Police session leads to combined action

Laurie Penny (Red Pepper): The police workshop was well-attended, and the small convention room at the Institute of Education was packed with high-profile journalists and campaigners as well as ordinary citizens jostling for standing room. Cilius Victor from the Jean Charles de Menezes Campaign opened with a moving speech explaining the legacy of the shooting of De Menezes in 2005. He was followed by journalist and CPS research fellow Harriet Sergeant, whose recent in-depth interviews with police officers up and down the country gave fascinating insights into the other side of the debate – dissent within the police force itself against the increasingly target-driven approach of ACPO and the spiralling importance of sanction and detection rates. Malcolm Carroll (Plane Stupid) and Steve Powell (FSF) fuelled the sense of outrage in the room at increasing use of the new police powers against non-violent protestors and innocent sports fans, with particular attention in both the speeches and the floor discussion being paid to police use of stop and search powers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, 2005.

On one of the workshop’s key questions, the issue of whether the police have become more politicised, opinion in the room was divided. A suitable amount of outrage at the unprecedented ill-treatment of protesters, fans and potential suspects from all walks of life came under question when a speaker from the back of the room pointed out that the police had been in the practice of targeting minority groups, such as ethnic and cultural minorities and working class men, for many decades, making the widespread outrage currently in evidence seem slightly hypocrytical. Wherever it originated, however, the energy for change in the session was a pertinent reminder of how trust in the police has been eroded across the generations, classes and cultures of Britain over the past ten years.

The workshop ran well over time as nobody in the room seemed to want to end the fascinating floor discussion. It was decided that we needed to do more, as citizens, to respond to police surveillance, and so we are planning an action list of workshop attendees as well as a tie-in feature in Red Pepper magazine, which I will be editing. If you would like to be involved in any further action, or if you feel you could contribute to the magazine special, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: laurie.penny@gmail.com

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