imc-er | 14.05.2007 23:00 | SOCPA
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) is a major piece of legislation, which established the Serious Organised Crime Agency, an FBI-like agency to tackle "serious organised crime", as it says on the box.
People-trafficking, drug wholesaling, violent armed robbery, torture, extortion and murder, is the kind of thing that might spring to mind. The bill, however, was used as an opportunity to deal with issues that might not be considered so serious. It introduced us to ASBO's, for example; outlawed animal activists' "interference with contractual arrangements" and, most pertinently, the right to protest in designated areas without prior permission.
Below is a comprehensive 'diary', put together by IMC UK activists, of events related to SOCPA since it came into force on 1 August, 2005.
One of these areas is defined as being within one kilometre of Parliament, and many people have suggested that Sections 132 - 138 were brought in specifically to rid Parliament Square of long standing peace protester Brian Haw whose ever expanding display opposite Parliament been a thorn in the side of the government for more than three years.
But due to what was claimed to be an error in the drafting of those clauses, the story of challenge to SOCPA begins even before it came into force. On 29 July, the High Court accepted Brian's argument that because Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 only criminalises unauthorised demonstrations which start on or after 1st August, it did not apply to his protest.
Meanwhile, others claimed that the 'Brian Haw motivation' was a foil, allowing lazy MP's to justify their votes for repressive measures as a lightweight good-riddance of an unpopular bogeyman.
As it turned out, the latter camp were right, as a wave of arrests and prosecutions, trials and appeals followed. Ringing a bell without permission, naming Iraqi dead, quoting George Orwell and picnicking in Parliament Square have all led to arrest and prosecution, whilst singing at Downing Street has led to police threats to put children into care. Arrests have also become violent and nasty and, finding the law to be an unworkable ass, there have been attempts to section protesters under the Mental Health Act.
SOCPA came into force on 1 August, 2005. Here's what's happened since:
As the act came into force, protestors assembled to challenge it, whilst the state made arrests and sent them for trial to establish some precedents.
200 demonstrators assembled in the square to protest at the denial of their rights to speak out freely without permission. Five people were arrested after a small scuffle broke out next to a megaphone. Curiously, only three people stood trial, one being terminally ill, the other being mysteriously 'missing'.
In a re-run of last Monday, police tolerated a peaceful demonstration for an hour, then leafleted the crowd to tell them their presence was illegal. Arrests again followed, officers looking very uncomfortable as the crowd jeered "Shame on you" [VIDEO here]
Growing overconfident, police arrest peaceful protestors for "ringing a bell" and "reading out the names of the dead" at the Cenotaph. This will prove to be a serious mistake. Thousands of cyclists take to the streets in response to police threats to outlaw Critical Mass.
25 October 2005:
In a now infamous use of SOCPA 132, Milan Rai and Maya Evans were arrested for ringing a bell without authorisation in Whitehall.
This was the first time that an arrest had been made for being an organiser of an unauthorised demonstration, an offence which carries the more serious penalty of up to a thousand pounds and 51 weeks in prison. The event had been 'advertised' by Milan on Indymedia on 23rd of that month.
29 October 2005:
More than a thousand cyclists took to the streets in a mass show of solidarity in response to attempts to control the monthly Critical Mass cycle ride under SOCPA legislation.
Cyclists had been informed on the September ride that they faced prosecution unless they gave six days notice of the route. In an act of defiance, participants leafleted bike shops across London to rally support. Indymedia, fearing mass arrests, operated a live timeline of events.
In November, it began to emerge that the state was going to be using its new powers to silence even critics of commerce. Chris Coverdale arrives on the scene using SOCPA as part of an ongoing campaign against Blair's war crimes.
9 November saw a protest at the Shell building on the South Bank. Demonstrators were reminding people of Shell's complicity in the Nigerian state murders of Ken Saro-Wiwa and colleagues on the tenth anniversary of the atrocities.
Cops soon came up with idea of banning protest under SOCPA 132, but were dismayed on being shown a map to find that the exclusion zone ran out somewhere in the middle of the building, allowing the protest to continue on the York Road side.[A video of the events is available here]
Less than a week later, Chris Coverdale, a peace campaigner and authority on war law, is summoned to appear at Bow St Magistrates Court, charged with an offence under the Serious Crime and Police Act. He was arrested for attempting to report Tony Blair's war crimes in Parliament Square with the aid of a banner, megaphone, and leaflets.
The successful prosecution of Maya Evans on charges amounting to "ringing a bell" causes outrage even in the Daily Mail. This seems to order a change in tactics for the Met, who start a softly softly approach for some considerable while. American anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan visits Brian Haw.
Maya Evans, arrested on 25th October with Milan Rai, found fame as being the first person to be tested and found guilty under SOCPA 132. The Magistrate found that "parliament had framed this legislation after consideration in an unambiguous way. Therefore, in her view, it was not necessary to read any proviso into Section 132. It should be given its natural meaning and, thus, Maya Evans had committed the offence under that Section."
Brian Haw was arrested and removed from Parliament Square for a while on a Public Order charge after police hassled a young woman for 'unauthorised protest'.
American anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan visited Brian Haw. Supporters were warned under SOCPA legislation, but defied the law and marched to Downing Street. There were no arrests.
After Middle England's outrage at the "Ringing-a-Bell" verdict, police seemed to decide to back-pedal on prosecutions and, despite challenges to the law, a period of seeming immunity set it.
Similarly, on December 21st, carol singers raising money for medical aid for Iraqi children were ignored. It's quite possible police were scared off by advanced notice that Maya Evans and Rachel North, a 7/7 survivor, would be present.
The strange change in tactics continued throughout January. Blatant and provocative protests by Gary Smithers leads a young constable to admit the law is unpopular with the police. Clowns of CIRCA take the absurdity to new heights but cops realise how vulnerable they are to looking stupid.
