Police have abused ASBO legislation to obtain the personal details of anti-cuts demonstrators.
Manchester police ended a day of orderly rallies and breakout groups of protesters by abusing legislation on anti-social behaviour in order to extract the details of around a hundred protesters kettled in the city centre. Police do have the power to require an *individual* to give their name and address if they are believed to be/have been acting “in an anti-social manner”. Clearly protesting and even being kettled isn’t inherently anti-social and yet the police refused to release anyone from the kettle who hadn’t given their details.
The Manchester demonstration for “a future that works” on 29th Feb, unlike the one in London on the same day, was officially organised and supported by NUS and the Trade Union Council. This meant that there were dozens of volunteer stewards, police and even paid private security guards out in force. They geared into action unexpectedly early in the demonstration, hurrying NUS President Aaron Porter away from hundreds of protesters chanting ‘Aaron Porter sold us out’ and ‘You’re a fucking Tory too’. (NB ‘Tory too’, whilst it could arguably sound a little like Tory Jew’ to a passing Daily Mail photographer, is actually in no way anti-semitic [http://shiftmag.co.uk/?p=402]). Regardless, Aaron Porter ended up barricaded inside the Manchester Metropolitan Student Union building by the police while the students he claims to represent demonstrated without him.
Several thousand marched to a TUC rally in a park although the crowd was noticeably restless. A Labour MP and NUS Vice President Shane Chowen were booed, heckled and egged off the stage. Eventually, part way through a speech, around 1000 broke away and headed into town. Evidence gatherers and motorbike mounted cops initially scrambled simply to keep up. Before long however, police made a few dodgy arrests and several attempts to kettle the group. Some kettles were briefly successful but hundreds managed reach tax avoiding shops in the Arndale shopping centre. By this time successive kettling attempts had dispersed and reduced the numbers on the streets, eventually ending up with over a hundred kettled five deep on a pavement in the city centre.
Police seemed to prioritise getting protester’s personal details with one man outside the kettle arrested simply for refusing to give his details and everyone inside the kettle being forced to submit to a search and give their name and address before being released.