rikkiindymedia(At)gmail[dot]com (rikki) | 17.04.2012 18:55 | London
both the olympic delivery authority (ODA) and state authorities are already working to stifle any dissent against the coming olympic corporate extravaganza in london. with libel threats, ASBOs, injunctions, potential control of photography, blanket searches, and armoured cars, the olympic war machine is beginning to make itself felt.
in north east london, local campaigners at leyton marsh have been questioning the need for planning rules and regulations to be thrown aside by waltham forest council in order to allow the ODA to build a temporary basketball facility on a beautiful and much-used open space, protected by SSSI rules, green flag awards, and 'open metropolitan land' status. as a temporary facility it won't even provide any legacy for londoners despite the massive disruption to the area. although there is a promise of some money for improvements, local people are not being consulted about these, and there is much distrust over this.
the protests, including a small tent village as well as vehicle blockades by local people including hackney councillors, peacefully brought the building work to a halt for two weeks, before the lea valley regional park authority (LVRPA) and the ODA took out high court injunctions to respectively move the occupation off the land and to prevent any interference to the works.
after interim injunctions were granted, work resumed last tuesday, and activists again attempted to block the builders. this was a combined effort by members of the occupy camp, along with hackney councillors, and local people.
although breaching a high court injunction can lead to 'committal proceedings' and ultimately to the possibility of up to two years' imprisonment, the process has to be instigated by the claimant, and is not an automatic offence in criminal law. so, last week, police instead used section 14 of the public order act, under which those failing to comply with imposed conditions were arrested.
four people were arrested at the site, and three of those, pleading guilty, were imprisoned for several days. the fourth, pleading not guilty, has received draconian bail conditions, and will have his case heard in a few weeks time.
a local woman, who spent some time underneath one of the lorries, later gave a media interview.
so five names appeared in newspapers.
as a result, the ODA have adjusted their injunction (to be heard fully in the high court tomorrow morning) so that its claim is now against those five, rather than just 'persons unknown'.
the implications of this are serious, in that the ODA is claiming more than a quarter of a million pounds costs.
in this david and goliath struggle, campaigners believe there are sound arguments questioning the validity of the planning process, and the legality of the injunction, but with no funds for legal representation, they are up against an organisation that has potentially limitless public funds to pay city lawyer firms acting on their behalf.
meanwhile, after my report on indymedia, http://london.indymedia.org/articles/12049 a letter was sent to the leyton marsh campaign, to indymedia centre, and to me. it came from city libel lawyers acting on behalf of the ODA, and claimed that my report contained serious false and defamatory allegations about its client.
after taking legal advice i removed an allegation made by campaigners in order to comply with the lawyers' request, and to avoid potentially costly proceedings against myself and against indymedia.
on his release from prison on saturday morning, one of the activists received a visit from a scotland yard public order division detective sergeant. the sergeant delivered an 'interim asbo', an anti-social behaviour order, stipulating a set of prohibitions. if the campaigner breaks any of the orders, he faces up to five years in prison. the asbo bans him from any olympic sites, including any proposed or anticipated, from olympic routes, from roads used for events like the marathon or the torch, from interfering with participants including sponsorship officials, and even spectators, and it also even extends the bans to the diamond jubilee celebrations. finally, it addresses the campaigner's relationship with the occupation movement by prohibiting him from trespassing on, or interfering with any buildings or land, without the owner's permission.
when ASBOs were first introduced by Blair in 1998, http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/37/contents it was claimed they were designed to address behaviour and minor incidents that wouldn't normally be covered by criminal prosecution. there have been concerns that ASBOs could be used to effectively criminalise behaviour that otherwise would not be criminal, and indeed the current interim order does precisely that, by changing a civil trespass directly into an arrestable and imprisonable offence for this particular activist. it also works as a pre-crime prohibition, especially as there is no evidence that this particular person has any intention to disrupt the the diamond jubilee, and his only connection with the olympics is in his peaceful protest against the loss of open land.
at a recent olympic press briefing, the police reminded journalists that the controversial section 76 powers http://london.indymedia.org/articles/1174 remain on the statute. these counter-terrorism regulations prohibit the capturing of images of police, military or security, making it an arrestable offence to do so.
at the time, after representations from unions and protests outside scotland yard, the police said the rules were unworkable. it was a surprise and a matter of serious concern that the legislation was mentioned once again at the recent press briefing.
PRIVATE ARMOURED VEHICLES
at that same press briefing, journalists were told that private security would only be used within the olympic venue and not on the streets of london. this was to allay fears about the extent of their powers and their jurisdiction. however, within a week of the promise, an NUJ journalist was taking images on public land OUTSIDE the olympic village, and within minutes was questioned by G4S guards who drove towards him in an armoured car!
the newham legal monitoring group, sensitive to the issue of 'stop and search' in the borough, have been asking the police for an indication of how their powers would be used. the police have refused to give any operational details on this subject. during the course of their research, the group have discovered new legislation on the horizon, due to come into law just before the olympics in june this year.
under the orwellian title of 'protection of freedoms' bill, the new legislation changes the regime for police stop and searches under the 2000 terrorism act. the new rules allow police to designate an area as 'likely to be the target of a terrorist attack', and then provide for blanket 'stop and search' powers without any other criteria such as reasonable suspicion etc.
as the olympics are, it is suggested, a likely target, and as the terror alert status is 'severe', it is not hard to see how these powers are going to be rolled out across london over the summer, to be widely misued against protestors, disaffected youth, journalists, and indeed anyone the police don't like the look of.
so, welcome the olympics and all that it brings.
the injunctions against leyton marsh protestors will be heard at the rolls building next to the high court tomorrow morning at 10.30am (weds 18th april)
supporters are invited outside the court from 10am and the hearing is of course public.
Original article on IMC London: http://london.indymedia.org/articles/12092