MPs, activists and trade unionists condemn new attacks

Release from Defend the Right to Protest:

A series of raids and “pre-emptive arrests” in the days leading up to the royal wedding represent a dangerous clampdown on our hard-won right to protest.

Squats have been raided by large teams of police officers. Activists have been arrested on the bizarre charge of “conspiracy to cause public nuisance and breach of the peace” for trying to organize street theatre on the day of the royal wedding. Students arrested after the tuition fees protests have had their bail hearings moved forward and been charged and banned from the City of Westminster.

These include Alfie Meadows, who nearly died of a brain haemorrhage after being hit with a baton on December 9 and has now been charged with violent disorder. This follows the kettling and police violence against student protests and the mass arrest of 148 protestors who peacefully occupied Fortnum & Mason on March 26.

Politicians condemn regimes in the Middle East that do not allow their citizens to speak out against their rulers (some of whom, including the royal families of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, are attending the royal wedding today). Yet the political policing that has preceded the royal wedding threatens to do the same in Britain, making it a crime to be a protestor on high profile state occasions.

If this can happen for the royal wedding, how can we be confident that we will be allowed to protest at the opening of Parliament, the Tory Party conference or Chancellor Osborne’s budget announcement?

Now more than ever, as the government cuts threaten the jobs, services, pensions and benefits that millions rely upon, we need to assert our right to protest without fear of arrest and intimidation. We will be protesting outside the first hearing of Fortnum & Mason occupiers on Monday 9 May, 9am, at City of Westminster Magistrates Court and invite everyone who believes in defending our democratic rights to join us there.

Initiated by Defend the Right to Protest

Signatories include:

  • Stop Kettling Our Kids
  • UK Uncut
  • Justice for Alfie Meadows
  • United Campaign Against Police Violence
  • Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
  • Matt Foot – Campaigning Lawyer
  • Aamer Anwar – Campaigning Lawyer
  • Billy Bragg
  • John McDonnell MP
  • Katy Clark MP
  • Liam Burns – President NUS Scotland
  • Mark Serwotka – General Secretary PCS
  • Billy Hayes – General Secretary CWU
  • Roz Kaveney – Queer Resistance
  • Laurie Penny – journalist
  • Nina Power – Senior Lecturer Philosophy, Roehampton University
  • Michael Chessum – Co-founder National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts
  • Mark Bergfeld – NUS NEC, Education Activist Network
  • Ashok Kumar LSE SU Education Officer
  • Kanja Sessay NUS NEC, Black Students Committee
 
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Judge rules that the kettling and treatment of peaceful protesters was illegal

Yesterday’s ruling stating that the kettling and brutal treatment of
climate campers by the police at the G20 demonstration was a fantastic
result for protesters. The judge ruled that the police tactics were
not only unjustified but that they were illegal. Despite the police
stating they will appeal the judgement, the scores of protesters who
were illegally and unlawfully detained whilst protesting may now have
grounds to claim for damages. We support the judge’s ruling and
encourage a new attitude, which should be reflected in the training of
police prior to protests. There must be a shift in the police’s
approach to protesters which seems bent of criminalising people
exercising the fundamental right to protest.
Although the judgement does not completely discredit kettling as an
unlawful tactic, we remain adamant that it should be struck down as a
policing tactic. Following the charges that the 145 Fortnum & Masons
protesters were levied with after a peaceful occupation, we are still
concerned about the tactic being used as a strategy for political
policing. Stop Kettling Our Kids offer support to the 145 protesters.
This ruling is another opportunity to reinforce the EDM 1257 to ban
kettling, so urge your local MP.
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Get your MP to sign the EDM 1257

Here is an e-mail from local MP who agreed to sign the EDM on consituents behalf after being sent the below letter. Contact your MPs!

18 February 2011
Our ref: SD8186

Thank you for contacting me about EDM 1257, which expresses concern over the use of Kettling.

I have now signed the EDM and I have that this is of assistance to you. If there is anything further I can do on this or any other issue, please feel free to let me know.

Yours sincerely,
Rt Hon Joan Ruddock MP

—–Original Message—–
From:
Sent: 06 February 2011 20:40
To: RUDDOCK, Joan
Subject: Letter from your constituent

 Sunday 6 February 2011

Dear Joan Ruddock,

I am writing with the intention to urge you to sign the EDM 1257 which
calls for the banning of ‘kettling’ as an infringement on protesters
democratic rights. Please read the EDM, launched by Katy Clark MP,
below:

“Clark, Katy
That this House is concerned about the use of kettling as a police
tactic against demonstrators in the United Kingdom; expresses serious
concern that in recent demonstrations individuals, including minors,
have been indiscriminately kettled by police for up to nine hours
without food, appropriate facilities or access to medical assistance
for those who require it and have been refused the right to leave;
notes that a number of individuals have suffered very serious injuries,
such as bleeding to the brain, as a result of police action during
recent kettles; believes this kettling to be an infringement of the
fundamental right to peaceful protest; and calls on the Government to
take steps to stop this practice.”

