UK police use anti-terror Bill against protesters

Five protestors are arrested in a vigil outside Parliament, as the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill (SOCPB) is enforced for the first time in London...

 The UK peace organisation Stop The War coalition called a demonstration outside Parliament to oppose the SOCPB on Monday 1 August, attracting about 100 demonstrators with black gags covering their mouths.

Armed police patrolled the area, police photographic teams catalogued every protester and surveillance helicopters hovered overhead, all a direct increase in security following the 7 July bombings in London.

Protesters chanted: “That’s not what democracy looks like,” pointing towards the Houses of Parliament, which is currently under summer recess.
This summer holiday for politicians has been criticised by UK citizens, which is felt to be untimely considering the current security status across Britain.

Within an hour of the demonstration police issued a leaflet stating the demonstration was illegal under SOCPB and those who did not remove themselves would be arrested.

The leaflet was greeted with a mixed reception. Although the law came into force on 1 August, it was believed the law would not be enforced until 6 August.

It is designed to tackle terrorism and organised crime, and states that anyone organising or participating in an unauthorised demonstration within one kilometre of Parliament is liable to arrest, facing up to 51 weeks in prison or a £2,500 fine.

The demonstration at Parliament Square was designed to highlight the intrusion of civil liberties and highlight how the laws to tackle terrorism are now being used against peaceful protestors.

Lindsey German, a spokesperson for the Stop the war Coalition says the Bill represents "a very serious attack on our civil liberties".

"There is no justification for prohibiting demonstrations in these areas and there must be concerns that this ban is an attempt to prevent legitimate protest against government policies," she said.

Within 20 minutes of the SOCPB leaflet being issued to protestors in attendance, police moved in and apprehended a Palestinian speaker who was controlling an 'open-mic' megaphone.

One other man and three women were arrested, including two supporters of the Parliament Square permanent peace protestor Brian Haw who recently won a court case overthrowing the SOCPB law designed to remove his protest.

Other protestors chased the arresting police officers, demanding to be arrested, stating that they too were braking the law.

“Don’t just arrest the Palestinian man,” said one British woman: “I was protesting too. Arrest me!”

The demonstration was halted quickly and the crowd dispersed with no further arrests.

A Scotland Yard spokesperson said he was unsure whether the SOCPB was in place from 1 August, adding it was a matter for the Home Office.

He confirmed five people had been arrested under section 132 of that law.