The weekly vegan open picnic has recently faced growing repression from Police and consistent support in the community.
People taking part in Brixton's Reclaim Your Food weekly action faced arrest last Sunday 2nd March 2008 as they challenged the legitimacy of a Dispersal Order issued by the Lambeth branch of the Metropolitan Police.
Police (consisting of a mix of PCs, CSOs and higher-ranking officers) were waiting for the collective before they even arrived. They came equipped with a mobile surveillance van, 2 regular Police vans and 2 Police cars.
The first arrest came as a result of a refusal to comply with the Dispersal Order placed upon the group, the second for attempting to establish the legal basis for such an arrest. The Dispersal Order, made possible by the controversial Anti-Social Behaviour Act, was issued in response to an alleged Section 5 Public Order offence - defined as causing harassment, distress or alarm. However, when questioned, the Police failed to provide adequate evidence to suggest that such an offence was taking place.
Thankfully, the long arm of the law did not stretch to the Bicycle Repair Workshop or those making Puncture Repair Kits and Wallets from recycled and sustainable materials. These were welcome additions to the Town Square, which was reclaimed as a fully-functional public space for all...with room for a bit of a dance to the chilled reggae/dub soundsystem!
Despite all the Police intimidation and generally not fantastic weather, a good time was had by most people who turned up or happened to be passing by! - Same as today 9th of March when there were no arrests.
The collectives involved in Sunday's action are keen to welcome anyone who is interested in any aspect of the project to come along - Bring food to share. Instruments. Sound Systems. Practical Social Activities. Or just yourself!! All welcome.
The project will continure to meet at Brixton Town Square (by Coldharbour Lane, opposite the Ritzy Cinema) from around 2/3pm every Sunday. The town square is well on it's way to being a free public space, for anyone to use. This does not figure in the plans of the Police and Local Government, who are intent on seeing through gentrification of the area. Every Sunday at approx 3pm in BRIXTON TOWN SQUARE, opposite BRIXTON LIBRARY
Video: 3 march (1)
What follows is a series of convoluted and dubious explanations that the Police gave on the 3rd of March as to why they had reason to believe an offence was being committed:
1) By giving out free food, a climate was being created that enabled drug-dealing - which in itself could promote harassment, distress and/or alarm. Case Law contradicts the use of this Public Order law 'by proxy' (as it were) and it has previously been ruled that if a Section 5 offence is being comitted, it is unlawful to arrest anyone other than the alleged perpetrator of the offence.
2) "Local Businesses" - such as the nearby McDonalds & KFC restaraunts - were claiming that the actions of the collective were inhibiting their ability to make a profit. No law that explicitly states the interests of said businesses are to take precedent over the interests of the other parties involved was invoked. However, it's hardly a shocking revelation that profit comes before people.
3) The concentration of Brixton's drug users and dealers in Brixton Town Square, allegedly as a result of the Reclaim Your Food collective's project, was making the 'problem' more difficult to Police. This isn't even worthy of a witty retort.
Sunday's events also demonstrate the power of solidarity and engagement with the community, after Police abandoned initial threats to arrest everyone present because they thought those involved had 'learnt their lesson' and would not be back the next week. This, of course, had nothing to do with the logistical difficulties that would've arisen from arresting up to 50+ people with limited resources - and having to justify that to the largely supportive members of the public present...honest, sarge! There were many people on hand to photograph and film the behaviour of the Police and to record the identity numbers of the officers involved. The action was not only fully completed and largely unimpeded by Police intervention but also took to the streets afterwards, marching to Brixton Police Station and standing in solidarity with the two arrestees. The Reclaim Your Food banner was unfurled accross the Metropolitan Police logo at the front of the station, generating public interest and support. Tea and Biscuits were also on offer, giving the whole proceeding an uncharacteristically twee vibe!
Many Brixton residents approached the collective, sharing their own experiences of dealing with Police intimidation and brutality. Whilst this may appear incredibly doom-and-gloom, the atmosphere was more conducive to a sense of mutual support and a desire to challenge the state apparatus than of feeling downtrodden or apathetic, which left many people feeling positive about the possiblity of resisting the ever-creeping Police state.