An introduction to protesting at an action
”The right to peaceful protest is a traditional and legitimate expression of a point of view. Peaceful protest is public,open and visible. It is designed to inform, persuade and cajole. It may be a nuisance; it may even be intended to be. It is often noisy and inconvenient.
But it is a legitimate form of public expression, protected by the European Convention on Human Rights”
Peter Thornton QC
`To send people into battle without teaching them is called abandoning them.` Confucius.
Everyone taking direct action at one time or another experiences `butterflies`. They are a defining feature of the leap of faith required to get people out of their cars and in front of a bulldozer.
This advice is designed to reduce the feelings of fear and anxiety that cause the butterflies, tackling some of the basic questions about security guards, police powers, your `rights` on arrest. Read it carefully. Please, make a copy Keep it safe. If you have any further doubts or questions, just ask ! But be patient – we are rushed off our feet.
With all demos, there is the risk of arrest. It is important to decide before you act whether you are prepared for it. Don’t feel obliged to do the same as everyone else, you could do some support work instead .
There is a process of empowerment that everyone goes through when they first get involved in civil disobedience.
When no-one is listening, you have to shout louder! If letter writing fails to get the attention you need, go round in person, if they won’t see you, occupy their office until they do. If they call the police – you call the media, get yourself arrested and the resulting public pressure should get you some sort of result. The point is, the greater risk you are publicly seen to be taking, the more weight is added to your fight. Without the risk of arrest and consequent punishment, civil disobedience doesn’t work.
Large numbers of diverse people risking arrest together and not backing down is a very powerful sight. Everyone has to feel comfortable with the risks. In reality you have to be prepared to accept the risks before you take them. First we have to break the barrier of political isolation. The next step is to overcome the fear of reprisal for any action you choose to take. Reprisals come from all angles; from colleagues at work, friends, the police, the state. As we have said, these reprisals cannot, or shouldn’t, be avoided. It is the fear of the reprisals that has to be overcome, not the reprisals themselves. Individuals can be talked round, prisons are only there to scare the people outside them, the state will never kill the spirit!
Taking the leap of faith is easier when you are amongst friends, support each other in small groups, meet before actions and share your concerns, overcome them together. And remember ‘victory is a privilege given only to those who struggle!’…
`There is a special reason why radical, socially aware people obey: we want to be able to calculate the personal consequences of our actions. We are simply afraid of the personal implications of disobedience… Overcoming political isolation is the first goal of the struggle. The second goal is overcoming fear of the consequences. That is what all non-violence is about. Our enemy is not the government or the company bosses. Fear is the enemy.`
`A prison is designed above all for the people that are not inside it. When citizens do what they perceive as the right thing, independently of the risk of punishment, then the walls are torn down.`
‘If not you – who ? if not now – when ?’ if not here – where?
‘My mind was not at rest, because nothing was acted, and thoughts ran in me that words and deeds were nothing and must die; for action is the life of all and if thou dost not act, thou dost nothing.’
When action must be taken for the sake of justice, the non-violent methods are the best available for effective action, and can embody these principles:
Respect for the opponent / everyone involved as fellow human beings. Care for everyone involved.
Refusal to harm, damage or degrade any living thing / being
If suffering is inevitable (i.e. imprisonment, personal hardship) willingness to take it on yourself rather than inflict it on others; not retaliating to violence with violence
Belief that everyone is capable of change. Appeal to the opponents’ humanity
Recognition that no one has a monopoly on the truth, so aims to bring together our ‘truth’ and the opponents ‘truth’
Belief that the means are the ends in the making, so the means have to be consistent with the ends.
Openness rather than secrecy.
SET YOUR OWN LIMITS.
It is important that you remain in control. Stay calm. If you start to lose your temper; step back for a few moments and compose yourself. If we allow our actions to be influenced by antagonistic opponents, then we lose control of the situation and the protest.
It is easier to take steps to prevent violence occurring, than it is to halt violence once it has begun. A carnival atmosphere can lighten the atmosphere and diffuse tension.
Try to avoid running, shouting, or using abusive gestures. All these things can be interpreted as threatening and are likely to provoke a more aggressive reaction.
Calm reasoning (without raised voices), eye contact, keeping your arms still by your sides. All these things can help diffuse an angry debate.
Try not to personalise the issue, by verbally attacking individuals, especially those who aren’t responsible for making the big decisions.
Tactically it is useful to keep communications open with our opponents. Violence and abusive behaviour only serves to deepen the ‘gulf’, and reduce the opportunities for achieving our long-term goal of changing hearts and minds.
Violence simply doesn’t work in the long-term (see means and ends in the philosophy bit). And after all, this campaign is about long-term solutions. At the end of the day, the state has more immediate force at its disposal – a fully trained and equipped army, for instance. Anyway, how can we oppose violence towards the planet and advocate violence towards each other. But that’s another story…
Any violent or intimidatory activity could escalate quickly and effect innocent bystanders. Hospitalised protesters are no use to anyone.
