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U.K. Police try again to muzzle campaigners

http://www.arkangelweb.org/international/uk/ 20061117policerepressionagain.php

West Mercia Police have turned up at the house of the lead singer of the band 'Omnia Opera' because the band had agreed to host an animal rights stall at a concert they are playing.

In an extraordinary move, officers quizzed the lead singer of Omnia Opera www.omniaopera.co.uk  on the band allowing the information stall at their concert on Saturday 18th November.

Officers appeared yesterday, Thursday 16th November, on the doorstep of the lead singer. Police officers questioned them and what links they might have with animal rights groups after the concert announcement and the fact that an animal rights stall was to be at the concert for information purposes appeared on the bulletin board of a website run by a local animal rights group Midlands Animal Issues.

Despite the clear attempt at intimidation and harassment by local police officers, the band remains adamant that the show will go on and an animal rights stall will be allowed.

In what appears to be a worrying trend up and down the country, police officers are attempting to intimidate lawful and peaceful protestors from holding information stalls. Arkangel has in the past highlighted the appalling behaviour of some police forces. In September we reported on the incident where Lancashire Constabulary Special Investigations Unit have spent thousands of pounds investigating and prosecuting a Blackpool pensioner, Mrs Frances Gavin, aged 73, for having a stall without a licence.

Other examples of Police intimidation have occurred in various parts of England. For example, campaigners holding stalls in Sutton, Surrey have been accosted by police officers and the leaflets on the stall confiscated. When local campaigners asked why it was only their stall being targeted the police responded by saying it was because it was "an animal rights stall". In October in Bournemouth on the south coast of England, 4 elderly woman had the leaflets they were displaying on their stall confiscated by police officers, who amazingly accused the 4 elderly woman of collecting money for "terrorism"!

There can be little doubt that yesterday's attempt at intimidating a band into pulling an information stall they had allowed at their concert is part of a nationwide concerted effort by the authorities to prevent the animal rights movement from getting out its message to the wider public. Arkangel have been informed that there is concern that despite the obvious anti animal rights slant in most sections of the media, the anti vivisection message is receiving wide spread support amongst the public.

The new policy of get tough on anyone wishing to give out information seems to be coming from the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NECTU) a police unit who describe themselves as forming part of the national policing response to domestic extremism.

NECTU state on their website: 'Our focus is to promote a coordinated, consistent and effective approach to dealing with domestic extremism.'

According to the website NECTU Watch, a group set up to monitor the worst excesses of this police unit: 'NETCU is headed by Cambridgeshire police officer Superintendent Stephen Pearl. Basically, they exist in order to monitor animal rights protests as few other protests are mentioned on their website.'

NECTU Watch explains, "On their website they report arrests of animal rights activists and details of prison sentences handed out. Although they do not mention people who are not charged when falsely arrested, they conveniently "forget" to mention when people are no longer under investigation! Using words such as "extremist" to describe individual activists is another rather inappropriate abuse of their position. Newspaper reports do indeed seem to have been using this site as a reference and have almost regurgitated NETCU's briefings."

Of further concern is that the NECTU are blatantly supporting the vivisection industry on their links page, where details are given about pro-vivisection lobby groups and industry interest groups including the Research Defence Society, a group financed by the vivisection industry.

This is a tactic also favoured by the Labour Government, who were the ones who set up NECTU, and many believe that NECTU are little more than a weapon of the Labour Government, who are becoming ever more dictatorial in how they exercise power. For example, the Department of Health, in response to public enquiries, recommends that people contact the RDS in order to find out about animal testing! Therefore, like NECTU, the Government are keen on promoting a group whose sole role is to be a front for large corporate businesses.

The recent developments of further repressive measures by the police do not appear to be having the desired effect and campaigners have commented to Arkangel that they would not allow state sponsored bullies to intimidate them. Arkangel have also been informed by some local groups that counter measures are now being deployed in order to both highlight and illustrate the lengths the police are going to in order to prevent peaceful protestors from getting their message out to the public. The groups are hoping to use the evidence they gather in legal proceedings against both the police forces concerned and interestingly, against individual police officers.
 

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