An 'unauthorised' remembrance ceremony for the July 7th bomb victims at the cenotaph is left undisturbed by police, perhaps concerned about potential for bad publicity.
The ceremony was so similar in style and location to that of the now convicted Maya Evans that it was obvious that the police either didn't know how, or simply didn't want to enforce the law.
The trial of the August 1st defendants ended in convictions, and mystery surrounds a possible undercover operative who had been arrested but never charged. Here's a full court report by Rikki.
More signs that enforcing this act is either unpopular with the police or causing more embarrassment than it's worth.
As Gary Smithers blatantly showed his placards in front of Parliament, a young copper was asked why he was refusing to arrest him under SOCPA 132. His answer was unequivocal: "Look, there's a lot of CCTV's pointing at this square, and there's a lot of senior officers looking at them right now. We're being asked to make political decisions, and I just don't want to do that. I'm leaving that to someone else."
25 January: Things get even sillier. Even the Clowns are getting away with it now. Read the report of Caesar Buttocks and Marshall Darkness as they try to lobby their MP's.
This was at odds with the other main event of the day: the 5 arrested for merely being in Parliament Square (supposedly demonstrating without a permit) were all found guilty. In the words of Caesar Buttocks, they were "very clearly Serious Organised Criminals indeed."
Protests continue, but despite the law on unauthorised protest being very clear, police would not enforce it.
Parliament Square picnickers made amusing short film of Community Support Officers hassling their campaign, then police interview. They point out that processions are exempt from the SOCPA, although they come under different legislation. There is some confusion, and although they give them ten minutes to pack up and do, no arrests are made after the deadline passes.
There has now been no arrest under SOCPA 132 since November, when Chris Coverdale protested that police hadn't arrested Blair for war crimes.
However, old cases continue to filter through. Milan Rai appeared in court. He is the first person to be charged under SOCPA as an 'organiser' of an 'unauthorised' demonstration. Verdict to be announced on 12 April. Here's the video.
Police are still careful to stay out of trouble with Middle England and protests continue unabated. However, in an unreported (apart from Indymedia) event, 2 pensioners are arrested under SOCPA legislation at Menwith Hill. And in another unexplained and unreported event, a lone peace protestor is badly beaten by police in Parliament Square. Even months later, magistrates at his trial are shocked at his injuries.
Reclaim April Fools Day, announced the Clowns, and an anti-SOCPA parade proceeded from the London Eye to Parliamant Square. Doug made a video of the event, where although security guards got a little bolshy, no arrests were made.
Things start to become clear. Those MP's who were gullible enough to think it was about getting rid of Brian Haw need to consider that. Whilst nobody had been arrested since Coverdale's obviously political demonstration, CND activists Helen John (68) and Sylvia Boyes (62) were arrested today at Menwith Hill Spy Base.
Menwith Hill is now a "designated area" under SOCPA. Run by the US National Security Agency, it is the largest electronic monitoring station in the world. Campaigners oppose its presence on British soil due to its role in US military operations and its unaccountability to local residents and Parliament.
Mass civil disobedience took place today in a Naming the Dead ceremony in Parliament Square. An Indymedia reporter wrote at the time:
"The police largely stood around the perimeter of the area, with a small group closer taking notes, while a police photographer with a very long lens took pictures. Otherwise they did little, although one person carrying a placard with the words "Not Aloud" was apparently cautioned, and another, possibly not connected with the event, was also questioned."
A busy week for protesters. Brian Haw appears at High Court as government and police appeal against the ruling that Brian's protest is exempt from SOCPA legislation as it pre-dates the law.
Mark Barrett was found guilty and given £250 fine with additional £250 costs at Bow Street.
Some good news. Brian Haw's campaign manager and long-standing right-hand woman Maria Gallestegui won a historic battle against the ridiculous section 132 law banning protest around parliament. Her case was thrown out of the high court when the prosecution offered little evidence.
The court delivered its verdict on Milan Rai today, finding him, not surprisingly, guilty as charged, and fined him £350 plus £150 costs. Milan vowed not to pay, and will be appealing to a higher court. Here's a short interview with Milan.
Easter Sunday - tucker.
Sunday picnickers continued to test the law with a Reclaim St George weekend. A group of around a dozen activists camped at Runnymede and then cycled to London on Sunday morning with a copy of the Magna Carta, where they joined a march to Parliament Square.
Peter Doraisamy was carrying out a peaceful lone anti-war demonstration in parliament square. He was viciously attacked by police, held face down on the pavement in front of Brian Haw's displays, leaving a pool of blood, and his face scarred for life. Magistrates recommend at his trial that he makes a complaint to the Police Complaints Commission. Despite this, he will be found guilty.
A busy month. Clear breaches of SOCPA 132 continue to be ignored by police, whilst after the state wins its appeal and makes Brian Haw's protest subject to the act, cops trash his site in the middle of the night. In yet another own goal, however, Sir Ian Blair states the cost of the destruction to be seven and a half grand, then has the gall to complain of a press leak when the true cost is shown to be over twenty seven thousand pounds.
Here's a film, in which 10 brave protesters enter the socpa zone armed with just one blank banner. They're watched by at least half a dozen Forward Intelligence Team officers, a police photographer, and accompanied by two vans full of uniformed police. The small group walk down Whitehall and sit in Parliament Square for half an hour, where they were photographed and surrounded by forward intelligence and inspector cummings talked to them about the possible ramifications of their criminal act.
Get an idea of the lunacy here.
Bemused tourists and passers-by wondered what the blank protest banner signified and laughed at the huge police turn-out when told.
There was considerable activity generated as a result of the verdict, both in terms of comment and physical support.
