campaigners from 10 protest groups had their leaflets and tables confiscated in Church Street, Liverpool this Saturday 11th October. Two arrests were made.
manhandled members of the public and protesters in order to force a way through for the van carrying the arrested pair.
At one point, around six police vans and a dozen police officers were
required to quell angry protest at the suppression of free speech in a crowd – mostly shoppers and visitors - seething with anger and contempt. Shouts of “Let Them Out!”, “You're A Disgrace!” and “Free Speech!” resounded from the buildings, the crowd drawn by the police over-reaction entirely blocking Church Street and spilling onto Hanover Street in a dangerous melee.
Over the last few months, campaigners on issues as diverse as the war in Iraq, animal rights and defending the NHS have been the subject of police bullying, with literature confiscated and cautioned and arrested. Liverpool Freedom of Expression was formed to defend free speech and the right to campaign in public places. This was its first action.
Around 10 campaigning groups set up campaign stalls and immediately the police swooped and began confiscating materials. What began with one police officer, rapidly escalated with first four, then a dozen forced to respond to a situation rapidly turning ugly.
Throughout, no campaigner did anything but stand their ground, arguing passionately for the right to free speech and to campaign in the city centre. One person was arrested for doing just that. The second for asking why the first had been arrested.
This prompted a very passionate and angry reaction, people sat down in front of the police vans, formed a rolling blockade and otherwise tried to prevent their innocent friends being taken away. But throughout, no violence was offered and protesters were at pains to debate and to argue but not to provoke the police into a violent response; it came anyway as they were pushed, shouted at and manhandled out of the way.
The incident ended peacefully at 2.30pm although many people vowed to make their way to St Anne Street police station - the local lock-up - to voice their anger and file a complaint at police tactics. Two hundred people – and the many hundreds more who witnessed the ugly incident – went away disgusted at this waste of time, money and resources. Another PR disaster for the Merseyside Police.
Photographs of the incident can be obtained from Indymedia UK/Liverpool Indymedia when posted.
The entirely legal action was organised by Liverpool Freedom of Expression.
Freedom Not Fear
I was given a fixed penalty notice, but I may insist on going for a trial (which would be in the Magistrates Court, as far as know) on principle, and because this is a political issue.
I take issue with the suggestion that I could "distress" somebody who is considerably bigger than me. I also object to the lie that any members of the public were "alarmed and distressed" by me, or by the protest in general. People who are "alarmed and distressed" do not hang around Church Street to watch what's going on!
The said arresting officer was one Constable Wilson, the one on the bike who was going round taking people's leaflets and demanding to know their details.
I would like to hear from any-one who saw him storm across from the Rock Around the Blockade stall at about quarter to one, and shout at me and threaten to take my camera "for evidence" after I had taken a picture of the stall.
I would also like to hear from any-one who is prepared to be a witness as to his behaviour and attitude in general this afternoon. You can contact me through my email address, or I am at the social centre on most weekends.