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Now comes the test! Protesting against London2012

Given there’s a little under 35 days to go until #ProtestJuly28 against the Corporate Olympics it’s worth remembering the last experience of demonstrating against the Olympics.

Back on 5th April 2011 a small group from the Counter Olympics Network, including a few from Games Monitor, gathered outside the IOC’s Sport Accord get together at the Park Plaza Hotel at the south end of Westminster Bridge. There were several demos while the event was on including one by Playfair and another by a delegation from France opposing the Annecy bid for the 2018 Winter Games.

Our demo consisted of us unfurling a sheet with NO OLYMPIC CON 2012 written on it. We also inscribed a message NOSOCHI2014.

Sport Accord Demonstration banner

Sport Accord Demonstration banner

Initially we held the banner pointing away from the hotel and no-one at the meeting seemed greatly bothered. But a little while after we turned it around to face the hotel the police came and told us we had to leave the forecourt. The hotel had asked for us to be moved. We asked if we were obstructing anyone and were told no, it was because we were on private property.

Sport Accord Demonstration

Sport Accord Demonstration

The French delegation were told the same thing as the video demonstrates. Annecy was later defeated by Pyeongchang which led to celebrations among the Allobroges.

We decided to move and three of us went for a cup of tea only to find the police were following us and were peering around a corner nearby to see what we were up to!

I decided to complain about this to the Metropolitan Police as trespassing on private property is not a criminal matter and we were not causing any obstruction. I hadn’t taken any of the officers’ numbers but didn’t think that should pose a problem, especially as the video and the photograph provided identification for at least some of the officers.

However, the police dismissed the complaint on the grounds that they couldn’t identify who had been on duty and thus could not verify the grounds for us being asked to move, this even though police had been on duty throughout the Sport Accord event. After I persisted with the complaint a second investigation discovered who was in charge and the investigating officer agreed that we should not have been asked to move.

However, he still felt it was reasonable for the police to follow us after we had left the scene as we might have been planning some further action which could have impacted on this IOC event. I pointed out that our initial action had not disrupted the IOC meeting, even though we were near the building, and we had left peaceably even though we shouldn’t have been asked to move, so it was difficult to see why the officers should be concerned about a possible action even further away!

So, now we come to the main event. Peaceful protest, we are constantly told, is part of our democratic system and should befacilitated. We will wait and see if the authorities choose to assist or impede the Counter Olympics action against the Corporate Games.

Julian Cheyne

Filed under: policing & civil liberties


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