I’ve just been released after being locked up for almost 24 hours by South Yorkshire Police. I have been charged with 3 offences – not wearing a mask in Marks & Spencer, participating in an illegal gathering (at the Peace Garden, Sheffield) and organising the gathering, contrary to the Coronavirus Regulations. A second £10,000 fine is looming if I am convicted.
Events followed a similar pattern to London last weekend.
Suddenly, at around 3pm orders came from “on high” to arrest me. There had been no attempt by police to disperse the rally beforehand, and I told the Inspector I was not an organiser (I live in London) but just a speaker; I gave him my details should he want to report me for a Fixed Penalty Notice. He later ordered me to leave the area which he has no power to do, unless the gathering is illegal – which it wasn’t. After the rally I went into M&S to use the toilet and when I came out police made a heavy handed attempt to arrest me.
This arrest was arbitrary and unlawful, and did not even follow the Regulations themselves. These specify that an arrest can only be effected if the conditions in s24 PACE 1984 apply – which they did not. The police then tried to justify the arrest by saying it had been done “to prevent [me] causing physical injury to [myself] or any other person. PACE CodeG 2.9 (c)(i).” A load of nonsense..This unlawful arrest triggered an unfortunate confrontation in the shopping centre as people were concerned at police arresting me unlawfully, and hence assaulting me. I know that 3 others were arrested as well. I have now instructed my lawyers to draft a letter to South Yorkshire Police to ask them to justify my arrest or issue an apology.. As for the Court case that is at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court on 3 November 2020 at 10am.
I have been bailed on condition not to attend any illegal protest of more than 30 people anywhere in the UK. I will challenge that condition as it allows the police to arrest me pretty much on sight at any protest on “reasonable suspicion” that I am breach of my bail conditions. This is a clear attempt to silence me. Who gave the order for my recent arrests? PM Boris Johnson said on 7 June 2020 that there was a right to protest peacefully; if that is still the case in the UK,
Boris please tell the Police! Or have all human rights now been suspended?
Please note that I am still allowed to attend and speak at any rally of more than 30 on a public open space that is organised within Regulation 5B. But this is not enough – this is still a chilling effect on the right to protest, and human rights must remain paramount.
Please write to your MP to protest about any extension of the Coronavirus Act and Regulations due to be renewed and debated in Parliament for the very first time within 7 days of 26 September 2020. Complain to them about the assault on our freedoms and civil rights.
Thanks to everyone for their support. I vow to keep up the good fight – do not expect me to be silenced any time soon!!