I have personally been trapped in a ‘kettle’ and it is a frightening
experience. The nature of the ‘kettle’ ensures that the situation is
aggravated. The containment of people who are demonstrating about a
specific issue, to then be detained so that our freedom of movement restricted is
demeaning and infuriating. Let alone the fact that our rights are
violated. I believe that the tactic of ‘kettling’ is a horrific abuse
of our democratic rights to protest and free speech, the coercive
attempts to deter protesters surely should be something we bring into
serious scrutiny within Parliament.

I want to emphasis the importance of your signature on the EDM 1257,
showing agreement for the standard use of ‘kettling’ to be prohibited.
I feel that it is key that you as my local MP, demonstrate support for
young protesters whose educational opportunities are being diminished
under this austerity program. I was with a group of young people at the
9th December protest in London. All of us were ‘kettled’ as we
demonstrated our opposition to the increase in the tuition fees cap.

It is important that the debate around these protests is not only
focused on police tactics which is why I urge you to sign the EDM so
that we can progress from the brutal and extreme police tactics to
discuss the real issues: the cuts! The fact that there are members of
your local constituency who were victim to these police tactics only
acts as another incentive for you to sign the EDM 1257.

I await your signature and response,

Yours sincerely,

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29th January Protest

The pink kettles were a right hit!

Fantastic to see so many people out on Saturday. Particularly good to see support from union members, parents and families. Although the police took a step back from the protest it is important for us to keep focused on the recent trend of criminalising protesters, which we witness in police attitudes and strategy as well as within the media. The protest maintained a calm atmosphere, but we must keep up momentum and organisation. 

Next time, join us and bring your kettles!!

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Our letter printed in the Guardian about kettling

Read the Guardian’s letters page in response to Sir Hugh Orde’s warning that police could use even more extreme tactics on protesters here, including a letter from Katy Clark MP.

Below is the original letter which was also signed by Caroline Lucas MP and John McDonnell MP, but for some reason their names were not added to the list printed.

Guardian Letter

Stop Kettling Our Kids! We are a collective of concerned parents, students and activists who have united in response to the provocative police ‘kettling’ tactics. We are disgusted that our children have been ‘kettled’ in the cold without access to food, water or toilets; effectively trapped for hours on end. Their rights having been violated.

Responding to yesterdays warning from Sir Hugh Orde, claiming that police may have to resort to even more extreme tactics at up-coming protests. We shall not allow our children to be intimidated from the streets by police tactics. They must be allowed to protest without fear of imprisonment or assault. We shall not tolerate police violence. We shall not tolerate ‘kettling’.

We support campaigns against the tuition fee’s cap increase and the axing of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). We condemn these regressive and potentially divisive changes as part of the governments wide spread attack on the education system. Concern is also mounting amid the changes to public funding of the Arts and Humanities and university research cuts.

With these changes the government will transform the education system into an exclusive, discriminatory and market driven structure. When the new tuition fees come into effect in 2012 people will only be able to continue education at university if they can afford to pay the university determined fees increase. Whilst also struggling with the increased maintenance costs and decreased public services. Not forgetting the detrimental affect this will have on the overall quality of education. The direction of this education system is edging closer and closer to becoming totally privatised.
Coupled with the ditching of EMA, an even wider class divide shall emerge as more people will be prevented from fair access to quality higher education. We do not want to see a hierarchy of knowledge which shall result if all of these cuts to education are implemented.

Education is a key stone of society. If the government is prepared to slash and burn the education system, what else does this signify a preparation to destroy? Education should be preserved and developed not damaged. This farcical economic ‘austerity’ program is symptomatic of what is to come unless we can act now. These protests will not stop.

We applaud the Early Day Motion 1257, lead by Katy Clark MP against ‘kettling’ and request that even more MPs sign it.
We urge parents, teachers and anyone working with young people to encourage them to exercise their democratic right to protest. We also encourage you to join the demonstrations. Many of us have already benefited from the education system and so we should be defending it for our children and the future generations.

We call for all who believe in an open, fair and state funded education system to join Saturday’s protests in London and Manchester. We deplore the use of ‘kettling’ as arbitrary imprisonment and encourage people to know and exercise your rights against police tactics in the midst of these cuts.

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Early Day Motion 1257 against the use of kettling

We support the house of parliament petition launched by Katy Clark MP as part of the campaign to ban kettling .

We urge people to contact you local MP’s  to encourage them to sign the petition (officially called EDM 1257) on your behalf. Go to www.theyworkforyou.com to find local MP’s contact details

This is the petition text:

“That this House is concerned about the use of kettling as a police tactic against demonstrators in the United Kingdom; expresses serious concern that in recent demonstrations individuals, including minors, have been indiscriminately kettled by police for up to nine hours without food, appropriate facilities or access to medical assistance for those who require it and have been refused the right to leave; notes that a number of individuals have suffered very serious injuries, such as bleeding to the brain, as a result of police action during recent kettles; believes this kettling to be an infringement of the fundamental right to peaceful protest; and calls on the Government to take steps to stop this practice.”

See the EDM here.

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