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G7 crackdown is ‘just the start’

Stifled summit protests a sign of things to come, warn Kill the Bill activists

HEAVY restrictions on anti-G7 protests are a “taste of things to come” if the Tories’ draconian policing Bill is passed, campaigners warned today at a Kill the Bill demo in Cornwall. 

As the summit came to a close, PM Boris Johnson’s message hailing G7’s progress and democractic values was undermined as police cracked down on protesters around the summit and campaigners warned world leaders had failed to deliver. 

Crowds rallied today outside the G7 media centre in Falmouth to condemn government moves to hand police more powers to crack down on peaceful protest. 

The protest came amid an intensive police operation against activists opposing the summit, with officers targeting those involved with raids, arrests and stop-and-search tactics. 

On Saturday afternoon, police raided a campsite where campaigners were staying, arresting 15 people after obtaining a warrant to search the site, and holding them in custody overnight. 

“We are all quite shaken because the camp was on private property and the people who were arrested had stayed there because they didn’t want to take part in the protest because they were older or they had dogs or they were going home to see their children,” Animal Rebellion activist Harley McDonald-Eckersall told the Morning Star. 

“I imagine [it was] quite a shock to have 60 police arrive to a camp of 15 with dogs.”

Devon and Cornwall Police said they arrested the 15 on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance after finding spray paint, scaffolding and “gas horns” at the site. 

However Ms McDonald-Eckersall said the paint was used to make protest materials such as banners while the scaffolding belonged to the landowner. 

The arrested activists are members of Animal Rebellion — an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion — which has been particularly targeted by police over the weekend. Almost half of the 60 members of the group who went to Cornwall have been arrested.

On Thursday seven Animal Rebellion members were arrested on suspicion of carrying items with intent to cause criminal damage after officers found “paint, smoke grenades and loudhailers” in the car.

But activists argue they were simply on their way to the beach, with some even wearing their bathing suits. 

Ms McDonald-Eckersall said it felt as if the police were “looking for anything they can find to stop us being here and stop our right to protest.”

Kevin Blowe from police monitoring group Netpol said the arrests “look like a surveillance-led targeting of the Animal Rebellion group.”

“The purported evidence for conspiracy to commit a public nuisance is thin – it seems more like an attempt to prevent people from protesting at all,” he said. 

Ms McDonald-Eckersall added that the crackdown raised “real concerns over the direction that policing is going in.

“We are seeing how intense police powers are already — that they have the ability to arrest people on very minimal grounds it seems,” she said. 

The group Kill the Bill Cornwall warned today that the policing operation around the G7 summit “is a taste of things to come if the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill goes ahead.”

The protest was held without police authorisation in an “exclusion” area. Protesters were only allowed to hold demos in four police-designated areas located miles away.

“Police-liaised, police-approved protest is not protest,” Kill the Bill Cornwall continued. “Our rights were won through noisy, disruptive and annoying protest.”

The rally came on the last of three days of protest against the G7.

Closing the conference, Mr Johnson said G7 nations need to demonstrate to the rest of the world the benefits of democracy and human rights. 

But campaigners and charities decried the G7 summit as a “historic missed opportunity.”

Extinction Rebellion, which on Sunday blocked the exit road from the summit, said pledges made by G7 leaders were “pathetic.

“We asked the leaders of the world to act now and all we’ve had are hollow words,” a spokesperson said. “We’re in no better position than before the G7 took place.”

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