Information professionals on the staff of the Inner Temple Library in London reported: “Anti-war campaigners whose coaches were prevented from joining a mass rally against the Iraq war have won their legal battle against police.”
‘The Friend’ (15.2.13): Judge says police action was ‘an interference with the right of ordinary citizens to go about their business’
Anti-war campaigners have just won a landmark case at the Central London County Court after ten years. In March 2003 approximately 159 protestors, including some Quakers, set out from Euston for the Fairford military aerodrome to protest against the war in Iraq. They were stopped by the police three miles from the venue and sent back to London under a police escort.
At the time the Fairford base was being used by the United States Air Force in the military campaign in Iraq. The police, in turning the buses back, denied the protesters the right to participate in a lawful protest.
The judge found that the claimants were deeply upset at not being allowed to go to Fairford to protest, embarrassed by the searches and the public nature of the police escort, which railroaded the coaches back to London, and that the experience of being trapped on a coach without being able to use the lavatory or being allowed to stop for water was intimidating and humiliating.
The claimants, represented by the leading London legal firm Bindmans, issued proceedings in March 2009. The claims are for damages and a declaration that there was a violation of the protesters’ right to freedom of expression and their right of peaceful assembly (Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights). The judgment is a resounding vindication of the protesters’ cases.
The judge, who saw film footage of the event, said that the claimants were ‘not acting in an aggressive or irresponsible way’ and that the police action was ‘an interference with the right of ordinary citizens to go about their business’.
The judge stated that he ‘also found that the protestors were cooperative’ and made reference to a Quaker from Wanstead Meeting House, observed in the film footage, in his judgment.
He said: ‘The vast majority of them, as this case has proved, were decent hardworking people who had never been in trouble with the police… to my mind their intentions were epitomised by a gentleman, who had a beard and appeared to be about sixty years of age, getting off one of the coaches with a sign attached around his neck. The sign read: “Wanstead Quakers. We totally oppose War. No ends can ever justify such means”. Surely the police officers dealing with this situation on the ground must have realised that they were not dealing with practiced, hard-line anarchists.’
Another account may be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/08/iraq-war-compensation-police-detention