G20: CND call on police to respect the right to protest

by Steven A Kearney

Ahead of next week’s G20 summit in London, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) has called on the police to adhere to the findings of a parliamentary report and respect ‘the right to peaceful protest’.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights report issued today described police management of recent protests as ‘increasingly heavy handed’ and said anti-terror legislation had been ‘misused’ by police to restrict protests.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the CND, said, “We hope that all those policing protests around the G20 will bear in mind the committee’s findings.  We are concerned that putting ever increasing barriers in the way of campaigners and deepening the intrusiveness of policing at protests will prove corrosive to society, discouraging participation in one of the most basic forms of democracy”.

The G20 summit takes place on April the 2nd at the Excel Centre in London’s docklands, where world leaders will gather to discuss banking and economic issues, including the possible reform of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Protesters and police clash in Edinburgh city centre during the G8 summit in 2005
Protesters and police clash in Edinburgh city centre during the G8 summit in 2005

There are already a number of protests planned during the gathering by groups such as Stop The War, Put People First and Camp for Climate Action.  Police forces have been criticised in the past for their handling of similar protests, such as those during the G8 meeting at Gleneagles in July 2005, where a giant fence was built around the entire complex.  700 people were arrested and the joint UK/US security operation cost a reported £100m.

The parliamentary committee, which heard evidence from many protest groups and journalists as part of its research, reported that the use of riot police is often unnecessary and is “encouraging conflict rather than co-operation between protesters and the police”.

Further to this, the committee criticised police actions in using legislation designed to combat terrorism when policing protests.  The report stated that, “counter-terrorism measures should not be used against peaceful protesters”.

There has so far been no response from the police to the report.

The CND declared the purpose of their protest is to urge world leaders to “End the siege of Gaza and Palestine, Get the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, make jobs not bombs, abolish all nukes and stop arming Israel”.

Police have proposed an exclusion zone around the Excel Centre for security reasons.

UK police forces facing similar protests in recent years have been keen to stress the need to balance the right to protest with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of the wider public.  It is this balance which will determine whether this G20 summit is remembered for its policies or its protests.