MP attacks 'SAS-style' tactics used by police against environmental protesters

A Nottinghamshire MP has criticised police for using "SAS-style" tactics during an operation to arrest more than 100 environmental activists before they had even begun protesting.

Eco-campaigners and civil liberty groups have questioned the circumstances surrounding the mass arrests, thought to be the largest single pre-emptive raid on a group of demonstrators in British history.

Police used more than 200 officers from five forces to arrest 114 men and women in Sneinton, Nottinghamshire, early on Monday morning because they were allegedly preparing to cause "prolonged disruption" to the nearby Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power station.

Those arrested were found inside the privately owned Iona school, which was closed for the Easter break, and were charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass and criminal damage.

Nottinghamshire Police have defended the raid, saying they believed the protesters intended to engage in an unlawful demonstration that risked shutting down the power plant. Officers found bolt-cutters and locking equipment and suspect that the activists were planning to chain themselves to vital equipment inside the power plant. All those arrested were released on bail yesterday pending further inquiries.

Alan Simpson, the Labour MP for Nottingham South, has questioned the nature of the pre-emptive strike, saying it had serious repercussions for the right to free assembly and had utilised overly heavy-handed tactics. "I am absolutely baffled by the sheer scale of the police operation," he said. "It was very Orwellian. What we saw was over-the-top, smash-and-grab, SAS-style, pre-emptive policing that was massively disproportionate to what was happening on the ground. The scale of policing was what you would expect to be used for a terrorist event or the break-up of a major crime syndicate, not to stop an environmental protest."

Mr Simpson also questioned why it was necessary to smash two double-glazed doors at the Iona school, which has now had to put in new doors and flooring. The school's owners said they had no idea protesters were meeting there. No environmental group has yet claimed responsibility for the planned protest. It is believed groups associated with the Climate Camp network were involved.

Police tactics when dealing with protests have been placed under heavy scrutiny in the past two weeks following the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in London. Mr Tomlinson died of a heart attack shortly after apparently being hit and pushed to the ground by a baton-wielding riot officer. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own