Policing of G20 Protests - Home Affairs Committee Contents



  Present: David Howarth (DH), Mel Evans (ME), Frances Wright (FW), Robert Broadhurst (RB), Ian Thompson (IT)

  Also present: Christine Berry, James Lloyd, two others supporting police team (names?)

  ME  Purpose of meeting from Climate Camp's point of view is to explain what the Camp is about and correct any misconceptions that might have developed.

  IT  Met are well aware of what Climate Camp is, having been heavily involved with the policing of the Heathrow camp

  RB  Shouldn't believe everything you read in the papers. The problem from the police's point of view is that they cannot communicate with people who have decision making power. Not interested in the background to climate camp, which they know already: what they need to know is what's happening on the day. If it's lawful, they will facilitate it. If it is unlawful, they won't allow it.

  ME  Reports in the media have implied violence: climate camp feel that police statements have misrepresented them. Would like to be clear on the difference between violence and breaking the law.

  RB  The police have never said that the camp would be violent.

  IT  We will proportionately police whatever you want to do.

  ME  Policing at the Kingsnorth camp was immensely disproportionate. One of the reasons this was felt to be unnecessary was that it was a clear site; similarly, the camp on Wednesday will be a clear site—whilst many other protests will be dispersed around the city, the Climate Camp will be in one place and so should be easier to police.

  IT  But where will this place be? If it is on a road or pavement, the camp will be disrupting people going about their daily business, going to work etc. The camp has chosen probably the busiest part of the city.

  ME  But important to understand that there is a political context for that choice.

  FW  Introduced self as part of legal team, but not representing the camp's solicitors. Legal team had attempted to make contact with the police, especially over the role of the legal team itself, but had not received a response. That role includes training legal observers; first point of concern is immense difficulties with this at Kingsnorth, where legal observers' access was restricted and they were threatened with arrest. Also concerned that it is important that police liaison have free access.

  IT  This will be a different environment to Kingsnorth, so it will be inherently easier to move around—implying less problems with access. As long as observers are not interfering with police operation or obstructing police, happy to let them go about their business.

  FW  Is this covered in police briefings to their officers?

  RB  Yes, this is being addressed as we speak. Concerned to combat media hype—some officers are young and impressionable and read the papers. Police are with the Climate Camp on this point. First point of the briefings is to facilitate lawful protest.

  FW  Second point: importance of police wearing ID at all times and responding to requests for names when asked—which legal team understand they are obliged to do.

  IT  This is being dealt with. However, if an officer is wearing ID, they do not need to give their name. There is no legal duty to give their names to legal observers, only to a person who is being arrested.

  FW  Understand this, or being searched, but had understood that this was covered in the code of conduct. Would like to see a copy of the code of conduct.

  IT  This is the same document as the general code of conduct for England and Wales, which is publicly available.

  RB  Officers should give their names when asked—agree on this point—but in reality the situation on the ground may be tense, eg. officers with little experience of public order situations finding themselves being photographed and asked for their names: what campers need to do in this situation is seek out the senior officers.

  FW  Agreement is good to hear. However, still think that giving names is important for accountability. Third point: anecdotal evidence of use of counter-terrorism powers against people taking photographs of police officers. Would like assurance that these powers will not be used against protesters or journalists.

  RB  Police have issued a press statement saying they do not use this power against journalists. Briefings to officers cover the proportionate use of these powers. It is not right to use the legislation against journalists or peaceful protesters. Problem comes when protest meets security—the two are "not happy bedfellows". Need to maintain security as world leaders travel around the City. This means that sometimes police will not be able to allow protesters to do what they would normally allow. Police have counter-terror powers and expect to use them, but are clear that they should not be used when other powers are available, for instance under public order legislation. Briefings say that the powers should not be used against photographers: campers should have recourse to senior officers if that happens.

  FW  Fourth point: police liaison team will be easily identifiable in orange bibs. How do they link in to police command structure?

  IT  Each support unit (around 25 officers) will have an inspector (two pips) on the ground. There will also be geographic bronze commanders (three pips): for the area around the European Climate Exchange this will be Chief Inspector Tony Cairney—at least at the start of the operation, although there may be some ebb and flow as the day progresses. These officers will be identifiable by orange flashes. He should be the key point of contact on the ground.

  FW  Camp have made contact with Tony Cairney.

  RB  There is only one commander for the overall operation: we have control of both City police officers and transport police.

  FW  To clarify: there are no other contact details camp needs other than yours and Tony Cairney's?

  RB  No. Will make it known to Tony Cairney and others that expectation is that they will co-operate with police liaison officers.

  IT  Problem is still lack of organiser. Really irresponsible for any group to pitch up and demonstrate without an organiser, stewards and safety liaison with the police. Contrast with Stop the War and demonstration at weekend.

  ME  Need to understand that horizontality of Climate Camp is very important to many of its members, who have had bad experiences with more "organised" demonstrations and feel disempowered.

  FW  Climate Camp has liaised historically with the police: not the case that horizontal organisation equates to not being able to liaise effectively.

  ME  To clarify: there are organising committees in the Climate Camp structure who take responsibility for various aspects of organising the camp. The point of the non-hierarchical structure is that nobody in the camp can tell another protester what to do.

  RB  This is a problem for the police: we know that Heathrow was hijacked by groups which were violent and attacked police officers. Have footage of this including people attacking police horses.

  FW  Have seen this footage; perhaps we need to sit down and watch it together. FW/ME did not accept that there had been violent groups who infiltrated Heathrow. FW pointed out that she had also been cordoned for four hours with the allegedly "violent" protesters at the Heathrow camp.

  IT  Problem is that there are people in the camp which we have no control over.

  FW  But that is the reality of any large scale event.

