Scotland Yard defends arrests of 'Critical Mass' cyclists


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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard today defended itself against criticism that it is being heavy-handed in policing protests around the Olympics following the arrest of nearly 200 cyclists.

The Metropolitan Police insisted it recognised the right of demonstrators to stage protests around the Games but said it required prior notification of any attempt by protesters to gather around London 2012 venues.

Campaigners accused police of “criminalising cycling” this weekend after 182 people taking part in a monthly protest by the Critical Mass group strayed beyond the agreed route to the periphery of the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, shortly before Friday night's opening ceremony.

Protesters claimed a disabled cyclist was among those detained.

Steve Rushton, of the Counter Olympic Network,  said: “It's ironic that cyclists featured so heavily in the actual ceremony, too, while their real-life counterparts were being arrested just nearby.”

The Yard said today that 178 of those detained had been released on police bail and four charged with public order offences. A further demonstration in Stratford yesterday passed by without arrests.

The Met said it would not allow any demonstration to interfere with Olympic athletes or spectators. In a statement, the Yard said: “We want anyone who wants to protest to come and speak to us so we can work together to ensure that their point can be made. What people do not have the right to do is to hold a protest that stops other people from exercising their own rights to go about their business.”

A German national will in court tomorrow following the latest crackdown on Olympics ticket touts over the weekend.

A total of eight men and women, including a Slovakian national, have been charged for illegally selling tickets. A further two were charged in connect with the theft of two passes allowing vehicles to use the so-called "Zil lanes" in place for the Games.

With rest days cancelled and leave restricted, the Met is conducting its biggest post-war policing operation during the Games. Three men were arrested in central London today on suspicion of impersonating a police officer following reports that tourists were approached by a man claiming to be a plain clothes detective and taking away bank cards and cash.

It was confirmed today that police carried out an eviction from a disused church building less than 200 metres from the Olympic Park. Around a dozen squatters were removed from the building owned by St Mary of Eton in Hackney Wick, close to the Games' press centre, on Friday to allow demolition work to begin this week.