5 – 7 June Update

POLICING

Large Black Live Matters demonstrations around the country, challenging the lockdown rules’ ban on large gatherings. There was a significant difference in approach by the police in different areas, with on Avon and Somerset Police deciding not to intervene when the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled and thrown into the harbour, explained by officer A Bennett here, and on the other the Metropolitan police charging protesters on Whitehall with horses on Saturday night.

The Metropolitan Police has been criticised for tactics which cause or escalate tensions and put people’s lives in danger. On both Saturday and Sunday night, the police kettled the remaining protesters for hours in the cold and invoked antisocial behaviour to demand personal details as a condition for leaving the containment. Kettling protesters (and legal observers) in a smaller and smaller space during a pandemic where government advice is for people to maintain socially distancing, is very concerning and Netpol has suggested it was motivated as much by the desire to gather intelligence.

Under lockdown regulations, it remains unlawful to gather in groups of more than six except in a limited number of scenarios that do not include protest. But on Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “People have a right to protest peacefully while observing social distancing but they have no right to attack the police.” The barrister Adam Wagner has suggested Johnson’s comments make it virtually impossible for the police to fine or prosecute protesters for gathering without a “reasonable excuse” under regulation 9.

In the north of Ireland, PSNI officers were warning Black Lives Matter protest stewards and organisers they are “aiding and abetting a breach” of coronavirus regulations and taking people’s names before the protest had even started. Some anti-racism rallies planned for Saturday were called off after police “held talks with” (applied pressure on) organisers.

The CPS intends to review evidence into the death of Belly Mujinga after all, a week after British Transport Police said it was taking no action. The decision comes in “recognition of wider public interest” after calls for justice at Black Lives Matters events in response to the killing of George Floyd. Mujinga was a railway worker who died in April after she had been spat at London’s Victoria Station by a man who was infected with the Coronavirus.

Solicitor Mike Schwarz at Hodge Jones and Allen has announced the launch of a citizens’ bid for the prosecution of Dominic Cummings for putting lives at risk.

More detail on the new regulations on travelling, active from Monday 8 June in England. Wales, Scotland and Nothern Ireland have yet to say if police will enforce the rules and how.

SURVEILLANCE

Serco wins Covid-19 test-and-trace contract despite £1m fine. Serco has been fined millions by the Serious Fraud Office, profits from prisons & immigration detention and housing for asylum seekers despite failings, and on top of that the Health Minister is a former Serco lobbyist.

COMMENT

Sophie Hemery: Racist Policing Accelerated During the Pandemic. Mounting Protests Could See It Get Even Worse.

RESOURCES

MI5 whistleblower and rights campaigner Annie Machon will discuss the emergency power grab by governments and big tech in a virtual event, 17th June, 8pm.

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