fighting fit | 31.01.2008 15:06 | Repression
The plans have sparked fears of a return to old style ‘sus’ laws even amongst the police force. On a national radio phone-in yesterday a man claiming to be a serving police officer stated that the police already ignored or abused regulations ‘on a daily basis’, as they carried out stop and searches purely to meet their performance targets. A representative from the black police association predicted that the police will use wider measures not to prevent crime but to exercise ‘more control’ over minority groups.
Inevitably, alongside black youths and Asian men, one of the ‘minority groups’ that will be targeted will be people involved in political protest. The police have long been frustrated in their attempts to use stop and search more widely against protest groups.
They have the use of s60 orders, to enable them to search for weapons, but the police struggle to get authorisation to use this measure unless they can show a likelihood of public disorder. They thought terrorism provisions (s44) would be the answer, but were severely criticised for their use of s44 to carry out repeated and widespread searches (sometimes with the use of force) at the DSEi protests in 2003. They even got PACE changed to allow them to search on the ‘suspicion of going equipped to cause criminal damage’ but this still requires ‘suspicion’ and can’t be used against large numbers.
What they really want – and what they look likely to get – is the freedom to conduct systematic searches of whatever number of people are attending a political protest, without the need for prior authorisation or the presence of ‘reasonable suspicion’.
It will be yet another way in which police can harass, intimidate and bully. And most importantly (for them) yet another way in which they can frighten and deter people from being involved in overt political activity.
However, they may not get everything their own way. A growing number of activists have become increasingly frustrated and angered by police tactics on protests.
As things stand, the police get away with a long list of bullying tactics. Demonstrators are forced into police pens where they are detained, sometimes for long periods of time. Release from the ‘pen’ often depends on the person agreeing to being searched and identified. Individuals on political actions and protests are photographed and filmed, and have their personal data entered onto a permanent database. Organisers come in for special treatment and can be personally harassed.
There is perhaps a mood of resistance building up, a growing number who are no longer prepared just to sit by and allow the police to bully and intimidate us.
If you would like to be a part of that, please come along to the Fitwatch meeting on Saturday 8th March , at the LSE at 2pm. People from all groups and campaigns are welcome, and it is hoped there will be a wide ranging discussion about creating some effective resistance to current police objectives that are forcing us off the streets.