by Daphne Liddle
THE METROPOLITAN Police plans to use controversial pre-emptive arrests during the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to prevent any possible disruption of the events.
Met Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison claims this will be nothing more than the policy already adopted for the Notting Hill Carnival, where known pickpockets, thieves and gangs who are likely to be intending to attend are pre-emptively arrested before the event and released without charge afterwards.
The police claim they have foreknowledge of these people’s criminal intentions – possibly even before the “criminals” themselves have made up their minds what they intend to do.
And certainly there is a real case for pre-emptively arresting someone like the notorious neo-Nazi Tony Lecomber who, in 1981, was arrested for plotting to explode a bomb at the Notting Hill Carnival after information was passed to the police by the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight.
Plotting to carry out a terrorist attack like that is in itself a crime.
But the Met are now into the policy of arresting people who might be about to commit a crime on the basis of their opinion of that person.
Furthermore they intend to arrest any protesters, including peaceful protesters, who might disrupt the games. Allison said the police would not arrest “law-abiding protesters” but this definition is restricted to those who have informed the police in advance and have been told exactly where they may stand – probably a very long way from anywhere they might be seen by more than a handful of people.
Last year, just before the royal wedding, 20 people were pre-emptively arrested in four separate locations on the ground that they were suspected of being about to commit breaches of the peace.
Their case is currently under a judicial review at the High Court. Those arrested include members of the “Charing Cross 10” who were on their way to a republican street party, the “Starbucks Zombies” who were arrested from an Oxford Street branch of Starbucks for wearing zombie outfits, and a man who was simply walking in London and was arrested because he was a “known activist”.
All were released without charge after the event. But anyone arrested in similar circumstances during the Olympics might have to wait several weeks before the events are over.
Hannah Eiseman-Renyard, from Occupy London, voiced concerns that plans for pre-emptive strikes might target legitimate protesters hoping to use the Olympics to highlight a cause. “The definition of protest currently seems to be synonymous with disruption and criminality,” she added.
Police and intelligence officers are also carrying out checks on more than half a million people coming to the Olympics. This includes the competitors and their entourage as well as stewards, security guards, catering and cleaning workers and ticket-holding spectators.
There has been a lot of focus on the teams from Syria including members of the Syrian Olympic committee with close links to the Assad government – as though it was a crime for the Syrian Olympic Committee to have links with its own elected government.
MI5 says that, so far as it knows, no know Al Qaeda supporters have tried to become stewards or other workers at the games. This illustrates the point that real terrorists could be very hard to identify in advance but legitimate political protesters are easy to spot because they make their views publicly known – so police and intelligence services will focus on the easy targets.
Another sinister aspect of the policy of pre-emptive arrests is that the arrest is, police acknowledge, meant to have a “chilling effect” – in other words it is used to deter people from attending legitimate political protests in future.