Hugo Chavez is in town. It's widely expected that he'll be paying Brian a visit. He didn't manage to cross the road as expected, but Mark Thomas made the effort to fill in for him.
Police trash Brian Haw's protest site at 2:45am [video of the destruction here].
First reports appear on Indymedia at 3:56am, with updates at 4:47am and a timeline of this and ensuing events is put together by Indymedia. Further analysis appears and even an alleged policeman claims to write to The Independent in horror.
A Noise Gathering is announced in protest at the events, designed to coincide with the arrival of Tony Blair for PM's Question Time.
A couple of MP's cross the road to show support. However, as shown in this video, apart from Brian's display, there were several others. Although they all had police permission to demonstrate within the SOCPA exclusion zone, conditions imposed on Brian were much stricter. Some even had no conditions at all. The police also tried to impose an on-the-spot condition on Brian supporters about banner holding.
Time for a little comedy activism as Mark Thomas took to the square with his protest against protest licensing.
Critical Mass takes a diversion to pass through Parliament Square in a gesture of support.
Considerable anger had been stirred up by the cost of the raid on Brian Haw, stated by Sir Ian Blair at seven and a half grand. The Vanessa Feltz phone-in show was pretty much dominated by the issue. So when it emerged that he had been lying and that the true cost was over twenty seven thousand pounds, things looked even worse for Britain's top beleaguered cop.
The start of a long process, Brian Haw appears in court charged with failing to comply with conditions set under the SOCPA Act, which led to the previous week's police violence.
Things take a nasty turn for the worse. Perhaps fuelled by their aggression against Brian Haw and the conviction of Chris Coverdale, police arrest and send for deportation Alex Tsiorulin, the other long-term Square protester. And after the 16th (the seriously organised police farce) police start a campaign of harassment and violence against 2 peace protesters, Steve Jago and Barbara Tucker. Over the next few months, they will feature prominently in this diary. Cops give permission for a protest by a proscribed terrorist group, and the Institute of Directors have a protest march in the zone, but not surprisingly "the law doesn't apply to them".
Despite everything, Brian stays cheerful for a celebration of 5 years in Parliament Square.
Chris Coverdale appears in court. The verdict is held over until Friday.
Surprise, surprise, Chris Coverdale is found guilty. He would appeal against the decision.
A sad cameo part in the farce that is SOCPA 132 took to the stage today. Alex Tsiorulin, another long-term protester in the Square went to court at the same time as Brian but, lacking the relative protection of publicity, his destiny was to be greeted by immigration officers who marched him off to Colnbrook immigration detention centre.
The day of Seriously Disorganised Police Farce and such a fuss they make of the Keystone Cops.
Things turn nasty as police get their own back. Steve Jago is arrested for holding a placard quoting George Orwell outside Downing Street. Although he is prepared to go quietly, he objects to being handcuffed for the 'offence' of peaceful protest and is painfully restrained and assaulted by police. Despite the fact that he is charged with assaulting a police officer, the video shows who really did the assault.
Steve and Barbara make a successful challenge to the law as Blair arrives for Question Time.
A curious twist in the 'War on Terror', wherein a proscribed terrorist organisation, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), were given permission under SOCPA 132 to demonstrate opposite Parliament. Next December, police would attempt to justify restricting Brian's demonstration on the basis that terrorists could hide bombs within it.
More violent arrests outside Downing Street. Barbara Tucker carries with her the notification of her protest that she sent to police, as required by law, but is repeatedly harassed nonetheless. The link above shows photographs of the bruises sustained in this attack. Police are seeking inventive ways to detain her, which will become apparent later in the year.
Meanwhile, Steve Jago's 'offence' this time was to be holding a placard appealing for witnesses to last week's attack. For this he was taken to a police station and assaulted by six officers.
Member of the Institute of Directors took to the streets to protest against three bankers being extradited to the US. They didn't seek permission to demonstrate in the SOCPA zone, but weren't troubled by the police in any way. Asked at the start if she could be photographed with her SOCPA consent form, Melanie Riley of Bell Yard, the Institute of Directors' spin doctors, said "We don't have one, it doesn't apply to us." This light-hearted take on events sums up many people's feelings about the event.
Another horrible month in which the Met arrest and beat activists who challenge their authority. Barbara and Steve are beaten and arrested (videos available, although the camera in the police station wasn't working), and comedy activist Mark Thomas joins in the struggle.
A new low in British policing was reached today when Inspector Hart of Charing Cross threatened to put a woman's child into care for the offence of singing. On a side note, Barbara Tucker has now been 'reported' more than thirty times, and has only received one summons. As she pointed out, the summons relates to 17 May, when she made a complaint of assault to the police, and was told that if she pursued the complaint, the police would issue a SOCPA summons against her in return.
Another serious assault outside Downing Street.
Quotes from the above-linked-to article:
"Barbara's banner simply stated "peace, justice, love for all", while Steve's was a plain white banner containing a quote from the Magna Carta, "to no-one will we sell, to no-one will we refuse or delay justice or right", and Aristotle's "the only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law".
"The policewoman then told Steve that he would be arrested, and although he offered no resistance, she decided she was going to try to handcuff him. He was not happy about this, feeling that holding a banner with quotations on it is clearly not an arrestable offence, and certainly not one requiring handcuffs. While remaining calm and passive, Steve tried to avoid being handcuffed. By now, two more police cars had arrived, and along with armed motorcycle police, the officers violently attacked both Steve and Barbara, and in front of a horrified crowd of passers-by, they struggled to handcuff Steve, and pushed Barbara against the hard metal railings of Downing Street with her arm twisted behind her back."
