immediately brian haw, and two others from the peace campaign, sprang into action. one pushed the tamil man to the ground, another took off his own leather jacket and used it to try and damp down the flames, and while they rolled him over and over on the ground, brian ripped the man's upper clothing off. by the time police from westminster had crossed the road with a fire extinguisher, the flames were out, and brian was nursing a burnt and blistered hand and badly singed hair of his own.
the man was taken to a burns unit and is making a recovery there.
later that afternoon, a female police sergeant came to the square and told brian she had seen the cctv footage of the incident. she said "you guys were awesome" and said that they would be receiving a letter of commendation for their actions for 'saving life and limb'.
forward to 9am this morning. the peace of parliament square on a sunday morning was rudely shattered for brian, barbara tucker, and another person as their tents were subject to the eighth in a series of unlawful searches carried out by police. the same female sergeant had been sent along with several other police officers and community support officers by inspector walsh (who according to brian had assaulted him in a previous search) to conduct the mission, using force as necessary.
the police claim that these unannounced searches are legal under section 17 of PACE, but the argument is still going through the courts, and on reading the act it really does seem to apply to entering property in order to arrest someone, or where there is IMMEDIATE danger to life or limb. despite their use of section 17, police officers also claim they are searching for 'objects that may be useful to terrorists', which is not part of the act at all, so it really does seem that their legal justification is shaky or non-existent.
i have reported on one of these searches before ( http://indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/10/410262.html), pointing out that the police are clearly under orders not to make any arrests. i have watched barbara tucker push an officer to the ground, for which she was then jumped on by four other officers, but no arrest was made. from this i surmised that the police knew full well that a charge of "assaulting a police officer in the course of their duty" wouldn't stick in court because they were not carrying out any police duty at the time, harassing and intimidating the peace campaign with a completely unlawful action instead.
the same pattern emerged today. brian was inside his tent this morning when police tried to break in. he used his own hands to slap the hands intruding through the gap in his tent, and heard one officer he had just struck say "ouch, you've hurt me". despite this, police simply used force to drag occupants out of their tents, kicking one in the head in the process, and then rooted around (without witnesses) inside the the tents (which hold all sorts of legally privileged documents including many many actions against the police), before leaving with no 'objects useful to terrorists' found.
the female sergeant involved did at least appear a little bashful about her job this morning - perhaps in her heart she knew it was wrong, but i guess she was 'just following orders'.
brian awaits his police letter of commendation with disgust and contempt.