Police face new questions over approach to protest groups

 

The City of London Police was facing fresh questions over its approach to protest groups last night after it emerged that it regularly included them in communiques warning businesses in the City about extremist activity.

News that the force had referred to the demonstrators camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral in a single terrorism bulletins was dismissed as a drafting error when it came to light a month ago. Now City of London Police has admitted that it included Occupy London in the “domestic” section of the warning letter on seven separate occasions since the camp sprung up.

It was also revealed that anti-cuts group UK Uncut has been mentioned in two of the warning letters, while the union-led demonstrations at the end of last November were included.

The communiques were released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to academic Rizwaan Sabir during the course of his research on UK counter-terrorism.

A spokesman for Occupy London said that the approach would “intimidate” those who wanted to engage in peaceful protest. He said: “The City of London Police does seem very intent on labelling peaceful protesters as domestic terrorists and on linking peaceful protest with extremism, which is absolutely ridiculous.

“We are seeing similar attitudes in America and it is very concerning the position governments and police forces are taking towards voices of dissent. This shows us in a light which makes the public think they should be scared of us.

As part of its response to the FOI request, City of London Police also issued a denial that it classifies Occupy London as a domestic extremist group.

A spokesman said: “The City of London Police produces a regular briefing for its business community. That document originally gave updates solely on terrorism and extremism in the UK and abroad. In response to a desire from the local community to receive a broader update, the document grew in content to include local issues and provide updates on planned protest that might impact the City of London.

“It was a mistake not to amend the title to reflect its changing content, an error the force accepts. This has been addressed and the current version of the document makes it clear that the document’s content is broader than solely terrorism or extremism, updating on issues that might affect our business community.

“As we have made clear from the outset, it was never our intention to suggest that we view the Occupy Movement as being terrorist or extremist in nature. Indeed, the force has worked hard to liaise with protesters, as well as local businesses and the Cathedral, to facilitate peaceful protest and minimise disruption to the local community.”

Last week, it was claimed that a member of Occupy London was stopped from boarding his flight home for Christmas after he was found carrying anarchist literature. John Charles Culatto was held at security in Bristol Airport when staff found posters in his bag. He claimed he was later told the pilot had refused to allow him to board. Servisair, which operates the departure gates said he was late as a result of being held by security guards.

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