Policing of Leicester EDL demo criticised

The Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) has published a critical report analysing the policing of the EDL demo and counter-demo on February 4th.

The report is a collation of the evidence and observations obtained by a team of community-based volunteer legal observers who spent the day monitoring the policing of both EDL and counter-demonstrations.

The report criticises police handling of the demonstration, particularly the effort and resources the police and local authorities devoted to persuading the local community, particularly young people in the local community, not to attend counter demonstrations against the EDL. It also raises questions about the use of force, particularly the use of dog units against Muslim youth, and the restrictions on movement placed on the Muslim population, effectively making Leicester a ‘no-go’ area.

Val Swain of Netpol stated, “The decision by Leicestershire constabulary to persuade local communities, voluntary and faith groups and particularly young people to stay away from counter demonstrations was utterly wrong. It really cannot be the role of the police to decide who is able to demonstrate and who is not. As well as being an interference with fundamental rights to protest, it led to a policing strategy that prioritised police control of the local community, especially Muslim youth. This raised tensions, heightened anger, and in my view made conflict more, rather than less likely.”

The report was launched at the Highfields Centre in Leicester on Monday 11th June by community youth worker and Netpol campaigner Saqib Deshmukh, who presented the findings to local activists, journalists and a representative of Leicestershire constabulary. Saqib has also helped to train community based legal observers in East London, as part of the initiative to monitor the policing of the Olympics by Netpol partner Newham Monitoring Project.

Key report findings include:

• Police, working with Leicester council, put significant resources into a campaign aimed at persuading local people, particularly the youth, to stay away from counter demonstrations.
• The use of the Children Act, which allows police to take under-eighteen year olds to a ‘place of safety’, was unacceptably used as a ‘scare tactic’ to further dissuade young people from attending demonstrations
• Police maintained control over the movements of local people, making Leicester effectively a ‘no go zone’ for young Muslim men.
• Police used substantial force to control groups of Muslim youth, including the use of kettles, baton strikes and police dogs, leading to one young man sustaining dog bite injuries.
• Stop and searches were carried out under s60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, a police power that does not require suspicion of an individual. Although the number of such stop and searches was not high, all reported searchers were of people of Asian appearance. Powers to remove face coverings and scarfs also appear to have been disproportionately used against Muslim/Asian young people.
• The facilitation of the EDL appeared to take greater priority than the facilitation of counter demonstrations.

Again, we are reminded that the police are no friends of local communities who are threatened by fascist mobilisations.


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