Armed police will use anti-terrorism powers to "deal robustly" with climate change protesters at Heathrow next week, as confrontations threaten to bring major delays to the already overstretched airport.
Up to 1,800 extra officers will be drafted in to prevent an estimated 1,500 people disrupting the airport over the period of the camp for climate change, which is due to begin on Tuesday. The police have been told to use stop and search powers against the protesters, who have pledged to take direct action on August 18 and 19 but not to endanger life.
(A) police report makes it clear that the government has encouraged police forces to make greater use of terrorism powers “especially the use of stop and search powers under s44 Terrorism Act 2000.” …
The civil rights group Liberty said it was alarmed at the police use of the anti-terrorism powers to deter peaceful protest. "Stop and search powers created to address the threat of terrorism should not be used routinely against peaceful demonstrators," said James Welch, Liberty's legal director.
The police tactics have echoes of the 2003 anti-war demo at RAF Fairford where law lords eventually ruled police had acted unlawfully in detaining two coachloads of protesters, who were stopped and searched and then turned back even though they were on their way to an authorised demonstration. Police used section 44 of the act 995 times at the Fairford peace camp, even though there was no suggestion of terrorist overtones.
The Guardian has established that at least two climate change campaigners have been arrested recently at Heathrow by officers using terrorism powers. Cristina Fraser, a student, was stopped when cycling near the airport with a friend and then charged under section 58 of the Terrorism Act. This makes it an offence to make a record of something that could be used in an act of terrorism.
It’s clear that between things like this and a country full of surveillance cameras that the home of civil liberties is turning its back on them, more and more.