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My complaint to Sussex Police re their handling of protest at WPUK Brighton Meeting

(669 Posts)
WomanBornNotWorn Mon 03-Feb-20 11:01:00

I was at the WPUK meeting in Brighton in September.

It was targeted by a group of protestors rather bigger than Saturday's London bunch - well, that one was just a little posy ...

They kicked and punched the windows for several hours, while Julie Bindel's video shows police officers staring into space:

I submitted a complaint that the officers allowed it to go on for a long time (watch the WPUK videos on You Tube and you'll hear it).

I've now received the detailed response from the police:

"Following your complaint, made regarding the actions of Sussex Police in dealing with a protest at a Woman’s Place UK meeting in Brighton on 23 September 2019, I have now completed my enquiries.

In your complaint you explained that you were unhappy that the officers who attended the incident at the Woman’s Place meeting took no action to prevent the disruption from protesters and stood by while protesters were shouting and banging on the windows of where the meeting was taking place.

Chief Inspector Sproston was the Public Order Silver Commander during the event, he held full responsibility for the actions of the staff who reported to him and he provided a report following the event.

The Bronze Commander was Inspector Lovell who was on the ground with the Public Order teams, he provided me with an account of the event.

Chief Inspector Sproston was fully aware of the problem caused by protestors at a previous WPUK meeting in the city and the requirements for public order policing. He and Inspector Lovell held a briefing prior to the event and formulated a plan to manage the protest against WPUK using the Protest Liaison Team (PLT).

The agreed venue, which WPUK had arranged for the meeting, was at the Odeon cinema. This afforded complete security with no access to the protestors once inside the venue. However on the evening of the event, the Odeon management declined to allow WPUK to hold their meeting there and the venue was changed. WPUK organisers had already identified a secondary location which Sussex Police were unaware of until they were informed of the venue changed half an hour before the meeting was due to start.

Inspector Lovell deployed his staff to the new venue at the BMECP Centre in Fleet Street using the same plan as was intended at the Odeon. Protestors were already at the venue and a public order team were sent to the front of the building. There were also four security staff employed by WPUK at the front, controlling entry to the building. The initial approach had been to use the PLT to try and engage with the protestors and they deployed as soon as they arrived at the new venue.

As the meeting progressed, part of the protest group went to the rear of the premises where the windows to the meeting room were at ground level. The protestors began banging on the windows and the PLT asked them to stop. When the banging escalated Inspector Lovell sent two Public Order Teams to form a cordon in front of the windows.

The protestors continued shouting and chanting at the front and the rear of the premises. Residents from the flats above threw water down onto the protestors, which also covered some of the Police Officers, but it could not be ascertained exactly which flat it had come from.

Chief Inspector Sproston had considered a number of things when making his assessment. The venue had been moved, with no notice, to a location that police had not been able to carry out a reconnaissance at. Their public order assessment had been for the Odeon cinema which had one manageable entrance and resources available to deal with that. Chief Inspector Sproston is confident that had there been a consultation on the new site, it would not have been recommended by police.

WPUK have the right to hold a meeting and not be subject to serious disorder, damage or disruption to the community. The protestors have the right to protest under articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act. Freedom of Expression under article 10 is applicable to the expression of views that may shock, disturb or offend the deeply held beliefs of others. This does however, have to be balanced against the rights of WPUK.

Chief Inspector Sproston considered imposing section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 as the banging on the windows could have been interpreted as being intended to intimidate WPUK members with a view to compelling them not to hold their meeting, which they had a right to do.

Section 14 would have allowed the senior officer present to stipulate the location, duration and numbers of people allowed to protest. There was no suitable place to direct the protestors to as any place which would not have affected the venue of the meeting, would have meant the protestors would have been completely out of sight of the venue. This would have effectively stopped the protest and not just restricted its effect which is not in the spirit of articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Humans Rights Act. In turn this would have not stood up to scrutiny or challenge.

Although the protestors were loud, the meeting did go ahead and there were no reports of serious disorder, serious damage to property or disruption to the life of the community.

Public nuisance under common law was also considered. However this offence constitutes injury, loss or damage to the public in general. Undoubtedly the protestors were a nuisance by their presence but they did not commit this offence.

