tamil flag NOT proscribed, says SO15 unit (update)Tagged as: anti-militarism eelam flag parliament_square repression socpa solidarity sri_lanka tamil tamils westminster
police have been arresting tamils waving their national flag in parliament square. yesterday, maria (peacestrike.org.uk) tested the legality of this by standing outside new scotland yard and arguing it out on film when confronted by officers. this story is regularly updated as news develops.
while in detention at belgravia, maria was not able to see a solicitor for more than 14 hours. she was not interviewed for at least 20 hours. no reason for her prolonged detention was given, because under our draconian terrorist legislation, police can hold a flag-waver with impunity for up to 28 days
maria was NOT charged
she was however given a letter purporting to be from SO15 (counter terrorism command unit)
the letter was not dated, not signed, and no address or phone number was given
it stated that the crown prosecution service (cps) did not think a prosecution would serve the public interest (no shit, sherlock!), but that maria's actions on the 1st and 3rd (arrests leading to first 8 hours and then 24 hours detention) would be taken into account if she continued to act in ways likely to "arouse suspicion" that she may be in support of a proscribed terrorist organisation. if so, the cps "may" consider prosecuting in the future.
maria will be seeking legal advice
thurs 20.00 maria has finally just been released from belgravia police station after being held for 24 hours for waving a flag that a week ago we were categorically told on film was not proscribed and so she couldn't be 'processed' or arrested. during her detention, she was photgraphed from every angle, had her dna taken, her fingerprints, her handprints, and her footprints. she is no doubt on some terrorist database now. this is truly INSANE.
when she returned to the square tonight, she was greeted by two tamils waving eelam flags. so, it seems it's ok at night! has this perhaps got more to do with the sensibilities of our corrupt politicians and nothing to do with law?
ironic that this should occur around the anniversary of tiananmen square. while the western press tut tuts about human rights in china, our police are detaining people in our own parliament square for waving the flag of a repressed people.
weds night 19.15 maria has been flying the flag for nine hours now. police continue to wait for her to tire and come down. sergeant efobi (3075 CW) admits they are instructed to seize the flag and if necessary arrest maria. i tell him about SO15's clear info last week (that the flag is NOT proscribed), and ask him where his orders have come from. he refuses to speak publicly, but tells me privately that SO15 are issuing the instruction. he also refuses to give a name of who in SO15 is instructing him.
officer 3206 CW tells maria if she comes down the flag won't be seized. this turns out not to be true. she descends at 19.45, and, refusing to give up the flag willingly, she is arrested under section 13 again. sergeant efobi tells her she'll only be held a couple of hours, but she is taken to belgravia police station and is still not released by midnight.
tamil protesters tell me some tamils arrested have already had charges dropped. others have long bail times with conditions not to come to parliament square. i suspect on their rebail they will be told their charges are dropped too.
weds 17:00 maria is still up on the churchill statue flying the tamil eelam flag. police negaotiations have so far failed to get her down. several police are at the scene, and anyone trying to approach maria is aggressively moved away.
wednesday 10:30 maria climbs churchill statue and waves a tamil eelam flag there
tuesday 22:00 tamils flying flags tonight - with no politicians around, and in darkness, the police have of course left them alone.
by the way, the double barricades and sandbags have also gone overnight, so the square looks a little less like the sri lankan concentration camps the tamil people are now held in.
monday 19:00 maria was released from charing cross police station after the initial review period of six hours. she was held on suspicion of committing an offence under section 13 of the terrorism act 2000. she was interviewed by officers from SO15 terrorist command unit (the unit that stated last week the flag is not proscribed). she gave no comment. she has been released on police bail until september! so no urgency to resolve the question then. there were no conditions on her bail.
monday 13:45 maria has just been arrested for displaying tamil flag - she was first approached by a chief inspector who told her the flag was proscribed and she may be liable for arrest. she refused to take the flag down, but police moved in and broke the pole while tearing it down (criminal damage?). next, she showed her tamil eelam t-shirt, and as police stopped short of ripping that off her, insteadshe was then formally arrested by sergeant birmingham, a forward intelligence team officer. it is unclear at present exactly what the formal charge is. she was removed from the square in the back of a police car.