"Steve remained outside the station for some time with his hands handcuffed tightly behind him. After a while, he was transferred to another van, and was held in this state without processing or charge for more than an hour, during which time he heard screams of pain coming from Barbara Tucker in the police station."
A video of the incredibly limited WPC and the unlawful police assault is available here.
Despite suffering injuries at the hands of the police, Barbara and Steve continue to protest as Blair arrives for Questions. Barbara is dragged away in front of tourists, and it is clear that this morning something more serious is going on, as Brian Haw is flanked by two policemen, one armed with a machine gun.
A different approach to challenging SOCPA is mounted by Mark Thomas, whereby numerous people apply to demonstrate singly. This is to be the first of a number of such challenges.
In a welcome respite from being arrested under SOCPA 132, Steve Jago was arrested for 'breach of the peace'. His 'crime' was to try to deliver an open letter to Sir Ian Blair, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
Later that day, in response to Israel's bombing of Lebanon and Gaza, hundreds of people converged on Parliament Square to protest, without authorisation. Such is the nature of SOCPA, however, that plain-clothed Lebanese stewards insisted on the demonstrators moving back into the square, joining hands around the crowd to push us back, and punching at least one demonstrator. They said that they were worried they would "lose permission for the march on Saturday."
Mark Thomas holds a second Mass Lone Demonstration
Rikki is the principle documenter of this SOCPA shambles. In this article, he sets out ten typical ways in which the police lie and ignore procedure when enforcing SOCPA.
Here's a video where a WPC knocks Barbara to the ground. She's been standing outside Downing Street with Steve, who's being arrested for holding another banner. Oh, and another officer is, not unusually, failing to display her lapel numbers, and will not answer questions about it.
Chris Coverdale goes to court.
"War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal 1946
Chris believes that, under Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, he has a lawful excuse for his actions in that the law provides that "a person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime."
However, despite the long period since the offence was allegedly committed, the prosecution fails to come up with even a skeleton argument. A piqued judge castigates the Crown and awards costs against them, adjourning the case until 4th August.
Happy Birthday SOCPA. An unauthorised sleep-over takes place in the square.
The silly season. Things are fairly quiet - except a hundred or so people managed to blockade the Foreign Office for an hour! Police harassment of Barbara Tucker continues...
Police order overnighters to take down their banner reading "Democracy is Sleeping" or be reported for unauthorised demonstration. It's business as usual.
Chris Coverdale's appeal is dismissed; he's guilty and given a conditional discharge.
Barbara Tucker is arrested for 'obstructing the highway', even thought the highway (Whitehall) has been closed to traffic and pedestrians are flowing freely.
8am saw fifty or so activists arrive outside the Foreign Office and unfurl a banner reading “You Have Blood On Your Desks.”
Joined by the clowns, they performed a die-in before five were arrested for "suspected criminal damage" (fake blood they spilt on the pavement: cf Iraq, Afghanistan and so on...)
There's a video of proceedings here.
As promised the narrative continued to be dominated by police violence against Steve Jago and Barbara Tucker. Attacks appear vindictive and inexplicable, but Barbara explains that she has "confounded the law", and that police will need to "disappear her" lest she makes fools out of them. This month gives credence to her claim, particularly since on the 15th the only SOCPA charge she has faced is thrown out of court.
Barbara Tucker is engaged in conversation with 2 police officers, who turn out to be 'wired for sound'. They ask her about Tony Blair's 'security' and the dangers of terrorism. It appears likely they were trying to entrap her into making some statement that might be used in evidence for a terrorism act prosecution.
Later, outside Downing Street, Steve Jago and Barbara Tucker were approached by an officer (PC Vogler) who identified himself as from 'central ops'. He claimed that her photographs were "offensive" and he threatened that if she didn't leave she would be "sectioned under the mental health act".
4 September: Barbara attended Charing Cross on bail for her obstruction charge. Steve went with her and in reports, as events evolved, it appeared that Steve had been arrested for trying to film within the police station.
However, by 01:42 on the 5th, the following shocking account was published:"The plain clothes police admitted that they were concerned to get barbara and steve out of public view, and still concerned at the implication, steve tried to stand in order to identify the custody sergeant. he was pushed down. Standing again, he was pushed once more. next thing was that his legs have been swiped from under him and he was thrown down so his back hit the bench. one of the plain clothes was stabbing at a point behind his ear, possibly with a finger or something like a pen. This caused bleeding which left a pool of blood on the floor. Steve's left hand was also forced back so violently with the 'duck neck' hold, that it went numb. The police removed him to a cell after this show of strength and then walked out calmly with their backs to him, clearly not frightened that he might retaliate or be violent. This is not a surprise to me as i have seen steve assaulted by police on previous occasions and, although he strongly and passively resists any unlawful actions, he is always totally peaceful". (see "latest news from charing cross" in the link above")
Further reports appeared regarding yesterday's police assault on Steve and Barbara, including photographs of the injuries sustained by the pair. Incredibly, when he was being processed, although his fingerprints and DNA were taken, the police camera was mysteriously not functioning, so they couldn't capture his face and bloodstained neck.
Barbara was now held overnight. She wasn't told why she was being held, and wasn't allowed to make any more calls. Supporters learnt that she was being held overnight to appear in court the next morning, but Barbara herself had no idea until she was taken to the serco transportation van in the morning.
The police pressed for her to be remanded in custody at Holloway prison for two weeks until a hearing on the 19th September - all this for an 'obstruction of the highway' case.
Barbara, meanwhile, had an appointment to see her solicitor after the bail appearance, and was carrying legal papers relating to her socpa trial, including tape recordings and private correspondence with her lawyer, their full legal defence including matters not yet revealed to the police. All this had been confiscated and most likely reviewed by the police while she was in custody.
