Socialist Worker

Nottingham arrests threaten right to protest

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2147

Some 20 police vans descended on a school in Nottingham in the early hours of Monday morning to arrest 114 people.

They were not arrested on suspicion of having done anything.

Rather, they were arrested because police alleged that they planned to hold a protest at a power station—and therefore carried out a “pre-emptive” arrest. All have since been released on bail.

Arresting people for allegedly “planning” protests represents a major attack on civil liberties and the right to protest.

Alan Lodge is a photographer in Nottingham who spoke to some of those arrested. “This was just a bunch of people concerned about the environmental impact of the power station,” he told Socialist Worker.

“They weren’t organised under any particular flag. They were people with a wide variety of backgrounds, which is encouraging because it shows that more and more people are becoming concerned about the environment.

“The arrests have serious implications and raise a lot of questions. Are you allowed to protest or not?

“Do the police simply behave as minions for big corporations? How are people supposed to make their voices heard?”

A spokesperson for the police said, “Information received during the operation indicates that a number of those arrested may be linked to a group of climate change protesters who have set up climate camps.”

Why this is seen as relevant is left unexplained.

Some media reports claimed that the arrests were made on “suspicion of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass and criminal damage”.

But the charge of “conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass” does not exist.

Police claimed that those arrested planned to protest at the Ratcliffe-On-Soar coal-fired power station, run by E.on, and posed a “serious threat” to the safe running of the plant.

If the criteria for arrest is planning to hold protests that police allege may cause damage, then thousands of people across Britain could face arrest.

Five people arrested last month in Plymouth under anti-terror laws have all been released without charge.

At the time police said that all five were planning to attend protests at the G20.

The police briefed the press that officers had found imitation weapons, fireworks and material relating to “political ideology” in the suspects’ homes.

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Article information

Tue 14 Apr 2009, 18:56 BST
Issue No. 2147
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