Cop26 police tactics create atmosphere of fear, protesters say | Cop26


Accumulating incidents of police intimidation, harassment and assault on Cop26 activists create “an atmosphere of fear and repression” in the streets of Glasgow and have had a chilling effect on the protests, said activists and watch groups.

Organizers of Saturday’s march for climate justice in Glasgow also claimed police risk ‘chaos’ by failing to follow through on agreed-upon arrangements, while Scottish immigrant groups and native visitors described their feelings of discomfort and threat caused by the “saturation police” throughout the city.

The Guardian collected first-hand accounts from activists across Glasgow, who reported:

  • Threatened with arrest for displaying a banner in a train station.

  • An activist acting as a liaison with the police was given a blue identification bib to be worn by the organizers, but was later confiscated by a police officer and threatened with arrest for pretending to be for a policeman.

  • The organizer of an activist campsite has been threatened with arrest for “child neglect” after an officer saw families asking if they could stay there.

  • Police vans passing the site in the early hours of the morning detonated a horn and aimed a searchlight with the apparent intention of disrupting sleep.

  • An activist was reduced to tears after being followed into the men’s bathroom by three police officers.

Kat Hobbs, Network for Police Monitoring, said: “The Scottish police seem to have taken a saturation approach to controlling the Cop26 protests, and with so many officers and little to do, reports are pouring in of intimidation, police harassment. and aggressiveness. All of these little incidents add up to create an atmosphere of fear and repression, and they have a chilling effect on the right to protest.

These reports contrast sharply with Police Scotland’s repeated insistence that policing of protests be ‘human rights based’ and ‘welcoming, friendly and proportionate’.

Deputy Chief Constable Gary Ritchie said officers had ‘enjoyed a very positive engagement and constructive relationship with the vast majority of people’ who had come to Glasgow to ‘make their voices heard and engage in a peaceful protest’ .

Some activists believe that the UK’s aid officers, known for their tough tactics, are undermining Police Scotland’s approach.

On Monday, occupants of a disused building in Glasgow that was squatted to provide emergency accommodation for activists accused Metropolitan Police and Welsh forces of trying to break into the site with batons fired in the middle of at night, and reported that the situation was only calmed down when Scottish Police officers arrived.

A Police Scotland spokesperson confirmed that officers attended the building. However, Scottish police have denied that the operation was a raid or an attempt to force entry, or that a ram was used.

Scottish Police said service officers work under the command and control of their chief of police.

Before the summit began, many expected high-impact disruption from protest groups such as Extinction Rebellion. This did not happen, with organizers saying they wanted to stay focused on indigenous and youth voices, but despite this, XR activists told the Guardian they have been regularly followed and harassed by police since. their arrival in Glasgow.

During a protest against greenwashing last Wednesday, XR activists were immobilized by a police cordon for several hours. During this period – which activists called ‘bubbling’ because they couldn’t leave, and which Scottish police called ‘containment’ – people inside the cordon said they had no access to food or water, and the marshals had to build makeshift toilets. with streamers to allow people to relieve themselves over a drain.

Scottish Justice Minister Keith Brown, asked by the Scottish Greens in Holyrood on Tuesday about this and other reports of unrest, defended the police actions as “proportionate”. He said they had been discussed by the independent advisory group for Cop26, which was set up to inform the human rights-based approach. But other members of the group stressed that this is not a substitute for a legally mandated review of police actions.

Activists also raised concerns about policing during the climate justice protest last Saturday, in which at least 100,000 people marched through Glasgow city center. Organizers said they were promised that there would only be police liaison officers in blue jackets marching with the marchers, while officers in conventional yellow jackets would block roads if necessary.

But the stewards described the conventional police becoming more interventionist as the march progressed, dividing pre-established marching blocks without giving a reason and increasing tensions by stopping a section of marchers. After an initial delay in the departure of the first block of indigenous groups, stewards say conventional agents harassed marchers, including former indigenous people who needed breaks throughout the march, to make up for lost time.

Quan Nguyen, the Scottish coordinator of the activist group Cop26 Coalition, said: “For the majority, the march was always a positive experience, but this despite the actions of the police, which made our job as organizer much more difficult. Ironically, the police caused a lot more disruption that day than any activist. “

Ritchie thanked all the police, protesters and stewards “Since the start of the conference, the police have had over 1,000 engagements with people demonstrating and have made less than 100 arrests. We also helped ensure that two huge marches through the city were successfully held, ”said the deputy police chief.

“With the exception of a tiny minority of protesters who intended to create conflict and endanger public safety, all of these events were peaceful and, as a result, during the two-week conference we did made only a very small number of arrests. “

This article was amended on November 11, 2021 to clarify that the activist acting as a liaison with the police was given a blue identification bib to be worn by the organizers, and not by the police.

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