One of the most striking feature of today’s J30 protests was the unfettered intimidation and harassment dished out by the Met. They blatantly targeted a large scale stop and search programme at anyone they decided they didn’t like the look of, often young men, who were pulled from the crowd if the police noticed they were wearing black clothing. Black youths got special attention, especially if wearing a keffiyeh.
Searches were not only subjectively targeted, they were also used aggressively, yet again, to get names and addresses. People were told they were required by law to provide their details, and some were threatened with arrest if they declined. The search powers used, s60 CJPOA, gives the police no powers to demand identification.
FIT teams had a field day. They filmed and photographed stop and searches, individuals within the crowd, and even a bunch of activists who had gone down the pub. They were, in the words of one activist, ‘in your face’.
The police will no doubt claim that this is preventative action to deter ‘hooliganism’. It’s better described as mere thuggery designed to deter protest. What better way to undermine protests against cuts than to intimidate, frighten and harass the younger, more militant part of the movement.
The Met have claimed thirty five arrests today, a ridiculous number for a protest without violence or disorder. One man was reported to have been arrested simply for wearing black clothing. Many of these arrests will never get to court, but have been used, like the stop and searches, as a weapon of intimidation.
These are tactics the Met have used before, and to good effect, to undermine political movements, Building effective resistance to them is crucial, not just for the anti-cuts movement, but for all of us who dare to challenge the status quo.