Inspector Lovell reported that there was no effort on behalf of the protestors to damage or enter the building. No one was prevented from entering or exiting the building and the meeting was able to go ahead.
There were 6 phone calls to police between 18:30 and 21:00, four from people inside the venue and two from third parties who were not in attendance.

The first caller was at 18:37 expressing concerns over people outside shouting. During the call they told the call taker that police were arriving on scene.

The second caller was at 19:15 concerned about the banging on windows. During the call they advised the call taker that police were now inside the building and helping.

The next two callers were also from inside the venue who expressed concerns about the banging on windows. One was at 19:24 and another at 19:27 who said that she was scared to leave the venue due to protestors smashing on the glass.

The last two callers were from third parties who had been in contact with people inside the venue. They were alerting the police to the banging on windows. One call was at 20:32 and the other at 20:54

There was only one call from a local resident at 21:20 complaining about the noise from the protestors. However Sussex Police were aware and monitoring the social media posts.

I have viewed Body Worn Video footage from several officers at the event. I have also viewed the video footage obtained by the Public Order Evidence Gathering Team (EGT).

At 19:09 the EGT footage showed a small group at the rear of the building with a few of the protestors banging on windows with their hands. The PLT were speaking with the protestors.

At 19:27 the EGT footage showed a larger group gathering at the rear and many of them were banging on the windows with their hands. The public order teams formed a cordon in front of the windows and the officers were physically pushing the protestors away from the building in order to prevent a Breach of the Peace.

At 19:30 BWV footage showed the officers getting between the protestors and the building to form the cordon, preventing the protestors from banging on the windows. Although some banging could be heard in the background, it was unclear where this was coming from. The footage continued until 20:20 and showed the officers with their backs against the building. The protestors formed a line in front of the police, with their backs to them whilst they continued to shout and chant.

At 21:09 BWV footage showed a protestor telling the group to go to the front of the building as the meeting was coming to an end. She told the protestors make sure they filmed the police and got their ID numbers.

At 21:11 BWV footage showed the police cordon between the protestors and the building, leaving a clear walkway for the attendees to leave the meeting. The protestors continued shouting until everyone had left the building.

The protestors were creating a lot of noise and their chants were not only against WPUK, they included obscenities aimed at the police. The footage supports the reports made by Chief Inspector Sproston and Inspector Lovell. There was no violence and no serious disorder.

Using the core principles, and legal framework set out by the College of Policing in their Authorised Professional Practice, I am satisfied that the event was policed lawfully, proportionately and appropriately.

The Professional Standards Department will retain a copy of your complaint and the local resolution outcome."

OP’s posts: |
WomanBornNotWorn Mon 03-Feb-20 11:01:45

OP’s posts: |
justcly Mon 03-Feb-20 12:17:59

I wonder if the police considered the individual crime of harassment in respect of those banging on the windows? They seem to have wholly focused on crowd control and the laws pertaining to mass protest.

TruthOnTrial Mon 03-Feb-20 13:06:53

That police report only mentions females. There were the women at the wpuk meeting.

I know many that were prevented from getting to that because of intimidation and aggression, something the police seem to be denying in that letter; the actions of aggression, intimidation and possible damage through actively banging on glass are apparently all female.

The protestors, and 'she' all the time is not reporting reality.

This sounds like women being extremely aggressive and intimidating, but was it male voices shouting, or female? Was it a woman hitting glass with a woman's strengh or male strength - very different in terms of potential harm, resultant damage, and perception of actual threat.

Afaik women are not harrassing and intimidating trans meetings in this way (and they can't physically, because they're women), but this is a pattern of intimidating and aggressive behaviour facilitated by police instead of actions against the perps, despite the perps also aiming their agression directly at the police, an arrestable offence I thought

Hats off to wpuk that they conducted their meeting successfully under those hostile conditions.

OldCrone Mon 03-Feb-20 13:15:42

The police seem to be blaming the women who organised the meeting for changing the venue at the last minute. Why did the original venue cancel? Other venues have cancelled meetings because of threats of violence by anti-women activists. Was that the case here?

ScrimshawTheSecond Mon 03-Feb-20 13:32:04

What was the problem with the venue? Women should surely be able to meet and discuss our rights in most places, I cannot see that it's up to women meeting to ensure their location is fortified with lockdown security.

