zoe | 15.10.2004 13:59
Today is the second day of hearing appeals over a police decision to abduct three coachloads of people on their way to a US air base to protest the start of the Iraq invasion last March (see previous imc reports and http://www.fairfordcoachaction.org.uk).
At 10 am a bright and tight samba crew were outside the court, giving spirit to the fairford coach kidnappees and their legal team who are bringing the appeal. they were giving out a range of cool leaflets, while banners said 'Defend the right to protest'.
London Green MEP Jean Lambert was among those there to support the passengers' appeal. She said 'this situation should never have happened. It's a waste of everybody's time and money. It's important to be here and defend peoples' fundamental rights.'
When a police camera crew began videoing the sambistas, somebody thought that maybe they would like to see a smily face close up, also get the best leaflet on camera. This wasn't all that popular, a word was had, and no problem arose.
Eventually the people involved in the case went in to the court to hear the arguments, while the samba crew continued beating away the rain till policeman asked them politely to desist because it was 'disturbing court 11'.
Inside the court building, I noticed some of the same police from earlier hanging about with nothing obvious to do. Asking them in a friendly manner what they were up to, they had a word about my taking photos of them outside the court, and when I said well I am with the press, they asked for a press card, which seemed unreasonable in the circumstances so I went about my business.
When the court adjourned for lunch, those of us in the public gallery gathered round our legal team in the lobby (where the police had been lurking), and noticed a little police head popping round the corner down the hall. as we moved off chatting about the case, he attached himself to us. this seemed a little intrusive given that we were talking about the case, in which the police barrister was to present their appeal after lunch.
this rather young police man's number was N1 538. some of the kidnappees and their supporters asked him to leave as he was interfering with our human rights and was liable to cause us harrassment and distress; he declined and stayed with us. We moved off at speed hoping to lose him, at which point started to call for back up and became agitated, shoving Helen Steel in a doorway as we attempted to leave the court building.
None of this is on camera as cameras are banned from the Royal Courts building. After we left the building I went off to collect my camera and make this report, at which time I received a call saying that Helen had been arrested under Section 89(1) of the Police Act 1996 for 'assaulting a police officer in the course of his duty'. She was taken to Charing Cross Police Station.
It seems that the police were following us because the group of people observing the appeal included their 'suspect D', that is, someone who is fourth on a list of people that police have been asked to specifically harrass. 'Suspect D' had also been followed on the bus back to North London after the hearing yesterday.
It is worth everyone being aware of this 'suspect' list, and we need to be monitoring police activity especially in terms oif harrassing the people on the list and their associates..
Meanwhile, there is no news of Helen being charged or released as yet, and most of the group returned to the court's public gallery to hear how the police barrister would attempt to justify an earlier incidence of illegal and offeensive mass harrassment.
Pictures from samba action to follow.
More news ditto!