The real cost of political policing for the royal wedding
It was never going to be convenient for the cops to admit that all their intelligence was pointing towards the fact most anarchists couldn’t care less about a couple of toffs getting married. Having endured not only the humiliation of a large mobile black bloc on 26th March, but also the earlier debacle of escorting Charles and Camilla’s car straight into a public order situation, the Met were in desperate need of restoring some credibility. The police would have known there was no threat. All those undercover cops who have replaced/were already working alongside Mark, Marco and Lynn would have known the mood of the anarchist community as much as we did. Over 100 people were bailed out of central London for the day, many of whom had no intention of going anywhere near the wedding in the first place. There was never a danger – it was a useful fairy tale fed to gullible journalists who were happy to feed the frenzy.
Civil liberties were cracked down upon, squats were raided, several people were subject to preventative arrest the day before, and like the Jubilee, people who braved the streets were rounded up, including one group of zombies who were arrested for the offence of having a coffee in Starbucks. The Met were able to use a day of “joy” and bunting not only to have a show of force, but also to attempt to prove that force worked. Assistant Chief Commissioner Lynne Owens has claimed the operation was a “success” and the day “should prove that the Met is able to handle next year’s Diamond Jubilee and Olympic Games”. However this simply isn’t true. The cops didn’t prevent anything. There would not have been any more of a breach of the peace if Chris Knight et al had been allowed to parade through the streets, and it certainly hasn’t proved they have the capability to deal with a determined bloc.
However, the cops will undoubtedly claim this model of preventative detention and raids was a success and seek to use it in the future. A dangerous precedent has been set and this blatant state intimidation must be resisted both in the courts and on the streets.
Timeline of events
Wednesday 27th saw the London Met police raiding squats in Brighton and Hove and making an arrest in connection with the March 26 TUC demo in London on suspicion of conspiracy to commit violent disorder. This person was held in Harrow Road police station near to Kensal Rise in London until around midnight before being released.
Thursday 28th The Met raid Offmarket, a squatted shop in Hackney east London, the Transition Heathrow Project, west London, and Ratstar Social Centre in Camberwell, South London as well as Petrosiege squat down the road. Offmarket was raided on a warrant to search for evidence and info re: March26 demo – front door smashed up and one arrest made, but the woman released later. The action was all over by around 9am and the space remains open! Grow Heathrow – no arrests made during arrest, though one person was handcuffed and others “forcibly detained”.
Ratstar and Petrosiege – At around 7:15am, cops arrived at Ratstar and a specialist climbing team gained entry to the space through the roof. Upon trying to talk to the police, one resident was immediately arrested. The police had a warrant to search for stolen property, but once inside decided to make arrests for abstraction of electricity (despite the space having an account). After smashing the window of the bike workshop and gaining entry to Ratrest – a space used for activities such as yoga, meditation and martial arts, they got a warrant to enter the houses joined to Ratstar and make arrests there also – this took until around 11am. Petrosiege had been raided and several arrests made before many supporters had been able to get to Camberwell.
During the search, police were seen to be using “spotter cards” and attempting to identify anyone who may have been involved in the TUC demo on March 26. One arrest was made of a person who had come to support the Ratstar residents. This person was taken to the local Walworth Road police station while the other arrestees were all being taken up to Harrow Road.
There seemed to be a lot of support for the space from locals who stopped to ask what was happening. The press were also interested in what was going on and were asking questions to supporters, non-arrested residents and the police – one report states that a journalist was told by one officer that the raid was “off course to do with the royal wedding” and a minute later was told adamantly by another officer that it had absolutely nothing to do with it. No surprise there.
It was obvious that the police could not reasonably impose bail conditions on the arrestees just for abstraction of electricity and, when they were later released, just after 9pm; we learned that they had been further arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to breach the peace. On what evidence? A handful of Chris Knight’s Zombie Wedding leaflets had been found in the cafe space inside Ratstar. They have been bailed away from Westminster until 10th June.
Green & Black Cross reported that an arrest was made in Cambridge and one in Edinburgh after groups and individuals were raided in Scotland in relation to March 26.
Many thanks to our comrades at Fitwatch for the report http://www.fitwatch.org.uk/
Article originally appeared in Freedom #7209
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