Police criticised over handling of protests
As police prepare to face some of the biggest street protests for several years, a committee of MPs has accused them of abusing their powers and being heavy-handed in dealing with demonstrators.
Parliament's Joint Select Committee on Human Rights said police were misusing counter-terrorism laws, anti-social behaviour legislation and the Protection from Harassment Act to deal with protestors.
"The right to protest is a fundamental democratic right and one that the state and police have a duty to protect and facilitate," said the committee's chairman Andrew Dismore.
"Of course, there is a balance to be struck between the rights of protestors, the police and the public (including protest targets) but the state must not impose restrictions unless it is necessary, and proportionate, to do so."
The warning comes as thousands of demonstrators prepare to protest in London at next month's G20 summit.
The committee said police were using stop and search powers to intimidate and conducting wide-ranging seizures of property.
At a Climate Camp protest in Kent last year, police had even seized tent pegs and a clown costume, it said.
The Chief Constable of Kent has now referred the policing of that demonstration, near a power station at Kingsnorth, to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Police were monitoring journalists, refusing them access to protests, not recognising press cards and even assaulting them, the National Union of Journalists told the committee.
The MPs said it was unacceptable that journalists had to resort to taking court action against officers "unlawfully" interfering with their work.
The Metropolitan Police Service said human rights and the right to protest were at the heart of its policing philosophy.
"However, the Met also has a duty to ensure that the rights of others are protected," it said.
"We will always facilitate lawful protest and are committed to doing so but do have to minimise the disruption caused to others going about their lawful business."
Woolwich terror attack: Suspect Michael Adebowale saw friend 'literally sliced to pieces' in 2008
Emergency landing at Heathrow sparks further controversy over London airport capacity
Unrest may spread across Europe, warns Red Cross chief
EDL marches on Newcastle as attacks on Muslims increase tenfold in the wake of Woolwich machete attack which killed Drummer Lee Rigby
You want to get an Eton scholarship? All you need to do is answer four (not so simple) questions
- 1 What, let gays get married? We must be bonkers
- 2 Rocky Horror star Tim Curry 'suffers major stroke'
- 3 Exclusive: How MI5 blackmails British Muslims
- 4 EDL marches on Newcastle as attacks on Muslims increase tenfold in the wake of Woolwich machete attack which killed Drummer Lee Rigby
- 5 Farewell, Shameless. Your heirs have work to do
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.