Is that a tacit admittal that the police failed to adequately protect the women at the meeting? What buildings are suitable for women to meet at to peacably discuss their rights, in 2020?

SapphosRock Mon 03-Feb-20 13:32:22

I've been to both the WPUK meetings in Brighton - both heavily protested. It's a shame so much police time and resource had to be dedicated to managing these events. As a Brighton resident I can think of a lot better things the police could be doing.

To be clear I don't condone any type of violent protest. The banging on the windows was totally unnecessary.

What I don't understand is why WPUK choose to have these meetings in the centre of Brighton - the UK city most densely populated with trans people? It's as if WPUK want the protests to occur in order to show how angry and aggressive trans people are to women.

If this is a deliberate tactic then it is quite clever and has worked well, but is using up a lot of police time.

If it's not deliberate then may I suggest to any WPUK organisers reading this that Tunbridge Wells is just down the road and I doubt the protesters would bother traveling that far. If WPUK truly want a peaceful meeting then I suggest not doing it in the centre of the most trans friendly city in the UK.

littlbrowndog Mon 03-Feb-20 13:35:53

Say what sapphos?

Are you saying women can meet to discuss women’s rights only where you say ?

OldCrone Mon 03-Feb-20 13:36:02

What I don't understand is why WPUK choose to have these meetings in the centre of Brighton

This particular meeting was held to coincide with the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

OldCrone Mon 03-Feb-20 13:39:18

If it's not deliberate then may I suggest to any WPUK organisers reading this that Tunbridge Wells is just down the road and I doubt the protesters would bother traveling that far.

But neither would the people attending the conference.

If WPUK truly want a peaceful meeting then I suggest not doing it in the centre of the most trans friendly city in the UK.

Women have to first consider the people who hate them when deciding where to meet?

thehorseandhisboy Mon 03-Feb-20 13:39:56

There are also lots of women in Brighton.

Why on earth shouldn't they meet there?

SapphosRock Mon 03-Feb-20 13:43:30

As the event in summer 2018 was heavily protested it is logical to assume the 2019 one would be too.

I don't know if the organisers welcomed the protest or not, just saying a different location would make it much less likely.

TruthOnTrial Mon 03-Feb-20 13:45:28

I had meant to also make that point oldcrone as that came across to me that it was the fault of the wpuk for changing venue last minute, when in fact the odeon let them down last minute. The odeon need to be open about why they dropped a womens group?

Afaik Brighton also run a huge refuge operation across brighton for women, it seems an eminently appropriate place for women to be represented.

Brighton is not owned by trans or gay, its just very accepting of all, and I am shocked at a comment against wpuk in this way.

Why wouldn't they, the same as many high profile organisations, meet in a high profile place.

Should they hide away, where they are less in the public eye. No.

Those trans protestors are showing everyone exactly how nasty, aggressive and intimidating [and feeling threatened by women] they are.

Floisme Mon 03-Feb-20 13:49:44

I think must have misunderstood because I am sure you cannot seriously be suggesting that this behaviour is the responsiblity of WPUK and not the protestors themselves?

littlbrowndog Mon 03-Feb-20 13:55:54

I am shocked that you sapphos are saying that women should be notbe able to meet anywhere there might be a protest about women meeting to talk about women’s rights

It’s a brave new world.

No hate no fear

Keep us out of sight. Really ?

Michelleoftheresistance Mon 03-Feb-20 13:58:46

If the behaviour of these gender identity ideology extremists can only be managed by meetings they don't like being held in:

a) places less likely to be travelled to and
b) buildings pre approved by the police who don't then cave to the relentless harassment of said extremists, forcing the meeting to a last minute change of venue....

and it is left to the responsibility of whoever happens to be the target of said extremists' ire to manage the above in advance,

frankly haven't the police agreed that they can't effectively meet this anti social behaviour, that others must change their behaviour to avoid it since the police can't/won't effectively challenge it, and the behaviour, including public disorder, intimidation, prevention of legal meetings etc is therefore pretty successful in its goals? Which means basically a failure of the police to uphold the law?

No, GC women should not 'manage' the situation to 'manage' the appalling behaviour of these extremists. It's not their problem.

Michelleoftheresistance Mon 03-Feb-20 14:01:06

This behaviour also incidentally is why many universities etc are deplatforming and cancelling because risk assessments (and probably police advice) show an inability to control it.

