During the protests yesterday the police went into a data gathering frenzy. From FIT teams searching and photographing occupying students in Oxford, to police arresting and processing 139 protesters for ‘breaching the peace’ in London, gathering intelligence has clearly been a key objective of police operations.
This building up of ‘intelligence’ on political protesters must be resisted. The police have admitted building up information on police databases, and using intelligence to actively ‘disrupt’ groups or individuals involved in planning or co-ordinating protest. This is not something any of us should help them with!
The breach of the peace arrests in London were a blatant ruse to get personal details of the protesters kettled in Trafalgar Square. This isn’t the first time they have used this tactic, and it probably won’t be the last. It may be too late for the people arrested last night, but everyone should know their rights if arrested for breach of the peace…for next time!!
• Breach of the peace is NOT A CRIMINAL OFFENCE. You cannot be charged, fined or imprisoned. It will not result in a criminal record.
• The police MUST release you when the threat of a breach of the peace has passed. That is usually at the end of the demo when everyone has gone home. If they keep you for longer get advice on taking a claim for unlawful imprisonment.
• The police CANNOT force you to have FINGERPRINTS taken or to provide a DNA sample, if you have only been arrested for breach of the peace. They may ask you to consent, but if you refuse they cannot fingerprint you or take DNA. If they take these by force they are committing an assault.
• As far as you can, KEEP YOUR PERSONAL DETAILS TO YOURSELF. Because they MUST release you when the threat of a breach of the peace has passed, there is no obligation for you to give your name and address. Given this information is probably the reason you were initially arrested, they probably won’t be happy if you withhold it. They may try all sorts of intimidation, but it could be worth taking some flak to keep your name off the database.
• Worst case scenario, and a fairly unlikely one if the demo is over, you could be held to go in front of a magistrates court. They can ‘bind you over’ to keep the peace, which means that you have to pay a sum of money, say £50 or £100, if you breach the peace again. It is still not a criminal offence.
• They do have the right to take your photo when you are in custody, and can use force to do so if they decide to be bastards. Which they often do.
As with all arrests, avoid ‘friendly’ chats with the arresting or other officers. DO NOT tell them how many demos you have been on, who you travelled with, why / when you got involved, which university you go to etc etc, even in the course of ‘normal’ conversation.
Never, ever give them more information than you have to. Never give a date or place of birth, or answer any of those stupid questions about height, weight, shoe size etc.
It’s not their job to make life easy for political protesters. It’s not our role to make life easy for the police.