PROTESTING? HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS

Pho­to­graphy by Nadia Otshudi

In the wake of the filmed murder of George Floyd by police officers Derek Chau­vin, Thomas Lane, J. Alex­an­der Kueng and Tou Thao in Min­nesota, mass protests and upris­ings have occurred across the USA and around the world, call­ing for justice in the form of the arrest, pro­sec­u­tion and impris­on­ment of all four of these men. The murder and the glob­al insur­rec­tion have shed new light on a long his­tory of spe­cific­ally anti-black racist murder by police and secur­ity officers, sys­tem­at­ic and insti­tu­tion­al racism and the actions of the state and these forces in the treat­ment of black people all over the world. People every­where are hit­ting the streets in protest, to keep pres­sure on gov­ern­ments and to let it be known that enough is enough.

A new gen­er­a­tion of protest­ors, some who may have nev­er pro­tested before, are amongst some of the seasoned act­iv­ists and older people involved. As is nor­mal with prom­in­ent protests with a strong media focus, there have been numer­ous reports of agents infilt­rat­ing the crowds to incite viol­ence and mass media com­pan­ies focus­ing on small scuffles to con­demn the whole event or move­ment, under­min­ing the import­ant mes­sage to suit their own nar­rat­ive. As we saw in the UK upris­ings of 2009–2011 centred on a mix of pro-Palestini­an, anti-EDL and anti-aus­ter­ity protest and the murder of Mark Dug­gan by the police in Lon­don — UK police forces have a his­tory of act­ively seek­ing to arrest, detain and impris­on protest­ors for minor offences, or no offence at all (as was the case of Fahim Alam). This can cause hugely det­ri­ment­al effects on people’s lives, espe­cially those of young people.

It is import­ant that every­one involved knows some fun­da­ment­al strategies for stay­ing safe and defend­ing them­selves and each oth­er from this kind of treat­ment, espe­cially as laws have now changed due to the COV­ID-19 pan­dem­ic.

In order to mani­fest the man­tra ‘each one teach one’, we have spoken to some seasoned protest­ors – all who will remain anonym­ous – who have helped us to col­late a list of advice for any­one attend­ing these protests, or ones in future.

GENERAL ADVICE

  • If pos­sible, leave your phone at home – this could be used to track your move­ments and link you to events you were close to but not involved in.
  • If you do take your phone, do not post on social media – this may be used to incrim­in­ate you, or oth­ers in your photos/videos later on.
  • DO NOT take any form of ID – this can be used to identi­fy you even if you choose not to give your name and details.
  • Wear untrace­able cloth­ing – police or pro­sec­utors may use logos to falsely identi­fy you.
  • Bring a mask, and keep your face covered.
  • BRING FOOD, WATER and LAY­ERS – you may get kettled or blocked in by police  and you will need these if you do.
  • Veri­fy protest posters and dir­ec­tions are from reli­able sources and are accur­ate – some groups have been known to cre­ate false posters to target/attack people.
  • DO NOT wear con­tacts, use your glasses instead – if you get hit, con­tacts can cause ser­i­ous dam­age.
  • DO NOT use deb­it or cred­it cards, bring cash.
  • Walk, bike or use pub­lic trans­port – ideally with an unmarked oyster card.
  • DO NOT use Uber

DEALING WITH THE PRESS

  • DO NOT talk to the press – they might try to use your voice for their own agenda and this may be used to incrim­in­ate you later.
  • The press may attempt to film you – they might try to use this for their own agenda and it may be used to incrim­in­ate you later. Leg­ally you can­not touch them or their camera/equipment, but you can use your plac­ard to block their film­ing or to block your face. They might not be happy, they might try to move and keep film­ing, but they can­not touch you either.

