Smash EDO’s Hammertime protest on 13th October saw a return to kettling, mass arrests and draconian policing. Proving finally the post G20 honeymoon is over, Sussex police clearly showed it was business as usual in attempting to repress, intimidate and harass protesters.
Before the protest had even begun, over 100 police surrounded the convergence centre where people were staying and attempted to escort them to the designated protest area in a mobile kettle, demanding masks be removed. Protesters were assured there was no need to mask up as the police wouldn’t be taking photographs. Unsurprisingly, this was a lie, and within half an hour, a fitwatcher had spotted Ian Skivens standing on top of a hill taking photographs with a very long lens, and FIT officers were prevalent throughout the demo.
Despite several valiant efforts to break away, kettling was the theme of the day. There were a number of small kettles throughout the day with many protesters split up. Understandably, people are keen to avoid being contained and run. Unfortunately, this inevitably leads to the cops splitting us into smaller and smaller groups, allowing them to control us and losing the advantage of working together as a bloc, and we need to look at strategies to deal with this.
In a preventative policing strategy reminiscent of Copenhagen, every person was arrested for breach of the peace in one kettle, including a fourteen year old, a legal observer and a photographer. The people arrested were not committing a breach of the peace. They were sitting down – some had been trying to leave the protest. Emily Walker, from the Brighton Argus, not normally known for their sympathy for the campaign, reported on their live blog “The people being arrested from the kettle off Lewes Road for “breach of the peace” are simply sitting on the floor.” In total there were 53 arrests, with the 46 arrested for breach of the peace all released without charge.
Meanwhile Sussex police went on a PR offensive, mostly through their Twitter feed. It was almost as if they believed that if they cited “disruption” enough times, the fact they had blatantly trampled over the human rights of protesters would be ignored. This coupled with overplaying the threat of the nasty protesters to the local community - even claiming they had sent a police liaison officer to a local school - meant they could play the friendly faces of law and order who would have facilitated protest had the pesky protesters negotiated with them in advance. Hailing the operation a success, they claimed “Effective policing minimises disruption to locals during Brighton protest.”
However, like so many police statements, closer examination reveals inconsistencies. In a press release the following day, Chief Superintendent Bartlett stated, “There were more arrests this time than in previous years to prevent additional disruption to the community.” However, at exactly the same time Emily Walker was reporting on the arrests in the kettle, Chief Inspector Taylor tweeted “All roads are currently open.”
The Twitter overdrive extended into replying to all those who criticised the policing operation. When freelance journalist, Marc Vallee, tweeted “Today I saw Smash EDO protesters – in a police kettle being denied water and use of a toilet by police officers in Brighton,” Sussex police were quick to respond with yet another erroneous statement, “Those contained for short time had police-provided toilets and water nearby at designated area. Offers to escort there declined.” However Vallee’s response that he had evidence the protesters were held for two hours and the kettle was one third of a mile away from the toilets was ignored.
Many theories have been mooted for the policing operation from revenge for the acquittal of the decommisioners, to wanting to prevent protesters returning to town when there was knowledge of an English National Alliance presence. However, it could simply be yet another incident in a long line of attempts to suppress the campaign.
Time and time again the police have shown they will use repression, violence and lies to defend corporate profit over justice and human rights. However, every time there has been repression, people have rallied and the campaign has come out stronger. Protesters have refused to be subdued and have come back fighting. This must not be an exception and it is essential to show we are not intimidated and we’re not going away.
Smash EDO are asking people who were arrested and want to take civil action against the police to get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org