monday 13:00 maria has issued a press release and is intending to hoist a flag again in defiance of this morning's policing.
monday morning 7am as predicted last night, with the the return of parliament this morning, things have changed. a sergeant and two officers approached maria at 7am this morning. their superintendent was apparently going mad, and the flags had to come down or would be seized.
maria and the tamils decided to take down the several flags this morning for a while rather than have a pointless seizure at 7am. as said before - watch this space.
sunday night - more surreal developments yesterday maria was told by inspector whalley (pronounced "wally", honestly), that a flag fixed on a pole is ok under the law, but that anyone carrying or waving a flag is committing an offence. she was told exactly the same thing today by inspector marsh. and indeed, the flags on poles have stayed there all weekend, while there have been three cases, to our knowledge, of police hassling people waving the same flag.
on each of those three occasions, maria stepped in and took the flag from the protester, and police then took HER details, and in only one case also took the details of the protester. each time too, they have asked her to pose for the cctv cameras, to provide evidence of the offence, so no flags have been seized.
i'm not quite sure about the mechanics of getting a flag on a pole without having some human contact with it and so (however briefly) committing a terrorist offence, but clearly this weekend the police are happy with this legal quandary.
it also seems then that people could raise a hundred flags around the square, but ignoring these, police would chase the one person in the middle of the square (who you might not even be able to see through the forest of tamil flags!) for committing a heinous terrorist offence.
is this descending into farce or what?
meanwhile, there was also news of a protester stopped in southall today. he had two flags attached to his car. the police there seized the two flags (under the terrorism act), but didn't think to search the 'suspected terrorist's' car!
what a shocking oversight - they might have found a whole box of flags ready to explode.
parliament returns for more expensive business tomorrow. i suspect some idiot MP is going to have kittens when he sees the tamil flags flying on his way in to work, and he'll be on the phone to the (politically neutral, oh yes, of course) police.
watch this space.
sat 30th afternoon international committee against disappearances (ICAD) holding a panel discussion in the square with represeantatives from sri lanka, colombia, iraq, and the middle east. international music planned tonight, and a tent camp before workshops in the morning. flags flying proud.
saturday lunchtime despite yesterday's police notices, maria has been flying two tamil eelam flags now for more than 36 hours. the tamils have also flown two flags for the past 18 hours. this time the flags have not been seized. maria has helpfully emailed to belgravia police station photos of herself holding the flags, so that the police will not need to seize the actual flags in order to provide sufficient evidence against her (under PACE) in the unlikely event of a court case.
why do i say unlikely? because CPS lawyers have privately admitted that even if she were waving around a tamil tiger flag ( the actual proscribed one), that alone would not be enough to achieve a realistic likelihood of conviction under section 13, and so they would not proceed with the case.
so, the battle of the flags is sort of won, but the police can still create bad feeling and cause harassment in the square if and when they choose. see socpa ad passim ad nauseam for other examples of this style of policing.
friday 6pm police have just distributed newly printed notices around the square under the fluffy heading "communities together". the notices quote section 13 of the terrorism act 2000 part (1) as below, and adds "if you are found to be in breach of this legislation, you are liable to be summonsed or arrested and prosecuted. carrying, wearing or displaying any item bearing a symbol of or linked to the LTTE is an offence under the terrorism act 2000." there's a helpline number: 0800 028 2390 which is the 24-hour freephone 'communities together' help and advice line (rather than the anti-terrorist hotline).
while threatening arrest, the notices do not clear up the matter of the flag's status.
more vague threats then, and no real law.
friday 5pm police have changed mind yet again. the outcome of the meeting at new scotland yard is that the flag is once again proscribed.
does anyone suspect this decision may be political rather than legally based?
so, police will most likely continue seizing tamil flags, arresting only where absolutely necessary (and preferably using socpa or public order rather than the section 13 of the terrorism act that holding the flag is meant to contravene). i would guess too, that anyone charged will find their case mysteriously evaporates at a later date.
