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Police Harass Gloucester ARAs

A peaceful demonstration started at around midday 25th August 2007 against travel agent *Thomas Cook opposite Gloucestershire Animal Action's information stall.

After a few moments a female staff member came out and told the lone activist who was handing out leaflets to members of the public "It is illegal to protest outside here, move away or I will have you arrested." She then retreated back into the shop.

Staff inside the shop were holding an A4 sheet of paper which activists suspect is a list of police directions regarding protest as this has been seen before being produced by staff at Thomas Cook outlets around the country during peaceful demonstrations.

Shortly afterwards police community support officers (PCSOs) were on site informing us that we needed a permit from the local council to hand out leaflets to which we responded; "Only if we are selling something or touting for business which we aren't, do we need a permit: This excludes religious or political leafleting".

A PCSO then asked for the activist's details. The activist refused as he had not broken the law or been anti-social once during the protest.

"It doesn't matter," she (PCSO 9118) said. "Are you refusing to give your details then." The activist replied: "Yes, I only need to give them if I have been anti-social and I haven't", To which PCSO 9118 stated "OK, you will be arrested then" and called for back up.

Ten minutes later a male officer, PC 1931 and Sergeant 1958 arrived at the scene and entered the travel agents after asking if anyone had been inside to which the activist responded: "No, you have been watching on CCTV so you know that".

Moments later the Sergeant calls in the PC, exits and proceeds to inform the activist that he is being arrested under Section 5 of the public order act.

The activist then sat down on the floor and went limp. Handcuffs are then placed on the activist, who is asked by the PC: "Are you going to resist?" The activist replied "No." (Passive resistance is not resisting arrest; you are fully within your rights to go limp when officers try to arrest you).

The male PC twisted the cuffs causing a cut on the wrists of the activist and considerable bruising after veins were broken.

The officers then called for back up as it is apparent they will not be able to lift an 18+ stone man into a police car by themselves, even if they are resulting to assault to get him in the car.

Minute's later two male police officers tried and failed to lift the activist. Another officer in his wisdom decided to pinch the inside of the activists arm leaving an 11cm bruise (which has been documented by a police doctor -- if you are injured by an officer during arrest always ask for a doctor at the station. It is your legal right to be seen by one).

The activist was finally pushed into the car with a crowd of around 100 people shouting at officers for stopping peaceful protest and not doing real police work.

Gloucestershire isn't becoming a Police state it already is.

*Thomas Cook are being asked to boycott the holiday island of Mauritius because of the trade in wild caught macaque monkeys on the island destined to be tortured in vivisection labs around the world.

Two activists from Gloucestershire Animal Action were holding an information stall in Stroud on 24th August 2007 when they were approached by police.

One officer's attitude towards the two individuals became immediately obvious when he began the 'anything to shut us down and shut us up' routine and proceeded with comments such as "You are blocking the public highway" ". The activists were clearly not blocking anything and were set up outside an empty shop.

The statements continued; "We could do you for littering", "We have had complaints about the imagery on the front of your stall and we want your details. One of the stallholders replied "I would rather not give my details, Have I been anti social?", "No, but we believe you have committed the offence of blocking the public highway". The police then warned the activists of impending arrest and told them to stop taking photographs on a camera phone.

When one stallholder continued to refuse to provide his details (as is his legal right to decline such information) the PC moved in for the arrest whereupon the activist went limp and fell to the floor.

The stallholder was then dragged into a vehicle by four police officers whist angry members of the public shouted at police in protest at the blatant police bullying and intimidation taking place. The Mayor of Stroud who was present in the area during the arrest was also horrified and joined onlookers in contempt for the illegal arrest.

We were later informed that the mayor apparently reprimanded the police for their extreme tactics against freedom of expression.

After arriving at the police station the stallholder was interviewed during which an officer admitted the interview was only "to cover his back" in regards to his use of force. After a seemingly not-so-sincere apology from the police the stallholder was released from custody with "No further action" taken.

Needless to say the so-called 'apology' from the police does not mark the end of this situation and legal action against the force and officers in question will (as always) be the next step in this ordeal.

Local press were present during the whole ordeal and said the arrest had a very good chance of making front-page news as the force used by the police was so excessive and many onlookers were distressed by such brutality.

(..And here is the article below which was printed in today's local Stroud newspaper)

Young campaigner arrested in High Street
Original article at Stroud News and Journal
Wednesday August 29th 2007

SHOPPERS watched in disbelief as a team of seven police officers dismantled an animal rights stall set up by two young campaigners in Stroud High Street.

Shortly after, one of the pair, Chris Potter, 17, was bundled into the back of a police car after mounting a sit down protest when officers demanded his name and address.

The youngster and friend Ziggy Ramone, 26, from Nailsworth, had been running a stall on Friday to raise awareness of animal testing and the fur trade.

But despite agreeing to move on, the first officer to arrive called for backup and Chris was arrested after refusing to give his details.

Police, who were called to investigate a complaint about the stall around 2.15pm, said the pair did not have a trading licence and were potentially obstructing a public highway.

While no trading licence was required, the pair were accepting donations and should technically have applied to the district council for a collection permit.

But many shoppers who saw the incident felt the police were heavy-handed and could have handled the situation in a less confrontational manner.

Town mayor John Marjoram, who witnessed the incident, was surprised by the police response.

"For the past 25 years there has never been a problem with people who are campaigning and not selling things," he said.

"It's part and parcel of being a liberal town and it helps add to the colour of the street.

"They were directly behind a letter box so I couldn't see how they were blocking the street.

"I felt it was extraordinary to have so many police there for two youngsters."

David Michael, 51, from Springhill, Stroud, also watched as officers made the arrest, dismantled the stall and seized a pot of donations.

"It was quite overwhelming and was an incredible over-reaction," he said.

"I think it's fantastic that young people are taking a stand as so many are disenfranchised these days."

Another shopper, Gill Rogers, who was visiting Stroud from Bristol, said: "Does it honestly take seven policemen to move on one young man?

"I didn't want to sign his petition but I did feel sorry for the guy."

Another shopper handed over �20 when he saw what happened.

Chris, who has campaigned for Gloucestershire Animal Action for the past year, sat on the floor in protest after what he felt was an unreasonable request for his details.

"For the police to turn up and start demanding my details I felt was a little intimidated," he said.

"We were just giving out information."

Ziggy, a professional model, echoed her friend's concerns.

"Lots of people stopped and we certainly weren't forcing our opinions on anyone," said the former Stroud High School pupil, who added that they never ask for money.

According to Stroud District Council's licensing department, groups do not require a permit to set up a stall if they are not trading.

Commercial services manager Phil Park said: "If people are not actually selling anything they do not need the council's consent."

However, a collection permit, which is available free of charge from the council, is required if money is handed over, even if it is a donation.

Chris was released by police without charge less than an hour after his arrest.

A Gloucestershire police spokesman said Chris, from Gloucester, was arrested for refusing to give his details.

"There are rules and regulations governing the setting up of these stalls," he said.

"If he had given his details in the first place, which is something he later did in the custody suite, it would have saved everybody a lot of time and hassle."

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