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HUMAN rights groups have accused the Metropolitan Police of “potentially unlawful” actions against Black Lives Matter protesters in London over the weekend.
On Saturday and Sunday evening hundreds of protesters, who had been taking part in rallies against the police killing of George Floyd in the US, were held in the rain until about 2am by riot police.
Black Protest Legal Support (BPLS), a group of legal observers and lawyers, claimed that protesters were asked by officers for personal details in order to be released – an act which human rights group Liberty said could be illegal.
“The police grouped together a large number of protesters and stated that if they wished to leave they would have to give their name, address, date of birth and be filmed from head-to-toe,” the legal observer group said in a joint statement with Liberty.
The group said that protesters were told that this was being done under Section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002, which gives officers powers to require a person to give their details if they are reasonably believed to have committed anti-social behaviour.
Everyone in the kettle was allegedly asked to provide details, however BPLS claims this rule cannot be used as a “blanket power.”
Liberty’s advocacy director Grey Collier said that if these reports were true, the Met's “actions were unlawful and nothing short of an attack on people’s right to protest.”
The Metropolitan Police denied that Section 50 was used as a condition of release from the cordon, and that only individuals believed to be involved with anti-social behaviour were asked to identify themselves.
A spokesperson said the Met’s priority was to disperse the crowds. “While individuals may have been asked for their details, if officers believed they were prepared to move on after engaging with them, they were left to do so with no further action,” a spokesperson said.
Ms Collier also raised concerns about officers kettling protesters during a pandemic.
“What’s more, kettling is an aggressive tactic in any situation which has long been used to stifle protest – but in a pandemic it’s one that’s particularly alarming to see,” she said.
Police monitoring group Netpol claimed that the tactic violated their right to protest.
“An individual does not cease to have these rights as a result of sporadic acts committed by others in the course of a demonstration,” Netpol said in a statement. “Collectively punishing everyone is disproportionate and potentially unlawful.”
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