Vehicles driven at protesters top complaints to support group

Scottish youths strike for the climate, during a global day of action, taking the day off school and educational establihments to protest the Government's inaction on the climate crisis, in Edinburgh, Scotland, 20th September 2019.

Photo: Sutton Hibbert

Most complaints made by protesters at demonstrations were about vehicles being driven at them, or violence from police or security staff, according to a new initiative.

Protest jusiceProtest Justice, a grassroots organisation supporting activists, has begun analysing data on complaints arising from incidents at protests.

The first published set of data shows that 29% of complaints were about vehicles being driven at protesters.

Just under a quarter (22%) were about violence or aggression by police and the same proportion about violence or aggression by security staff.

Almost a fifth (19%) were about intimidation by either police, security staff or suppliers.

Carol Towner, the coordinator of Protest Justice, said:

“We were alarmed by the frequency that protesters reported vehicles being used as weapons to intimidate them. This tactic appears to be mainly used by suppliers delivering to a site but there are also reports of some site and security staff engaging in this malpractice.  Video and photographic evidence has been gathered to substantiate these reports and it is clear that this dangerous practice is common across the country.”

In one incident, she said video footage of a slow walking protest shows a protester being pushed along the road by a lorry. Police liaison officers witnessed the incident but did not intervene, Ms Towner said.

Protest Justice said it had notified a number of the companies involved that incidents had been recorded involving their vehicles. It had also informed transport associations and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which regulates the haulage industry.

Ms Towner said:

“Where in the world would driving a tonne or more of metal at a human being be considered acceptable or normal behaviour?  The police failure to address this properly is, in our opinion, nothing less than dereliction of duty.”

2013 Balcombe protests DoD

Photo: DrillOrDrop

Protest Justice was launched in December 2018 in response to reports that anti-fracking protesters faced ongoing aggression. So far, it has analysed complaints about incidents for four months up to April 2019. It aims to identify whether there are patterns of behaviour used against protesters.  Current analysis of historical footage of anti-fracking protests across the UK is taking place, with the next report due towards the end of this year.

On police aggression, Protest Justice said it had received reports of activists being dragged, held, pushed, kicked in the genitals and of injuries including broken bones and dislocations.

Ms Towner said:

“It is concerning that the reports of this behaviour, whilst widespread, do seem to throw up repeat collar numbers.  This in itself needs to be dissected further to identify patterns of behaviour.”

Aggressive behaviour by security guards reportedly escalated when police were not present, Protest Justice said.

Incidents reported have included security personnel forcibly removing items from protest sites, assaulting protesters, being verbally abusive and behaving in a way that would antagonise or intimidate protesters.

It is also reported that security personnel deliberately hid, or did not display correctly, their Security Industry Authority badges, against guidelines.

181117 London protest Eddie Thornton3

Photo: Eddie Thornton

Protest Justice said it would help people to make effective complaints and follow them through to a satisfactory conclusion.  They believe it is also important that information is given to them by protesters, even if they do not wish to make a complaint, as it helps show the reality of what is happening on the ‘front line’.

Ms Towner said:

“Too many people at protests are being needlessly harassed, assaulted, injured or victimised by police and private security staff.   We feel it’s time for balance and for the “little guy” to have a voice which will be heard.  We have recently been informed of an increase in disproportionate behaviour at the XR and HS2 protests.

“The police rely on people giving up on their complaints because it is too stressful or difficult, or they feel intimidated. Together we can oppose this injustice and bring much needed scrutiny to these situations.

“We want to empower, facilitate and support individuals who wish to make a complaint against the perpetrators of the inappropriate events they have either experienced or witnessed.”

Protest Justice said its core belief was that peaceful protest should not be met with violence. It said the initiative aimed to protect people who wanted to exercise their right to protest.

“The impact on the well-being of those protesters, and the people who witness others being hurt or abused, can be long-term, both physically and emotionally.

“When inappropriate behaviour toward protesters is not tackled early in a protest, it becomes entrenched very quickly and seen as ‘normal’, this of course could not be further from the truth.

“There have been more protests this year than ever before due to Brexit, climate change, fracking, austerity, NHS cuts and so much more.

“With the situation not looking like it will change imminently we have to address the issues about bad protest policing – frankly, enough is enough.”

11 replies »

  1. All going to plan. Divide and rule. Get the police plebs to beat up the general public plebs and get the public to pay for the cost of the police beating them up …

    • Watch “PNR POLICE HEAVY HANDED Anti-Fracking ARREST – Situation gets out of hand.

      Reasonable guy – ex military, intimidated and arrested on trumped up charges by abusive police.

  2. If the protestors, be they anti-frackers, extinctionists or any other form of anarchists, do not seem to understand that it is an offence to obstruct the highway and prevent normal, law-abiding citizens from going about their daily business.

    And then they probably jump into their Chelsea Tractors and head back home.

  3. Maybe peacefull protests should be limited to 3 protesters behind a barrier to prevent them entering the public highway, with a placard describing there protest.

    They should have a leaflet to give to anyone who who is interested in knowing more about that protest with a web / email address & phone number for further contact.

    To be in large numbers or anyone in the highway blocking, climbing on or restricting lawful buisnessis is intimidating & disruptive & as such not peaceful protest.

    I really don’t understand why when direct action is taken against any protestors who are inviting confrontation, that they should have the right to complain especially about the police who have a difficult job to do in maintaining the peace.

    I think the police have made a great decision to not allow extingtion rebellion protests any more.

    These people seem not to be protesting but are trying to instill a minority value on the majority by any means.

    This is certainly not peacefull from the disruption it is causing & will at the end of the day do more damage to any merits of there cause.

      • But the Suffragettes were not anti capitalists dressed up as something else!

        It seems the public has sussed XR, from recent survey results. Shame you lot at PNR thought they would help your cause, Pauline. There were some in your ranks who warned about the danger some while ago, but they were ignored. Now, the locals have been drowned out and you will get the publicity others actions determine. You may continue and increase the defence of something you can’t control but I suspect the public will start to associate you all with the extreme.

        All the “fracking” companies have to do is emphasise engagement with the local communities and define others as being what the public have already decided they are, and talk about Suffragettes will be isolated to the latter rather than the former.

      • So paulline

        You are saying that lies,more lies & non peaceful protest is the way forward & justified.

        If you & the so minded protesters believe that.
        Why should anyone care if protesters are injured or run over & killed as a result of there action’s whilst breaking the law?

        Unfortunately they seem to be relying on a values system that they themselves do not subscribe to.

  4. Elliot can register his complaint after yesterday and it will receive loads of attention and interest. The poor suffering public who decided they had enough of self righteousness will have let off some steam but will not get the same attention.

    Maybe the answer is to withdraw the police and the media and let the public free? Ohh, that’s anarchy.

    Ohh, that’s what many are seeking.

    Seems the police spend as much time protecting plebs from being beaten up by other plebs.

    Funny old world.

  5. Thank you London for concentrating the self righteous for two weeks.

    Sorry, for those elsewhere, now they will be returning to your neighbourhood. But, you have had a two week vacation from it!

    Back to the dinner parties, bus journeys, flights, cruises, evenings down the pub etc. etc. where you will now be more subject to having your ear bent via those with a reinforced superiority complex. Bit of advice-just take care regarding the seating arrangements.

    Thank you police for doing such a good job with your purge on county line gangs recently. Shame your resources were depleted by some who seemed oblivious to most children whilst using their children as an excuse.

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