Throughout a 4 hour scotland for Animals anti-ritual slaughter demonstration in Glasgow on Saturday 7th May Strathclyde Police continually attempted to close the protest down with threats of arrest.
Despite this being a peaceful protest supported by the public police officers, including a sergeant and and an inspector, spent the whole day harassing SfA and threatening members and supporters who attended.
The initial charge made was that the demonstration did not have permission from police and Glasgow City Council for the demo and that we were "interfering with the commercial activity" of the KFC restaurant.
When it was pointed out that they had no legal powers to stop us persuading people not to shop in a particular business and that we had a legal right to peaceful protest and assembly they then radioed for backup.
More officers arrived with a Sergeant who then told us that his Inspector would go "mad" at the content of our anti-religious slaughter leaflet and that we were to remove this immediately and stop handing our material out. He also added that we were "obstructing the pavement" which was rightly pointed out to be nonsense.
When it was stated that the police, including "his Inspector" had no right to act as judge and jury on what could be handed out in the street and what couldn't.
The Sergeant left assuring us that he would find relevant powers to remove us and close the demo down.
During the next couple of hours the remaining police officers stood monitoring what we were saying and doing at all times. To give one officer his due he seemed as irritated at what was being done as us.
The demo was scheduled to end at 4pm so at this time we started to wind the demo down. Then the Inspector arrived.
Inspector Forsyth of Strathclyde Police approached myself in front of witnesses and stated that he and Strathclyde Police would from that day demand that we received written permission from them and Glasgow City Council to do any information stalls or demonstrations. Insp. Forsyth also stated that Strathclyde Police would be imposing legal conditions on what campaigns material we were allowed to distribute. As far as we can tell we're the only organisation of any kind campaigning in Glasgow that now have these conditions imposed.
The Inspector and his Sergeant then attempted to justify this by claiming, and I quote, that by handing information to customers we were "intimidating the public and as a result interfering with their right to purchase meat". He said this constituted a breach of the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 (which he produced from his car by the way with highlights on parts he felt warranted our arrest and confiscation of our materials).
When asked if any complaints had been made by the public he admitted that no complaints had been made from anybody apart from KFC management and it was suggested that this complaint was purely that we were losing them business (KFC staff were standing 10 yards from us throughout the demo handing leaflets and vouchers encouraging customers into the restaurant. It was pointed out that as this was being done outside a Pizza Hut restaurant by the police's yardstick this was surely "interfering with the commercial activity" of Pizza Hut. Needless to say the KFC employees were not approached and threatened with arrest as we were).
When I told the officers to either arrest me or move on the Inspector then claimed that the picture of a goat being slaughtered on the leaflet could upset people and "potentially fall into the hands of children". When I put across that far worse images were shown in newspapers, television, etc. the Sergeant present claimed that he had never seen an image as bad as a goat about to have it's throat cut in any media publication. The poor guy can't be getting out much.
As spokesman I told the police in an official capacity that we would not be adhering to or recognising any conditions or injunctions on what we could or couldn't do by them or anybody else. We were told moves would be made during the week to make sure we were closed down next time we carried out any activity and our campaigns materials confiscated.
Strathclyde Police clearly do not want any anti-ritual slaughter information being given out in Glasgow. This is an abuse of police power and an official infringement of peoples right to peacefully protest and campaign. yesterday they also appeared to be taking instructions from the KFC manager who was being consulted in plain view at every turn.
I stated that if these officers wanted to work as a private security firm for the restaurant they should do this off duty and not on taxpayers time.
The fact that Officers at police HQ in Glasgow up to the rank of Inspector spent four hours scrutinising Scottish law in order to find powers to remove our campaigns materials and arrest us all is a very concerning development. As no complaints had been made against us other than by KFC management that were losing them business it has been shown that the police have deliberately abused their legal powers and rules of impartiality to prevent public protest in order to safeguard the smooth running of a large restaurant chain.
Scotland for Animals will continue with demonstrations and campaigns against ritual slaughter across Scotland. We won't be intimated or chased from the streets by a politicised Police force which is only interested in protecting financial activity or the feelings of those who support religious animal sacrifice.
The public have a right to see what happens to animals before they end up on their plate. This in turn protects their right to do something about it.
See you next saturday.