First rule of behaviour management: if the behaviour works, it won't change.

Second rule of behaviour management: if you're gutless about boundaries and consequences, the behaviour won't change.

Maybe the Police could do with a bit of 123 Magic training.

SapphosRock Mon 03-Feb-20 14:02:12

WPUK had the right to hold the meeting and the protestors had the right to protest.

There's another thread on here about starting a campaign to repeal the GRA altogether. Many attendees of WPUK support this thinking, I heard so in the meetings.

This is directly in conflict with trans rights and Brighton is full of trans people so the protest can hardly have come as a surprise.

I am sure holding a meeting about repealing environmental laws would attract the same types of protest in Brighton - most people here vote Green.

Umyeahnah Mon 03-Feb-20 14:02:55

I thought the reply was good, and it was obviously well investigated.

Crowd control is fraught with difficulty and decisions do need to be made quickly, weighing up the crowd mood, risk, etc.

Pointing out the venue change at short notice was valid and I didn't read it as a criticism, just a fact.

I'm happy to close that particular chapter. The police were not impeccable, but neither to I detect any particularly biased actions from them. In this case.

Floisme Mon 03-Feb-20 14:03:58

Thank you for your response but I'm still not sure whom you hold responsible for the behaviour of the protestors?

OldCrone Mon 03-Feb-20 14:08:31

This is directly in conflict with trans rights

You must have misunderstood SapphosRock. Nobody is suggesting taking rights away from trans people. They already have the same rights as everybody else. What rights do you think we want to take from them? If you say clearly what rights you think we want to take from them, perhaps we can put your mind at rest.

If they are demanding additional privileges over and above the rights that everyone else has, they should be described as such. Additional privileges are not rights.

Michelleoftheresistance Mon 03-Feb-20 14:11:21

No, it's not in conflict with trans 'rights' - the 'rights' being demanded are not rights and exist for no other group of people.

No, it's not like repealing environmental laws: the GRA as it stands is being repurposed, as it currently stands it serves no useful purpose at all as gay marriage and pensions inequalities have been sorted.

51% of the population of Brighton are female, and the privileges being sought by the gender identity extremist lobby actively remove rights from females without consultation with females in a way that will severely impact this population.

The anger and protest of women can't be much of a surprise to the GIE lobby either. And it isn't those women hammering on windows, intimidating and harassing trying to prevent perfectly legal meetings taking place.

TruthOnTrial Mon 03-Feb-20 14:13:05

I think it was blaming.

As usual, agree with Michelle

The police route is to tell those having legitimate meetings to discuss rights currently in legal existence being eroded, to slope off elsewhere, and are effectively owning up to saying the protestors would have succeeded in shutting down the meeting had wpuk not had a backup venue.

How far do they have to go in 2020 to speak about womens rights without fear of intimidation and threatened harms which were very evident.

Why should all those living in the flats above have to endure this, without any idea of what was happening.

If there's a well organised demo, its clear to all whats happening. That certainly wasn't this, to the point of those outside calling 999 and one resident hurling water at the protestors.

They weren't protestors, because they didn't behave like protestors, they were aggressors, and antagonists.

OldCrone Mon 03-Feb-20 14:16:46

Pointing out the venue change at short notice was valid and I didn't read it as a criticism, just a fact.

Not necessarily. If the venue was changed as a result of the action of the people who protested outside the new venue, then they were to blame for the change of venue. Which is why I would like to know why the venue was changed.

This is a possible scenario:

TRAs harass venue causing them to cancel

WPUK find another venue at the last minute which is less secure and they haven't discussed security with the police in advance

TRAs harass women attending the meeting

Police say it's the women's fault for changing the venue

If this is what happened do you see why the police mention of change of venue is unfair?

SapphosRock Mon 03-Feb-20 14:18:18

Floisme what do you mean by behaviour? The chanting or the banging?

The chant I heard from the protestors was 'when trans rights are under attack what do we do? fight back'

Trans rights are under attack from WPUK, nobody is claiming otherwise and the protestors had every right to make that protest. Therefore WPUK and the protestors hold joint responsibility for the chanting.

The banging on the window? Totally out of order and the responsibility of whoever did it.

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