Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign
SUSSEX POLICE ADMIT THEY WERE WRONG TO RESTRICT BOYCOTT ISRAEL DEMONSTRATORS
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The demonstration was against the participation of the Israeli national tennis team in the Davis Cup competition at Devonshire Park in Eastbourne. Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign (BHPSC) organised the demonstration in support of a sporting boycott of apartheid Israel. The demonstration came at a time when Israel was engaged in an illegal bombing campaign in Lebanon which killed over a 1000 people in less than a month.
When demonstrators arrived at the protest they were immediately confined to a metal cage opposite the stadium where the tennis tournament was taking place. Police used powers under the Public Order Act designed only to be used when there is a serious threat of violence, disorder or disruption. These powers were invoked at the very beginning of the demonstration when only a handful of protesters were present. During the protest several people were searched by the police and many protesters were manhandled. After the protest had continued peacefully for a few hours the police issued orders under the Public Order Act for protesters to cease using a megaphone to chant slogans and communicate with the people going in to the stadium. One man, Chris Osmond, was arrested, handcuffed and detained at Eastbourne Police Station for continuing to use the megaphone. His case was discontinued in 2007.
Two complaints were made about the policing of the demonstration.
Sussex Police, after investigating the complaints, has admitted that the officers did not have the power to restrict the use of the megaphone under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. They have said that the officers involved will 'receive advice' and that 'proper training' will be given in future.
The police, however, have not admitted that they should not have placed any restrictions at all on the demonstration. A further complaint is planned to the Independent Polce Complaints Commission (IPCC) to reopen investigations into this issue.
Chris Osmond said 'The police acted in a political matter in imposing restrictions on the demonstration. Sussex Police was being pressurised to stop any protests because of representations that had been made by the Israeli embassy. The police's actions are part of a broader trend of criminalisation of dissent in the UK. I will be suing the police over my unlawful arrest and detention'.
The protest was just weeks after a series of marches in Brighton against the Lebanon war which had been met by police repression. During the second of these protest marches the police racially profiled participants and intrusively filmed many demonstrators, particularly people of Middle-Eastern appearance. Last year Chief Superintendent Kevin Moore was reprimanded by the IPCC for implying that the participants of these marches were anti-semitic.