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Five activists arrested while trying to stop a fascist march on the Cenotaph walked free from court yesterday following their landmark legal triumph over the Metropolitan police.
They were among 59 anti-fascists arrested on Whitehall while trying to prevent members of the British National Party descending on Britain’s war memorial last June.
The Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service singled out the five for prosecution under the Public Order Act.
But the case against them collapsed at the first day of the trial at Westminster magistrates’ court when the prosecution’s key witness failed to turn-up.
The Star understands the judge turned down a request for the case to be adjourned to a later date.
Defend the Right to Protest spokeswoman Hannah Dee said it was a “remarkable” turn of events given that the Met and CPS have had months to prepare the case.
She told the Star: “It was a test of tactics the police are increasingly using at protests.
“They apply section 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act, mass arresting but not charging the vast majority and going for a small number of activists.
“We felt this was a very important test case and it has essentially collapsed.”
The landmark verdict was also welcomed as “excellent news” by Green MP Caroline Lucas.
Ms Lucas has joined Labour MP John McDonnell and trade unionists in supporting the campaign against the criminalisation of anti-fascist protesters.
She was arrested along with her son and other environmental activists under the Public Order Act for blockading a road leading to a fracking site in Sussex last August.
And she expressed “deep concern” that the Act was being used to criminalise peaceful protests.
“Many of these protesters had restrictive bail conditions imposed on them which prevents them from future protests against fascism,” she said.
“Moreover, these insidious bail conditions that are being applied undermine our democracy, which was fought for and won, in no small part, by people protesting peacefully.”
Goldsmiths College student Soren Goard was among the five activists acquitted yesterday.
He explained how he was dragged past fascists and into a police van with his trousers round his ankles after taking part in the protest to stop the BNP marching on the Cenotaph on Saturday June 1 2013.
Anti-fascist protesters moved out of the space designated for them by the police because it was over 150 metres away from the war memorial targeted by Nick Griffin’s racist party, he said.
“We weren’t aggressive and we remained there for the majority of the afternoon with no idea that the police had put in place Section 14 or Section 12” (of the Public Order Act).
“I was ready to go home because I didn’t think there was any bother. But then they started snatching people.
“They grabbed me by the neck, pushed my face into the floor and arrested me.
“They tore all my clothes in this process and marched me past Red Watch photographers with my trousers round my ankles.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesman would only confirm that “five people charged with breaking section 14 conditions imposed on an assembly in Whitehall on Saturday June 1 2013 had their case discontinued at Westminster City magistrates’ court.”
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