  RB  No: on the Saturday march, they could tell people what to do: "if you are on our march, you must play by the rules". Demo was very well organised with no problems and very little for the police to do. "Control your people" : it is your protest—can't be right that you cannot tell those who attend what they can and can't do.

  FW  But this is just the same as your officers: senior officers give briefings but say that cannot have total control over the actions of individual officers.

  ME  It is just two different ways of moderating behaviour: there are ways of moderating behaviour in the camp but it is a different approach to the police hierarchy.

  FW  Yes—and there are organisers.

  IT  But nobody has tried to contact the police.

  FW  This is untrue—did try to make contact, to request command structure etc.

  IT  Clearly "one for the future" to work on improving liaison.

  FW  Next major concern is over facilitation of protest. Breakdown of trust over this issue at Kingsnorth. Concerns over the use of stop and search and seizure of personal items, which was unacceptable.

  IT  If camp is something large that will obstruct people in the City, it is not viable. There have been no negotiations over this and therefore no chance to facilitate it—putting up big structures in this context is not feasible.

  RB  Do Climate Camp representatives have any ideas as to where it will be?

  FW  No—don't have that information yet, but do have ideas about places where it could be done safely. Do police have any ideas about where they would like it to be?

  IT/RB  It's 24 hours away now—too late for this.

  FW   But can police give assurances that search and seizure policy at Kingsnorth will not be repeated—items like tents, bunting etc will not be seized?

  IT  Stop, search and seizure could easily happen tomorrow, because police are trying to stop offences being committed. If attempting to set up camp in the middle of a road, this is clearly not viable and will cause disruption, so items may be seized. Not many places in the City where it is possible to set up a camp for 1,000 people. If on private land, may not have legal right to be there.

  FW  Where is possible for you?

  IT/RB  Climate Camp needs to talk to landowners about this.

  ME  To clarify—not here to have the kind of meeting police might have had with Stop The War two months in advance. Main issues Climate Camp wants to talk about are around police accusations of violence, use of tasers, etc.

  IT  Police will not be using tasers. Tasers are never used on public order operations—this claim was totally fabricated by the Sunday Times, or was it the Guardian. TSG (territorial support group) officers, who carry tasers, will be on stand by, but will not be deploying tasers.

  RB  Tasers will not be deployed. Have never said that Climate Camp will be violent: accept and know that the camp is a peaceful organisation, although may have disagreements over whether "violent" fringes have infiltrated it in the past, as at Heathrow. Briefings, which are auditable after the event, clearly say that officers should not expect a punch up. However, a point will come where police will say protesters cannot do what they want to do. Question is where you are going to put a 1,000 person camp, without any planned space for the tents.

  ME  Important to acknowledge that none of us around the table know exactly what's going to happen. Although the police are apolitical, need to understand the political situation in which this protest takes place. Campers understand pleas for lawful protest, but need to grasp the situation they are in, where we have an urgent situation with climate change which the government is failing to deal with. This leaves people who want to protest "in a fix."

  IT  Police understand that—and it leaves police in a fix as well, needing to preserve their absolute duty to uphold the law and balance rights of City workers with rights of protesters.

  FW  It is precisely a question of balance, but would suggest that in this situation the balance should favour the protesters.

  RB  Yes, but if police do that they could end up getting sued by City firms for letting protesters break the law. In a no-win situation.

  DH  Pointed out that he wrote the textbook on this and police should have no problem with liability!

  FW  Camp very much hope that everyone can be kept in one place.

  RB  If they can find anywhere that is acceptable to everyone, then that will happen.

  IT  Asked what contact the Climate Camp has had with the four horsemen demonstration. Could be impact between the two demonstrations on the day.

  FW  Camp has given people specific advice to avoid the area where the four horsemen are converging, and arrival time for Climate Camp is later than convergence time for the meltdown demonstration.

  IT  But if meltdown protesters move, could still be possible for Climate Camp to get caught up with them.

  ME  Think it is likely they will stay where they are and will not want to move away from the banks to the Bishopsgate area.

  FW  In any case, nobody has heard of the European Climate Exchange, where the camp is happening—part of the reason for the protest!

  DH  The important question is one of proportionality. If the police's view is that stopping one vehicle getting through is worth stopping a one-off protest for, that may be hard subsequently to justify. Question to police: are they controlling traffic in the City anyway? If this is the case, the point about City workers getting to work is not an issue.

  IT  Since police do not know where things are going to happen, cannot do anything in terms of traffic control or getting info out to the community. Repeated point that it was irresponsible on the part of the camp that police could not have dialogue with organisers who were able to negotiate over exact locations etc.

  RB  Concluding points: police are grateful for the dialogue, but still don't know where camp will be and whether it will have legal right to be there, which is the key point for them. Want to facilitate protest, have worked with Climate Camp before, but must also minimise disruption to the life of the community and manage the intersection where protest meets security. Can't allow protests to get in the way of this. Have had letters from some foreign delegations asking for assurances that police will prevent protests anywhere near their premiers, and police have refused to give such assurances—but still need to ensure world leaders are able to safely get from A to B, which in the context of managing the protests will be a strain.

  FW  Are world leaders expected to go down Bishopsgate, since this is not where talks are being held?

  RB  No—but may be that some leaders will have legitimate business there or elsewhere in the City, and besides, knock on effects of protests may cause security headaches. But police really do understand where protesters are coming from and passion they have for their cause.

  FW  On question of legal right to be there, police will obviously be aware that Climate Camp has historically squatted land. Had herself been dubious about this initially, but at Kingsnorth came to see why it would be extremely foolish for them to do otherwise, since police had consistently interfered with lawful contracts.

  DH  That is a tort.

  FW  Level of trust is clearly low, and hope this will be an opportunity to start rebuilding.

  RB  Hope this meeting is a step towards that.

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Prepared 29 June 2009