Then of course, there’s the old ‘bad press’ leading to a loss of broader support argument. Whether we are prepared to work with the press or not, they retain the power to destroy our struggle.
Pen + paper; food + water; clothes that can cope with sudden changes in weather -avoid anything that might get pulled or snagged on fencing (i.e.; scarves); write the campaign solicitors’ phone number on something you won’t lose (like your arm); enough money to get you home.
Any I.D; diaries and address books; illegal substances; anything that could be used as an offensive weapon; pets.
Get an early night, if you can. Work could start at any time from first light, and could go on well into the night, if contractors bring in lighting.
Keep noise to a minimum, exhausted activists are catching what sleep they can, when they can. Respect each other as well as the local environment. Respect yourself – hangovers can reduce your body’s reaction time, which could prove dangerous to your health, if you have to duck or dive.
Try and do some muscle warm up exercises before you go on the action. At least one person was out of action for over a week, due to a `cold start`.
If you go to an action alone, make sure at least one person knows your name (and the one you’ll give the police, should you get arrested. Legal support volunteers need a surname when trying to get information out of the police regarding arrested people).
If this is your first action, try and join with some more experienced people, who are prepared to look out for you. Ideally everyone should be acting as part of a small group (about 5 people). This is useful for safety and effectiveness. More about working in groups later…
Burnout happens when we take on too much, too intensely, for too long. It is a state in which we become unable to function effectively, or at all. If action is taken when someone is sliding into burnout it can be prevented and the activist can return to campaigning. If preventive measures are not taken, burnout can seriously affect someone’s life and at the very least cause them to give up campaigning.
The symptoms of burnout are: chronic fatigue, minor illnesses, frequent headaches, stomach pains, backache, disrupted sleep patterns, depression, anxiety, a sense of being overwhelmed and hair-trigger emotions which quickly produce tears or flare-ups.
The first stage in stress reaction is the release of adrenaline, which gives temporary bursts of energy. By continually pushing ourselves harder, firing on all cylinders all the time, we can stay on a high, but this cannot last. The second stage is to relax, let go, curl up in a corner and recuperate. If we stay in the first stage and ignore messages that something is wrong, then our bodies and minds will resort to something painful or dramatic to get our attention – we burnout.
Basic needs: Eat well, take vitamins to top up. Sleep, not just at the camps but also in a safe place. Take time out everyday, with a longer period once a week.
Reliance security have been employed by the contractor / Highways Agency to ‘look after their machinery and property’. They are not above the law, all they can do is ‘evict (i.e. remove) people from machinery or land only after issuing a warning three times.’ They have no more power of arrest than any ordinary citizen and no right to evict you from, or prevent access to, land or machinery that is not part of the works. The rank and file guards wear white helmets, the team leaders wear red and the management yellow.
When removing you, security are supposed to use ‘minimum reasonable force’. Which can be translated as ‘whatever they can get away with’. The only defence against violent removal is prevention (don’t get isolated on site, take time to reduce tense situations, have a camera ready, insist legal observers are allowed access to the action etc.). Also, if you appear aggressive, you are likely to come across more than ‘minimum force’. Just running and shouting is often enough to insure a violent ‘rugby tackling’. Obviously there are police and security guards who will act with violence towards the most peaceful individual at the first opportunity. To cut the number of incidents, it is vitally important that we report every assault to the legal observers, whether you are injured by it or not. Civil court action against police and security firms is the only long term deterrent. Serious assaults require the usual witness statements plus photos and doctors documentation of injury.
Every officer is supposed to wear an ID number on their shoulder, whether they do is another matter. The police position is usually stated as follows; ‘our function is to facilitate the lawful activity of everyone . Anyone who wishes to protest will be given the facility to protest.’ In reality the police have been very obstructive, serious complaints are being heard, but their general attitude on the ground is frequently far less than ‘totally impartial’ as they claim. No surprise there then.!
‘Injustice is not anonymous, it has a name and address.’ Berthold Brecht (and a phone number !)
You can be arrested for trespassing on land* on which (or Adjoining which) others are engaged in (or are about to be engaged in) a lawful activity. The trespasser must do something which is intended to intimidate**, with a view to deterring / obstructing / disrupting the lawful activity. Maximum penalty is three months in prison. A fine is most likely.
*must be in the open air and not on a highway – what constitutes a ‘highway’ is a moot point, we believe that footpaths are highways.
**This could potentially include verbal abuse.
If the senior police officer at a scene believes that:
one person is committing, has committed or intends to commit aggravated trespass. Or,
two or more are trespassing on land with the common purpose of committing aggravated trespass.
