Police are using the royal wedding as an excuse to take their revenge on activists. They have launched a major crackdown over the past week—including raids on squats and social centres, arrests and fresh charges for protesters.
Police commander Bob Broadhurst said that police were “looking specifically at the royal wedding” to prevent “disorder and violence” on the day. Bizarrely he added that “the threat to the wedding is a threat to democracy”.
The truth is that the police clampdown is a threat to democracy and a threat to the right to protest.
Police arrested six anarchists early in the week. Then they arrested and charged several student protesters—including Alfie Meadows, the student who had to have life-saving brain surgery after being struck by police at a protest last December.
Riot police arrived en masse at various sites across London the day before the wedding to raid squats. Outside the Ratstar squat in Camberwell, south London, rows of riot vans filled the streets while armed police kept guard outside.
They gave different reasons for the raid at different times of the day. But one Met police spokesperson said, “The search warrants were issued in connection with the disturbances at the student and TUC demonstrations.”
Around 40 officers arrived at Grow Heathrow, a community gardening squat in west London, at 7.15am in full riot gear. Witnesses describe how they pulled people from their beds and searched them—only to leave with nothing.
John McDonnell, a Labour MP who spoke in parliament against the raids, told Socialist Worker that officers “broke into the site, handcuffed one constituent and locked the others in another part of the site.
“Transition Heathrow campaigners took over a derelict site as part of the campaign against a third runway at the airport. They were reinvigorating the local campaign and the community.
“The police launched a disproportionate and pre-emptive strike on this site and others in advance of the royal wedding.”
And last night police arrested protesters in London suspected of planning to behead effigies of royals. A guillotine was confiscated.
In Stokes Croft, Bristol, police shut down a film showing in a park about last week’s riot. They set up a road block, circled the area in a helicopter and confiscated film cameras, telling the audience waiting to watch the film that they were at a rave.
When some left to watch the film in a house, police took over the area surrounding it and refused to let anyone else in, threatening anyone leaving or entering the area with arrest.
Squatters and their supporters were still defending the area from police attack on Friday morning.
Protests last year left the police humiliated. Students took over Tory HQ at Millbank and smashed it up in protest at the government’s attacks on education—while outnumbered officers were forced to look on helplessly.
Students forced back the police in a series of protests to take control of the streets and even managed to target a car carrying prince Charles and Camilla, causing much embarrassment for the police.
Now police want to get their own back. On 26 March, 138 people ended up with charges of aggravated trespass after peacefully occupying a Fortnum and Mason shop. Police want to scare people so much that they won’t protest.
The panic and the clampdown show that protests have shaken the police and the state.
For all the propaganda, lots of people in Britain aren’t enamoured with the royal family. Lots of people are furious at the extravagance of the royal wedding at a time when millions are facing savage cuts.
The police are terrified that a protest today would be popular—that’s why they are so desperate to stop even the most minimal of action.
Emergency open meeting—stop these attacks on our right to protest, Thursday 5 May, 6.30pm, venue to be confirmed. Speakers include arrested protester Alfie Meadows, John McDonnell MP, Fortnum and Masons occupier and defendant.
Protest outside the court to show support for the Fortnum and Mason occupiers, City of Monday 9 May, 9am, Westminster Magistrates Court, 70 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 2AX