Meanwhile, Brian Haw is appearing at Marylebone Magistrates Court seeking an adjournment of next week's trial whilst a judicial review is sought to consider the lawfulness of police actions.
Subsequently, his request for the review is turned down, so his trial will take place on 12th September.
Steve and Barbara banned from the designated zone. They appeared in court today on a summons relating to the "unauthorised demonstration" charges of 2nd July. The case was adjourned, but bail conditions prevent them entering Downing Street or Parliament Square.
They will appeal on Monday, but it would appear that at least for this weekend, the police and the authorities have finally succeeded in stopping Barbara from reminding passers-by of the genocides that have happened and are continuing in our name.
The appeal. Asked why she was setting such "unprecendented and unheard of conditions", Judge Wright replied: "Because I can."
Eventually, after legal arguments back and forth, the judge relented slightly and allowed that Barbara could enter Parliament Square but only to take part in Brian Haw's protest and under conditions set by Superintendent Terry or the most senior officer on the ground. Effectively, this means that a policeman can tell Barbara her banner is 'too pink' or some such rubbish, and then have her imprisoned for breach of bail.
After some confusion as to the location of Brian Haw's trial, good news emerged as he was finally granted the right to a judicial hearing over police conduct, and his own trial was therefore adjourned pending the review.
This puts Inspector Terry effectively in the dock rather than Brian Haw, a process that will be repeated on 15th when Barbara tucker has an 'abuse of process' hearing over her summons.
Next Mass Lone Protest announced. This also contains an interesting analysis of SOCPA by Barbara herself.
SOCPA - victory in court today.
The judge first considered the charge against Barbara Tucker that she "participated in a demonstration on the 26th march for which no authorisation had been received" and dismissed the charge as void ab initio - legal jargon meaning that the case didn't have any legs right from the start and should never have been brought. It can also imply corruption, which is something Barbara has always alleged.
Barbara, Steve and Charity Sweet are reported as being outside Downing Street, and following her victory on the 15th, she is not harassed by police. Sadly, at 00.34 the following news is posted on Indymedia: "SOCPA - protestor held at gunpoint, handcuffed and arrested for swearing."
"This evening she was approached by two officers from Charing Cross police station who claimed not to know who she was, nor that she has been the subject of 50 previous reports for 'unauthorised' demonstrating. As per usual, they claimed that she had not notified her demo, despite the fact that she notified by email on march 6th and has had numerous meetings with the police since then."
"The diplomatic protection officers came out from behind Downing Street gates, and brandishing their machine guns, including actually pointing one at a supporter who was trying to get close enough to take down police identifications as she was thrown against the railing, they used handcuffs behind her back to effect an arrest under Section 5 of the Public Order Act."
"It is time the police, and particularly Superintendent Terry, came under proper public scrutiny for their actions. At the very least, Terry and his associates should have a restraining order put on them to stop them approaching the vicinity of Barbara Tucker."
In another small illustration of the contempt these people have for free speech, one of her supporters had to rescue her banner and placard after they had been thrown in a passing refuse cart by police at Downing Street.
Barbara is in court again. This article sums up neatly the current situation, wherein a simple peace protestor is being systematically attacked by a seemingly mad police inspector obsessed with a personal vendetta. We really have to ask ourselves what's going on here...
23 September: The crazed attacks on Barbara and Steve can sometimes obscure the wider issue of SOCPA 132. Today, however, more than a hundred people turned up to the Third Mass Lone Protest. As documentary maker John Pilger had pointed out, commenting on the arrest and conviction of Maya Evans for reading out the names of the dead at the Cenotaph, it reminded him of KGB harassment he'd witnessed at the Kremlin in the 1980's.
"Sack Parliament" is scheduled to coincide with the return of our hapless MP's and results in the biggest mass arrest and reportings under SOCPA yet. Journalists are threatened with arrest, and a photographer is hospitalised by cops. Attempts are made to section Barbara under the Mental Health Act and an alleged agent provocateur attacks Brian Haw. Brian is arrested, the woman leaves with a caution. Courts challenge the CPS on procedure over Barbara and Steve's trials and, as the month draws to a close, "No More Fallujahs", a weekend of civil disobedience, takes place follwed by a "Naming the Dead" ceremony at Downing Street. Fearing the wrath of the popular press, this time there are no arrests.
Chris Coverdale goes to court again. Chris was convicted earlier in the year after an attempt to "report the crimes of genocide and starting a war of aggression". Having made 3,000 separate attempts to report these crimes over several years, he found himself at his wit's end with a banner, leaflets and megaphone outside parliament. But the only police attention he received was an arrest for 'unauthorised protest' and 'use of a megaphone' under SOCPA legislation.
Chris is no nutter. Given that the government will not even remotely discuss the issues arising from its illegal invasion of Iraq, he is using the courts in an attempt to have them discussed in a legal context. In articles here and here, he explains his motives, and a court report here describes how the magistrate toes the line and refuses to hear his argument for the defence.
"Sack Parliament". An extraordinary day wherein the police outnumbered the protestors by a vast margin, aided no doubt by the advance publicity and call-outs in the weeks proceeding the event. Compare this with the presence at the Lebanon demo on 19th July, where they were caught by surprise, and SOCPA 132 begins to become clear: if you have six days notice of an anti-state demonstration, you can impose conditions to reduce its impact and put a force in place so you can neutralise it.
Police were unusually keen to harass and exclude the press, as can be seen in this video, prior to clearing the square of demonstrators.
A fairly harmless crowd of peace protesters assembled in Parliament Square, were confronted by 800 police. Journalists were harrassed and threatened with arrest just for being there and a photographer Marc Vallee was thrown to the ground and injured, allegedly thrown onto a kerbstone by overzealous police.