The officer may direct them to leave the land, either personally or through another officer at the scene.
The offence is arrestable if person, knowing that a direction has been given either:
fails to leave the land (ask to be shown a clearly defined boundary) as soon as is practicable. Or, returns within three months of direction.
Unless you weren’t trespassing or had reasonable excuse for staying / returning. Same penalty as Sect. 68.
(sect. 51,Highways Act)
The ‘highway’ includes roads, pavements and footpaths. The only right you have on a highway is to make ordinary and reasonable use of it, i.e. pass and repass. Otherwise you are causing an obstruction. Demonstrating is not an ordinary use of the highway. It is an offence, without lawful authority or excuse, in anyway to obstruct wilfully the free passage along a highway. The police should warn you before they arrest you. The penalty is likely to be a bind over or fine.
To resist or wilfully obstruct a constable in the execution of his duty. It is an arrestable offence. Max. penalty is 1 month prison or a fine.
To resist or intentionally obstruct any person who is an officer of the court (e.g. sheriffs, bailiffs) engaged in executing or enforcing an order. Max. 6 months or a fine.
Arrestable offence if a person without lawful excuse destroys or damages* any property belonging to another, with intent to damage or destroy it. Maximum sentence is 6 months or a fine unless cost of damage is over £5,000.
*can include minimal and temporary impairment of value or usefulness.
Stay calm. If you wish to resist, do so passively, i.e. go limp. Struggling could cause injury to yourself or a charge of assault against a police officer. Call out the name you will be giving the police, so that other demonstrators (who aren’t being arrested themselves!) can hear you. They can then inform the legal support group of your arrest. If you are not very confident about your legal situation it is best to say nothing at all to the police, this includes chatting in the van. Back-of-the-van-banter is just another form of questioning, no matter how innocent it may appear. Apologise and say that you don’t feel like talking.
As soon as you can, exchange names and addresses with anyone you were arrested with. Then, while it is still fresh in your mind, make careful notes of what happened during, and in the lead up to, your arrest (note times, names, places, events, any mistreatment or injury, potential illegality, security / polices’ ID numbers and descriptions).
After your arrest you do not have to say anything, but under the Criminal Justice Act if you don’t mention something important to your case until you come to court, the magistrate can take this into account. The advice remains to say nothing until you have had proper legal advice. To get bail, you will need to tell the police your name and a verifiable address. They may press you for your date of birth, you’re not obliged to give it. Answer no further questions.
In most cases up to 24 hours. For extremely serious offences, 96 hours. In theory you should be charged and released as soon as possible, but sometimes obstructive or busy police will delay things.
It is possible that the police will just take your name and address, then release you without any further action. This is called being released without charge. You might not even get as far as the station, or even a police van – this is called being ‘de-arrested’. Alternatively, the police may offer you a caution. This means you must admit guilt, but the charge will be dropped. This admission is recorded on your criminal record.
It will probably take a while before you are charged. The charge should be read to you, followed by a second ‘caution’ (“anything you say blah blah..”). Say nothing unless you have a very good reason to; i.e. you are hurt and need a doctor. Never say anything regarding your innocence / guilt.
You are allowed to inform someone that you have been arrested.
You have the right to speak to the solicitor of your choice at any time of day or night. You will be offered a duty solicitor by the police, but don’t take this advice..
It is possible that the solicitor will already be at the station, they may come to the station if required or speak to you over the phone.
Most of your property will be taken from you. They should let you keep essential items, like glasses, sanitary protection etc. You should be allowed access to a pen and paper (to make notes) and the police codes of practice (if you have any queries). A list of your property will be kept and you will be asked to sign it. Do so directly under the last item and only if it is correct.
They can fingerprint anyone charged who is over the age of ten, whether or not they consent, using ‘reasonable force’ if needed.
The police often try to photograph you after you have been charged, although they are not allowed to use force, and you can refuse.
You may be given some kind of search of your clothes. An officer of the same sex as you has the power to ‘strip search’, but this is highly unlikely.
You will be granted bail once charged, but you will need to have a verifiable address ( the police will probably check that you live there), if you are of no fixed abode then before you go onto actions you should arrange a bail address. The campaign office can provide you with a bail address if needed. The police have been imposing harsh conditions on the granting of bail. They can legally do this under the new Criminal Justice Act. People have been given conditions that prevent them from going within 1km of the place of their arrest! Some people have also been forced to ‘sign on’ at their local police station everyday. Anyone who finds themselves receiving outrageous conditions could ( with the help of a solicitor) challenge them there and then at the station.
Get to know the names of people who are on the action with you.
If you see someone being arrested:
Stay calm, try not to intervene or you might find yourself arrested too – for obstructing a police officer. Before they are taken away get their full name, a description, what they are being arrested for and which station are they being taken too.
First Edition, February 1st ’96. Please Photocopy.