Early this morning I received a message that one of the people arrested during the Fortnum & Mason protest in March had been visited by police and warned to stay away from the Royal Wedding and May Day demonstrations. I have heard that a number of the UK Uncut protesters from Fortnum & Mason have had these visits. This was then followed up by the news that squats in London and Brighton had been raided and people arrested for various offences which may or may not turn out to have any basis in reality. Last week the squat known as Telepathic Heights in Bristol was also raided, despite only being occupied by four people who were fixing up the building as they prepared to leave.
The police have publicly stated that these raids and arrests are not linked to the Royal Wedding or to the planned May Day demonstrations, despite senior police officers stating that they would be taking preemptive action to stop ‘trouble’ at either event. However, historical precedent would suggest otherwise.
In the past, police have raided squats in the run up to large demonstrations as well as following large demonstrations. This sort of coordinated strike against so many squats, on such spurious grounds the day before a posh person gets married to a slightly-less posh person and in the run up to the May Day protest is not coincidence. For the squat Ratstar in Camberwell the police said they raided it to search for “stolen goods” eventually discovering they were allegedly bypassing their electricity meter, I wonder if they found a big pile of stolen electricity in one of the rooms? Theft of electricity is known as electricity abstraction because it is not legally recognised as a ‘good’ and therefore cannot technically be stolen. It has it’s own section of the Theft Act 1968, s.13 in fact, created specifically because it cannot be a good. It seems strange that, given the news of the hightened terror alerts and the £20m policing operation going into effect that the Met have nothing better to be doing than enforcing obscure bits of law against squatters, particularly ones that throw up all sorts of existential questions about what can or can’t be stolen.
The only answer is that these raids are in fact part of the £20million security operation around the royal wedding and that the police are lying to or at least misleading the public, again. Someone high up the chain of command made the decision to arrest people for no real reason to ensure that Will and Cate’s day goes smoothly. How’s that for a wedding present, the liberty of a few dozen people who believe in a better world. I am left wondering if the Chief Commissioner is planning to present the arrestees to them in a cage with a big ribbon tied around it, “Here you are your highnesses, we’ve rounded up the prols who thought they had any democractic rights”.
The police believe that protest is illegal, any form of protest and therefore anyone planning to protest is planning to break the law or cause “a breach of the peace” or, if they’re feeling particularly vague, “disruption”. The police use any power they can think of to intimidate, humiliate or otherwise harass people exercising their right to protest. Section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 states:
the person has acted … in an anti-social manner, that is to say, in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as himself
I think the police could do with reading that and having some self-reflection time.