Now they try and section Barbara Tucker under the Mental Health Act. Barbara has to attend Charing Cross today as a bail condition relating to the alleged "obstructing an officer" charge. Having learned from her experiences of being detained for 23 hours, she decided to take her lawyer with her. A fortunate move, for after being thoroughly searched she is told by Inspector Terry that he is concerned about her mental health and ordered to submit to an assessment under the Act. If she refuses to submit, he claims, she can be forced to do so and held for up to 72 hours.
After taking legal advice, she refused and, despite a mental health team being assembled at the station, the police backed down and settled for finally charging her with "obstructing a police officer".
What does this say about Terry's perception of events? A woman finds the genocide perpetrated by our State to be unacceptable and peacefully protests outside Parliament. She has even applied for permission to do so. The police have 'reported' her for SOCPA breaches over sixty times by now, spuriously arrested her, beaten her, unlawfully detained her and attempted to have her remanded in Holloway.
Most people would recognise her as courageous and persistent. But the Met thinks she's mad and want to section her.
Brian Haw wins the right to petition the House of Lords over the decision in a High Court Appeal to find him under the control of the socpa law, despite the fact that his demo pre-dates the law.
Barbara Tucker appears in court, and Steve is arrested again under Section 44, later changed to PACE for convenience.
Barbara is there to answer the charge of "obstructing a police officer" arising from the assault on both her and Steve at Charing Cross police station on 4 September. The trial is adjourned as the Crown Prosecution service is unsure why Steve is not being tried with her rather than next day. In an abuse of process, they claim that it is because Barbara needs psychiatric assessment. It was completely wrong to mention this in open court after police had been forced to record 'no further action' on Barbara's file, after failing to show any good reason to submit her to a mental health assessment on Saturday.
Steve, meanwhile, ambled off to get a pizza, and was stopped by Ministry of Defence constables, who wished to search him under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. Tired of the constant harassment, he refused unless they gave good reason. But under this particular bit of legislation, they don't need a reason. So he was taken to Charing Cross nick and searched, initially under the Terrorism Act, later changed to PACE. To add insult (without injury, for once), he was then reported for summons for "obstructing a search - terrorism".
Steve appears in court. Court agrees that there is no earthly logic behind the CPS decision to have separate trials for him and Barbara, so a pre-trial review is set for 2nd November.
Brian Haw is attacked, then arrested in the middle of the night.
"A woman attacked Brian Haw's parliament square display at about 5:15 this morning. But Brian himself was arrested under the Public Prder Act, in an organised police swoop, over the content of the display." A report with additions outlining the developments is here. Significantly, although Brian was arrested, the woman who caused the criminal damage was allowed to leave with a caution.
No More Fallujahs! A weekend of mass civil disobedience is announced.
Monday morning dawned with the tents still in place and no overnight arrests and, despite being unauthorised and in breach of SOCPA, the Naming of the Dead ceremony took place outside Downing Street without interference. Clearly, nobody wanted a re-run of last year's "Ringing the Bell" fiasco.
More violence against Steve and Barbara, including torture inflicted on Steve by Charing Cross thugs. Now even MPs are writing to the police to express their concern. Brian Haw clocks up 2000 days of protest and High Court appeals against SOCPA are heard and judgement deferred for bell ringers Milan Rai and Maya Evans. Unsurprisingly, they would fail next month anyway.
Space Hijackers patrol the zone perimeter to publicise SOCPA. Surprising most of the public are still unaware of this act.
Maya Evans, Milan Rai, Steve Blum, and Aqil Shearer appeared at the High Court appealing against their convictions under SOCPA. Judgement is deferred. The judges retire to consider their verdict.
Barbara Tucker, who had a major victory in court yesterday against police, was violently arrested in Parliament Square this morning after trying to peacefully demonstrate with banners, as Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived for Question Time.
Police pushed Barbara and Steve first against the railings, and then dragged them into Parliament Square where they forced them down onto the ground.
Despite the fact that the alleged offence is not arrestable, only reportable, they were held for nine hours, before being released without charge. And these arrests are becoming ever more violent. To quote an Indymedia report, "both peace protestors are now nursing a catalogue of wounds. Steve's wrist is killing him. He feels sure that officer cs727 was trying to break it, first by bending it over the railings on the traffic island, but then, even once the handcuffs were on, by continually pulling at it, both manually and with the cuffs, his intent to cause maximum pain and damage. In the back of the police van on the way to Charing Cross, the officer opened the communication hatch and asked sarcastically "how's your wrist dearie?". Steve describes the arrest as "sheer torture".
"Barbara's solicitor has amassed a long list of injuries to her client, including what she believes was an attempt to "implode Barbara's knuckles". Barbara's worst injury appears to be to her left kidney. At the police station, she couldn't walk and was vomiting. She has been given painkillers and is intending to have it checked out further in the morning. One policeman claims to have been scratched on his arm."
John McDonnell MP was moved to write a letter to commissioner Sir Ian Blair questioning the incident.
Baroness Miller introduces bill in the House of Lords to repeal parts of SOCPA.
2000 days in the Square. Supporters were invited to come and support Brian Haw as he marked his 2000th day of protest in Parliament Square. Speeches and songs, support from MPs and a positive, cheerful celebration meant there was no intereference from the police. It was entirely legal of course, but that doesn't seem to have much clout in this manor.
Two court cases this month. Brian Haw's defence argues that police actions were unlawful and the case is adjourned. Meanwhile, the High Court upholds convictions against Milan Rai and Maya Evans for ringing a bell.
Brian Haw is in court to face criminal charges relating to "breach of conditions" imposed on his demo. The case, however, was adjourned after three days until 22 January. His defence had argued that the police action on the night of May 23rd (the destruction of Brian's protest site) was unlawful, and that there was, thus, no case to be answered, and that Superintendent Terry would be open to charges of theft.
