Grandmother strip searched & pepper-sprayed during Hastings road protests

January 15, 2013 by combehavendefenders

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Press Release, 15 January 2013
Combe Haven Defenders [1]

Campaigners express concern over police & security behaviour as protest camp eviction looms

Tuesday 15 January 2013: A grandmother campaigning against the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (BHLR) has been strip searched & pepper-sprayed by the police during protests against the Road, prompting activists to express concern over the behaviour of police & security during the eviction of the protest camps in Combe Haven valley.

Police have told protesters that these evictions will take place this week [2]. Other women, in their 60s, have been thrown to the ground by security guards, receiving head injuries.

The peaceful protests against the BHLR – the “first and the worst” of over 190 road projects that George Osborne, big business and local councils are pushing across England and Wales [3] – have received significant national media coverage over the past week [4].

“Sally” – who has been bailed to appear at Hastings police station this Friday (18 January) – was arrested by police on the afternoon of Saturday 15 December 2012 in Sidley, Bexhill. After police demanded her name and address and she refused, she was arrested, strip-searched, forcibly finger-printed and then not released until 1.40am the next morning. The police have no blanket power to demand names and addresses [5], strongly suggesting that her arrest – which they apparently justified by claiming, falsely, that she had been involved in “anti-social behaviour” – was unlawful. [6]

When “Sally” did return to take part in the protests on 8 January, she was pepper-sprayed in the face by the police during the removal of a protester who had climbed up a telegraph pole.

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On 7 Jan, Denise, a woman in her 60s from Rye, was twice thrown to the ground by security guards, falling backwards and hitting her head, and had to visit a health centre afterwards because of the resulting headaches and stiff neck.

Gabriel Carlyle, a spokesperson for the Combe Haven Defenders, said: “The failure of the democratic & legal processes to stop this environmentally disastrous £100m white-elephant project has forced people to resort to noble tradition of peaceful resistance. Every effort must now be taken to ensure that the police, security guards and bailiffs refrain from acting unlawfully and from brutalising those peacefully protesting in the valley.”

[5] For example, Liberty notes that while “under section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002 it is an offence for someone not to give their name and address to a police officer where the officer has reason to believe that the person is acting or has been acting in an anti-social manner. The police officer …  there is no justification for applying this power to someone who is peacefully protesting”. Protest – Your Rights, Liberty and NUS, 16 November 2011,
[6] Interviewed by the Combe Haven Defenders, “Sally” explained that on the 15 December she had not actually been taking part in the protests (which involved a small number of people peacefully sitting in trees that contractors were attempting to fell), but only gone down to see what was happening.

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