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Highgate pair trapped in G20 call for police reform

PUBLISHED: 13:41 01 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:09 07 September 2010

Sarah Cope and Anna Bragga

Sarah Cope and Anna Bragga

Tan Parsons PEACEFUL protesters from Highgate who spent a terrifying two-hour ordeal trapped at the G20 demonstrations are calling for an overhaul of police procedure. Anna Bragga, 43, and Sarah Cope, 30, attended the protests in the City on April 1. The

Tan Parsons

PEACEFUL protesters from Highgate who spent a terrifying two-hour ordeal trapped at the G20 demonstrations are calling for an overhaul of police procedure.

Anna Bragga, 43, and Sarah Cope, 30, attended the protests in the City on April 1.

The Met has come under fire for heavy-handed tactics including an alleged assault on Ian Tomlinson who later died.

The pair attended the demo with the Haringey Green Party. They decided to leave when the atmosphere became threatening and the crowd got thicker. But riot police stopped them.

Environmental activist Ms Cope, of Summersby Road, said: "The minute we got off the 214 bus, police questioned us for 10 minutes then radioed through to check we didn't have any criminal convictions.

"Less than an hour later, we were being treated as though we were criminals.

"I have been on numerous protests and marches over the years and have never experienced this attitude from the police before. They were in a confrontational and aggressive mood right from the start."

They were confronted by a line of police who barred their way, enclosing them in with the rest of the protesters.

"A policeman told me I couldn't leave and shoved my backpack," said Ms Cope. "We were basically held prisoner when we'd done nothing wrong.

"There were children and babies, and people started throwing things that included glass bottles. We're not anti-police - I can see they need to be there to make sure any troublemakers are kept in line. But there's a way of doing it and it doesn't involve keeping people prisoner."

Ms Bragga, of Shepherd's Hill, a member of the group Defend Peaceful Protest, said: "I have a phobia of getting crushed in tight crowds so we decided to stay at the back. The police looked very pushy and aggressive and we weren't allowed to leave. It was a really terrifying ordeal."

After two hours, they were finally allowed out of the crush when Ms Bragga produced her National Union of Journalists card for the second time.

Today, the pair visit City Hall to lobby the Metropolitan Police Authority and demand an urgent reform of how protests are policed, with a review of the training and recruitment of riot officers.

Ms Bragga added: "The protesters should at least be given access to loos and a peaceful exit procedure, as well as access to food and water. There needs to be better liaison between protesters and police.

"We need to rediscover the democratic right to peaceful protest. This is a really important time because we take this for granted. But it is seriously under threat. We risk going down the road of a police state.

"We want to see new human rights guidelines for police so they can protect and facilitate peaceful protest rather than just shut it down."

They have also enlisted the support of London Assembly Member Jenny Jones, who has called for an HM Inspectorate of Constabulary review to take evidence from every party concerned, including protesters, and to consider the growing concern that police tactics have become more aggressive in recent years. The review into police actions during the protests is being conducted by the Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

tan.parsons@hamhigh.co.uk


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