“Committing a protest”: The Charing Cross arrests

The following is an anonymous personal account of the arrests of ten activists yesterday morning in London during the royal wedding for "committing a protest".
30 April 2011

The following is an anonymous personal account of the arrests of  ten activists yesterday morning in London cross-posted from The Great Unrest.

Yesterday morning I was arrested with nine others outside Charing Cross station, apparently to “prevent a breach of the peace.”

I was intending to go to the “Not the Royal Wedding” street party organised by campaign group Republic.

A British Transport Police officer spotted some republican placards one of us had in a bag and decided to search everyone, under the Section 60 that had been invoked around the royal wedding area. The placards weren’t out, we weren’t having a demonstration. We were standing on a concourse outside a station, doing nothing much.

Incidentally, one BTP officer, when explaining the context of the decision to search us, said that the Metropolitan Police had been “rounding people up” in advance of the royal wedding, despite the Met themselves denying that any arrests in previous days had been “specifically related” to the event.

After having been searched by the BTP, we were told we could not leave because an officer from the Met “wanted to talk to us.” Within a few minutes, about twenty Territorial Support Group (TSG) officers had arrived and surrounded us in possibly the world’s smallest kettle. After another few minutes, I was grabbed by a TSG officer who informed me that because we were in possession of “climbing gear” we were to be arrested to prevent a breach of the peace.

The BBC and the Guardian have both faithfully repeated the climbing gear claim as fact. There was none. There was nothing that anyone could reasonable have mistaken for climbing gear. There seems to have been no attempt by these media outlets to ascertain the accuracy of that police claim.

We were cuffed and held until a hired coach arrived. Tourists stopped to pose for photos with London bobbies while we stood handcuffed in the background. A cameraman for a film crew making a documentary about protest took some footage.

“Ah,” said my arresting officer. “We’ll be taking you to the Tower.”
“That’s a good one.”
“Yeah, not bad for the TSG, eh?”

On the coach, we were transferred to a non-TSG unit and driven to Sutton police station, about a dozen miles out of central London.

Four of us were led of the coach to be processed in the police station. We were searched again and had our personals confiscated and details taken. We were not at any point charged with any offence, nor was any indication given that we would be charged with any offence. A senior officer, giving some background to one of the desk officers who were doing the paperwork, explained that we were “anti-royaltists” who had been planning to “commit a protest” near the wedding.

This is language similar to that used by Metropolitan Police Commander Jones when she said this week: “Any criminals attempting to disrupt [the royal wedding], be that in the guise of protest or otherwise, will be met by a robust, decisive, flexible and proportionate policing response.”

At this point I was banged up in a cell for a little under an hour, before being released into the wilds of Sutton.

Apparently a number of activist-linked Facebook pages were also taken down on the day. We also saw the pre-emptive arrests of Charlie Veitch, Chris Knight, and others, raids on squats, and so on. Fighting occurred when the police moved to close down an unofficial royal wedding party, mostly comprising young people, in Glasgow.

In our case, in retrospect, it seems like there was never any intention to charge us. It was a tactical arrest using the ill-defined potential “breach of the peace” that may or may not have been going to happen as an excuse to remove us undesirables from the area. I was going to a street party in Holborn and ended up in a police cell in Sutton.

It’s one way to miss the royal wedding I suppose.

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