thus the authorities will try to keep getting their way without actually doing law.
friday 11.30am inspector adamson has now said that there will be a meeting to reach a 'final resolution' today between superintendent hartshorn, and SO15, the counter terrorism command unit.
supt david hartshorn is the head of the metropolitan police public order branch, and was recently infamous for his comments about G20 protests and his predictions of a 'summer of rage' with violence on the streets. shortly after his comments, police were involved in the killing of ian tomlinson at those G20 protests.
friday 29th VICTORY? the flag flew all night, and maria was visited this morning at 8am by inspector adamson. ms adamson had a piece of paper from SO15 showing an image of the red flag and stating that it WAS proscribed. she asked maria if it could come down. maria explained the situation that she wanted a court to decide if necessary, and so refused.
maria also took a photo of herself with the flag and emailed it to belgravia police station, so the police had evidence of the crime and would have no need in law to seize it as physical evidence. the inspector went away and made more calls.
at 8.45, inspector adamson returned and said that she had spoken again to SO15 and that they had now relinquished and agreed once more that it was NOT a proscribed flag. she also promised to let the next shift commander at parliament square know that this was now the official position, and she promised to try and get the new decree in writing from SO15.
there are now two flags proudly flying above the peacestrike display in parliament square
thursday 28th maria began flying the flag at 6pm this evening. she was visited by police, who filled in a 'stop and account' form. after first telling her that she may be arrested, some radio communication led to a change of plan, and they tried to reason with her and request her to take the flag down. she refused, and then she was asked to pose with the flag for the cctv cameras. the police then withdrew and most importantly, this time the flag was not seized.
at 10.20pm, the flag remains.
if at the weekend large crowds of tamils include some flag-bearers, it will not be possible for police to make unlawful seizures and arrests while maria's flag flies at the front of the square. watch this space for any updates.
maria flew the newly 'non-proscribed' tamil eelam flag this evening on a flagpole above her gaza vigil display in parliament square. at around 9.15, police (a sergeant and two other officers) warned her that if she didn't take it down in five minutes she would be 'processed'.
some time later, around 10pm, maria was 'processed' and her details taken. she was told she "may" be summoned. the flag was taken from her. she was not given any receipt or paperwork for the seizure, but was told it was being seized under section 13 of the terrorism act.
this is thought to refer to the 'terrorism act 2000':
(1) A person in a public place commits an offence if he—
(a) wears an item of clothing, or
(b) wears, carries or displays an article,
in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation.
(2) A constable in Scotland may arrest a person without a warrant if he has reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is guilty of an offence under this section.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to—
(a) imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months,
(b) a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or
on brief inspection, i can't find any power of seizure under this legislation. there are powers of seizure specifically mentioned in other parts, for instance to do with money laundering, or information connected to terrorism etc, but not uniforms or other articles.
police do have powers of seizure when criminal acts have been committed, but the officers did not rely on these in their explanation at the time.
no doubt, maria will test this further.
so, what exactly is going on here? SO15 have stated the flags are not those of a proscribed organisation and yet they are still being snatched on dubious grounds from parliament square.
are the police under government pressure to intimidate, minimise or close down the tamil protest, and if so, then doesn't that make our government complicit in the cover-up of genocide that even the UN has suggested may be going on in sri lanka.
after various checks were made, maria was told openly and on camera, that officers from SO15, the counter terrorism command, were clear that the flag she was displaying was NOT the flag of the proscribed tamil tiger organisation and so she could not be prosecuted, arrested, or processed for displaying it.
however, later that same day, police in parliament square said they were still under instruction to arrest. all attempts to have SO15 clarify and communicate with the officers have failed so far, with broken promises and unreturned telephone calls.
meanwhile, maria plans to attend belgravia police station today to report the previous theft of one of her flags by police officers.
there is a video posted in which an armed officer at new scotland yard confirms the SO15 ruling. parliament square police would be wise to watch it before taking any unlawful action against flag-bearers in the square.
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