian's vigil and for the protests and actions of many others who want to exercise their freedom of speech - the illegal war and the genocide - continues too.

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  1. thanks for the report — me