Article published: Saturday, April 16th 2011
At about 1:00am last night (15 April) a group of around eight police officers attempted to forcefully enter the OK Café on Liverpool Road, Castlefield. MULE reporter Tim Hunt witnessed the events.
Much has been made about police tactics during peaceful protests over the past week as the inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson continues and the High Court ruled that the tactic of kettling was unlawful at the G20 protests in London. However these investigations appear to have had little effect on day to day policing, with officers frequently acting with impunity and outside of the law. Last night was no exception.
At around 1:00am a group of eight officers turned up at the OK Café opposite the Science and industry museum, claiming they had had complaints about the noise (environmental health visited an hour later and assured party goers and the police that there was no problem with noise levels). Those on the door refused the police entry to the squat, as was their right under Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act and those outside attempted to negotiate with the officers.
The officers stated that they would leave the scene if all those people outside, mainly smokers (it’s a non smoking space) and the few of us who had been to fetch supplies, would enter the premises so as not to disturb people in neighbouring buildings. This seemed a fair compromise.
At this point the situation very quickly escalated. As the door was opened a number of police officers rushed the door. Those on the inside massed behind the door in an effort to keep the police out, who, under Section 6, were now illegally attempting to enter the building.
The police failed in their bid to enter but during the mêlée one officer began to shout that his foot was caught in the door. Instead of officers helping to remove his foot more began to try and force the door open. At this point the situation turned from a drama into a minor crisis. At least two officers drew there battons and more police began to arrive at the scene.
One officer began to use his weapon to smash the windows around and in the door while three more officers continued to try and force their way inside. Another officer with his weapon drawn faced the revellers still standing outside the venue.
After two minutes ro so the officers realised that their attempts to enter the building were coming to nothing. The reinforced glass around the door wouldn’t go through and there were enough party goers inside the keep the door from opening. At this point more officers had arrived at the scene there were now around twenty police officers in five five vehicles, including one with police dogs. Liverpool Road was shut down.
A stand-off ensued for around five minutes, until a more senior officer arrived. Shortly after he appeared at the scene the majority of officers were ordered to leave. He acknowledged that the squat party was within its rights to continue and the incident was over.
However the polices attempts to enter the squat tell only half the story of their decent into illegality.
As is common now in circumstances such as these people began to film the incident on mobile phones and other devices. Unfortunately due to the light, or lack of it, the majority of devices were rendered useless – my smart phone included. However one man on the scene did have phone with a light and continued to record after others had given up. This man captured not only the mêlée at the door, but also an exchange between two officers and myself which occurred during the standoff following the police’s failed attempt to illegally enter the building.
I was standing a few feet away from the door attempting to record sound and images and give a commentary of what was happening into my phone. At this point an officer, with an aggressive tone and manner, asked me to leave the scene, I said I was a journalist and recording the events and well within my rights to do this. A second officer then stepped forward and asked me for ID: I flashed my National Union of Journalists card and stood my ground. The first officer then told me, “It’s just a bit of plastic its worth nothing here. ”
When I refused to move again the second officer began to push me down the steps. There was no reason for this attack, other members of the public were standing all around the police officers and no formal cordon had been made, I had broken no law and I was not causing an obstruction. It felt like intimidation pure and simple.
As I stumbled down the steps after the pushes from the officer I noticed that the incident was being filmed. 30 minutes after the incidents I found the man, John Charles Goratto, and recorded a short interview with him.
“They threw my camera onto the floor just because I was filming. The footage got erased because the policeman threw the phone and then stamped on it, it was totally erased by the police action. It doesn’t work, they broke my phone,” he said. “I felt the police were being very brutal and acting in a very uncoordinated way, with the excuse that the foot was shut in the door which was absolutely rubbish. This whole thing was a massive travesty of justice before our very eyes.”
He added that he will be making a complaint to the police on Monday, as will I.
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