Yet another Mass Lone Protest in the Square with no arrests, contrasting with news that the appeal of 'bell ringers' Maya Evans and Milan Rai's appeal against conviction failed.
Brian's protest continues unabated, with Christmas Day report and pictures.
January was dominated by the police harassment of Barbara Tucker.
Unable or unwilling to enforce SOCPA itself they appear to collude with the court to use bail conditions to suppress protest.
Meanwhile, Tate Britain featured a Mark Wallinger exhibition, a recreation of Brian's protest site prior to its illegal destruction by police, factually proven this month in a significant legal victory for Brian Haw. According to Judge Purdy, "...conditions were unlawful, the delegation was unlawful and so the raid must have been unlawful too."
Tate Britain launches an exhibition by Mark Wallinger featuring an exact recreation of Brian Haw's protest site prior to its illegal destruction by police. Its anti-establishment posture is however challenged by news that press coverage is subject to certain conditions.
A major victory in court today for Brian Haw, as Judge Purdey rules that the conditions were unlawful, the delegation was unlawful and so the raid must have been unlawful too."
The start of a shocking series of attacks on Barbara Tucker wherein she is arrested for obstruction.
Barbara Tucker and Steve Jago have bail conditions imposed upon them barring them from entering the SOCPA zone other than to attend court. This leads to her arrest and she is held overnight. (Photos of the arrest here)
After 18 hours police detention without being allowed visitors she appears in court at Westminster, where police ask that bail conditions are enforced to remand her in Holloway prison until May.
After an interruption from Brian Haw and sound legal argument from her solicitors, Judge Snow lifts the ban on Barbara entering the zone, but warns that any further appearances in court will lead to its re-imposition.
Given the above, it was inevitable that police would ensure another court appearance. Highly visible to Tony Blair, as he made his weekly visit to Parliament to face Prime Ministers Questions, she presented a fine target for 4 burly officers who arrested her for 'potential breach of the peace', changing to 'obstructing a police officer' on arrival at the nick, only to escalate once more to 'assaulting a police officer'.
Such was the attention garnered by this latest attack that Labour MP John McDonnell visited the square to check on Barbara's plight.
Nevertheless, police are temporarily successful is getting Barbara off the streets for at her court appearance, Barbara is banned from the SOCPA zone for five months until her trial in May. Here's a fuller account of the trial.
Good news as Brian Haw is voted The Most Inspiring Political Figure of 2006, but bad news as SOCPA is rolled out across the country to charge animal activists and "Weapons Inspectors" at US air bases.
The month starts as Steve is arrested for breach of bail conditions - in the zone but visiting court! - and carted off the Charing Cross nick to be held overnight. Next day in court they offer no argument and his bail conditions are removed. He is however warned that if he appears in court on a further charge....
Here's a resume by Rikki of that shameful week, and Oscar Beard's take on things.
Meanwhile SOCPA arrests resume outside London, when eight are charged under SOCPA 128 at US army base Lakenheath. There's a fuller report here, and pictures here.
Court was adjourned to resume on 6th March.
And in a new development use is made for the first time to charge anti-fur activists under section 1a.
Later in the month SOCPA charges are made by Humberside police after dawn raids on animal rights activists .
Good news today, as it emerges that Brian Haw has been voted the most inspiring political figure of 2006 in the Channel 4 awards. He received 54% of the votes, T. Blair got 8% (Cherie must have voted twice).
See the presentation here.
Strange developments in the courts, as it emerges that - as in Brian Haw's case - the commissioner had no authority to delegate SOCPA responsibilities to Superintendent Terry, and so the police arguments against Barbara collapse entirely.
Judge Snow's brain implodes under the pressure, and he postpones Barbara's trial again.
Showing cavalier disregard for process, Terry continues to give authority and impose conditions on SOCPA applications, even though he was in court and heard judge Purdy's verdict himself,
Barbara has her bail conditions lifted in a rare display of courtroom sense.
SOCPA broadens its scope and jails three animal activists - one for four years - under SOCPA 125.
CND calls an authorised demonstration as MPs debate the Trident replacement bill, meanwhile Block the Builders bring the square to a traffic halt with highly successful lock-ons. 9 are arrested and peaceful protesters are manhandled by police clearing the square as the authorisation ended at 8pm.
The State finds a new way to punish peace protesters without making martyrs of them. Brian and Barbara face prison for non payment of fines imposed for contempt of court whilst attending for SOCPA related offences.
Three animal activists were jailed , for "disrupting the lawful business of HLS..." mainly, it seems by shouting and taking photographs of workers.
The trio are not said to have taken the pictures, or posted them on the website, but were accused of taking part in the demonstration when abuse and threats were hurled at workers.
However, Mr Justice Goldring said: "There must be a real element of deterrent in the sentences I pass. This course of conduct will not be tolerated."
Barbara has her bail conditions lifted and is allowed back on to the streets of Westminster 14 March
Parliament Square saw big demonstrations as MPs gathered to debate (ie rubberstamp) Blair's plans to renew the Trident nuclear missile programme.
Celebrities gathered for a photocall, meanwhile Block the Builders closed down Parliament Square nine of whom were charged under SOCPA 132.
CND sought and obtained SOCPA permission for the event until 8pm, and as the hour approached police waded in and cleared the square, much to the disquiet of protesters seen in this video.
The eight people arrested on suspicion of organising the Sack Parliament demonstration on 9th October 2006 were told they will not be charged with any offence, after having been rebailed to return to Charing Cross police station four times. In total 38 people were arrested at the demonstration, one person plead guilty and two accepted cautions for demonstrating without authorisation, one person charged with assaulting police will stand trial in the summer, all of other cases were dropped
Voices in the Wilderness marked the run up to the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by planting 186 crosses, one for every thousand Iraqis killed. Being a sensitive issue with plenty of press present the police kept a low profile
Steve Jago is up in court and, -being denied legal aid - is accompanied by Barbara Tucker, his lay legal advisor. Imagine her surprise to find herself also listed to answer 4 summonses dated THAT DAY and sent to an address she no longer lives at!