DEALING WITH POLICE

  • Police will try to have ‘cas­u­al chats’ with you – DO NOT speak to them, they may use this to incrim­in­ate you later.
  • Under COV­ID-19 related laws, you can leg­ally gath­er in groups of 6 or less – travel in groups of less than 6 so they can­not invoke these laws against you.
  • If you’re stopped by police, nor­mally you don’t need to tell them your name, what you are doing or where you are going, BUT – some police have used refus­al to answer ques­tions as reas­on to believe you are breach­ing corona vir­us rules.
  • If you are gath­er­ing in a group of more than 6, the police have the power to ask you to dis­perse or return home, and YOU COULD BE ARRES­TED OR FINED if you don’t. Police should give you the chance to go home vol­un­tar­ily

STOP AND SEARCH

  • You DO NOT need to give your name and address under stop and search power.
  • Leg­ally police must tell you the reas­on and the power that you are being searched under. Again, police have been using COVD-19 rules to not adhere to this, so be care­ful.

IF YOU ARE ARRESTED

  • Before arrest, the police should explain that you’re being arres­ted, what offence you are being arres­ted for, and why the arrest is neces­sary
  • Say “NO COM­MENT” to all police ques­tions includ­ing in ‘cas­u­al chats’, when book­ing in and inter­views until you have free advice from a soli­cit­or with spe­cial know­ledge about protests
  • You may wish to give your name, address and date of birth to speed up release. If asked your NATION­AL­ITY you DO NOT need to give it. For your own pro­tec­tion and that of oth­er people DO NOT answer any fur­ther ques­tions.
  • You should say “NO COM­MENT” because the lan­guage police use, and that is used by pro­sec­utors, is not ‘nor­mal’ lan­guage – they can flip this to use against you at a later time.
  • In gen­er­al, for protest related offences, the max­im­um time you can be detained is 24 hours without charge – don’t be intim­id­ated by police to co-oper­ate, as this is the very max­im­um they can hold you without char­ging you, and even then, in most cases (not related to ser­i­ous viol­ence, or if you have ser­i­ous pre­vi­ous offences) you will be bailed.
  • DO NOT accept a CAU­TION without advice from a recom­men­ded soli­cit­or
  • You have the right to tell someone about your arrest and an inter­pret­er if Eng­lish is not your first lan­guage
  • If you are or appear under 18 an appro­pri­ate adult should be called

SOLICITORS WITH EXPERIENCE IN DEALING WITH PROTEST CASES

 ITN SOLI­CIT­ORS: 0203 909 8100

HODGE JONES & ALLEN: 0844 848 0222

COM­MONS: 02038655403

BIND­MANS: 02073055638

IF YOU WITNESS AN ARREST OR WANT LEGAL ADVICE ABOUT PROTESTS

Leg­al observ­ers are inde­pend­ent volun­teers who gath­er evid­ence on behalf of pro­test­ers and act to counter police intim­id­a­tion and mis­be­ha­viour. Read more about your rights and protest legis­la­tion: www.greenandblackcross.org

There have been many examples, espe­cially in the 2011 upris­ings over the murder of Mark Dug­gan, of police and pro­sec­utors using CCTV and phone cam­era foot­age of small, meni­al ‘offences’ to pur­sue ser­i­ous charges dur­ing a protest, such as throw­ing a plastic bottle as ‘viol­ent dis­order’, or tak­ing a pack­et of chew­ing gum from an already smashed shop front as ‘loot­ing’. One of the vet­er­an protest­ors told us: “If people believe they have done any­thing in self-defence that they feel could be used to incrim­in­ate them, they should take steps to avoid this, such as throw­ing away the clothes they wore that day”. This view does not rep­res­ent the views of I Am Hip Hop, but we are aware that many, many inno­cent people have been wrongly accused of crimes through the years, and sim­il­ar cloth­ing and oth­er fals­i­fied evid­ence has been used to wrongly incrim­in­ate them.

So, over the next few days, weeks and months, please read and share this advice, take care, stay safe, have each other’s backs and stay strong. We will update this with any addi­tion­al advice as it comes in, so please con­tact us if there are things you think we should add.

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