Judge Evans spots her alongside Steve Jago and insists she enter pleas, which she can't do as the summonses haven't been read to her, has no prior knowledge of them and - being there simply as advisor to Steve - no legal representation.
Told that Evans will enter 'not guilty' pleas on her behalf she tells him "This is dishonest! who do I complain to? This is wrong!". Judge Evans told her to sit down and be quiet, and continued with the plea entering.
Who else should happen to be in court other than Brian Haw, who asks Evans to adhere to legal procedure. "This woman is being bullied", he says. "I want these proceedings dealt with properly", and when Judge Evans began to leave the court room without further comment, added " you will be answerable for this".
SERCO officers then surrounded the two of them and manhandled them down to the cells, injuring Brian's wrist in the process.
Barbara and Brian are up in court on contempt of court charges resulting from the events of the 26th.
In British law, there is normally a prosecution lawyer, a defence lawyer, witnesses, and a judge. in her own words, Judge Wickham called today's proceeding an "inquisitorial" hearing rather than an adversarial hearing. In effect this means she was acting both as prosecutor and judge.
So it'll probably come as no surprise that she found both guilty of Contempt of Court ('Barbara's contempt was a small contempt, refusing to sit down') and, stating she "was not prepared to make martyrs" of them imposed fines of £50 on Barbara and £250 on Brian.
Neither having seizable assets they're likely to be imprisoned for non payment of fines.
Not for breaching SOCPA, you understand, nor for contempt of court but for non-payment of fines. Thus the penalty is twice removed from the crime and the state is saved the embarrassment of imprisoning martyrs for protesting for peace.
Rikki's report should have the last words:
"was this a political trial?
"brian stood up in the dock and then crossed the court, loudly accusing miss wickham of being corrupt. it looked rather like 'contempt of court' to me, but for absolutely clearly political reasons miss wickham just smiled benignly at him and let him continue".
Critical Mass took to the street for its regular 'last Friday' spin round London's West End.
Police continued to warn riders not to play their sound systems within the SOCPA zone and ask for their names and addresses (but take no action when this is refused).
Police have appealed against last year's court ruling and wish to treat it as a regular public protest, something the cyclists are bound to resist.
More than 1500 cyclists massed to respond to the previous police challenge to their freedom.
21 April: Mark Thomas organises a (legal) Mass Lone Protest to highlight the absurdity of SOCPA. So many people take part that 2486 individual applications are made, breaking the Guinness Book of Records record for something or other. Whilst it's generally agreed that it's a useful introduction to activism some reports question whether jolly days out trivialise the issue and draw attention away from the police violence and political repression imposed by the act.
Charity Sweet was arrested and her artwork removed whilst Steve Jago finally got to court almost a year after his arrest. Milan Rai & Maya Evans were convicted again, but with lower penalities.
Barbara and Steve received Community Service Orders banning them from the SOCPA area for one year.
Critical Mass swept through Parliament Square without any authorisation yet nobody was troubled by police.
1 May: "Bollocks to Blair" enters the vocabulary as Charity Sweet is arrested on 1st May.
Her campaign, including attempts to start a Downing Street petition in the same vein can be followed here:
5 May: Steve Jago appeared at Horseferry Road Magistrates Court where Judge Purdy found him - not surprisingly - guilty of demonstrating without authorisation, but not guilty of assaulting a police officer. The trial report is here.
Steve's "crime" was to carry a placard quoting George Orwell and marked the start of a very nasty series of arrests. This video serves as a reminder.
18 May: Milan Rai and Maya Evans were convicted of organising and participating in an unauthorised demonstration as part of the No More Fallujahs day last October. Police had dropped the charges of organising the demonstration at a previous hearing, presumably to avoid press outrage against the "Ringing a Bell Woman" going down for 51 weeks, but this information was somehow lost between court dates. Unimpressed by the CPS bringing two lots of charges for one event, the magistrate dished out a zero fine and no costs for taking part in the demo and only a small fine for organising.
23 May: Another attempt to stifle protest today as Barbara and Steve both get Community Service Orders, the terms of which ban them from the SOCPA area for one year. Compare March's verdict on Brian and Barbara where they are found guilty of contempt of court, an offence completely removed from the original SOCPA charge.
26 Mat: Critical Mass stages another huge ride, this time as a result of a Lords ruling that "organisers" of the the ride must give advance notice of the route. Not a SOCPA offence in itself, but about seven hundred cyclists arrived in the Square without advance permission. There were no arrests.
DOCDAYS: SOCPA PREMIERE - BRIAN HAW AND THE ERASURE OF DEMOCRACY
After the premiere of SOCPA and a screening of selected shorts there will be a panel discussion with Brian Haw, Rikki Blue and others to be announced soon.
Director: Rikki Blue. UK 2007. Approx. 1hr. UK Premiere
An important new film about section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA). This legislation was passed in order to rid parliament square of Brian Haw, the lone protestor who has camped outside parliament since 2001 spreading his message of peace with an ever increasing number of artistic and powerful banners, in full and defiant sight of the politicians who had voted for the invasion of Iraq. The film follows Haw’s successful battle to remain, but also shows the enormous creativity and tenacity of other campaigners appalled at the idea that we have to ask for permission to protest peacefully near Parliament. This will be a first screening of this unique documentary, but as the story still unfolds, it may not be the final cut.
Russell Square WC1N1AW
Box Office: 0870 850 6927