Police have arrested up to 40 people in the course of weeklong Occupy Democracy protests outside the UK Parliament. Activists had originally set out to resist government austerity, poverty and inequality.
Hundreds of police officers have conducted often aggressive operations to remove protesters from Parliament Square and stop demonstrators from setting up camps.
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Those arrested have been charged under various public order bylaws, including the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. Police have used the laws to confiscate backpacks, umbrellas and pizza boxes, claiming these count as sleeping equipment.
Among those arrested were Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Green London Assembly Member Baroness Jenny Jones, who was later released without charge.
“I have never been arrested before and I didn’t expect it now. It was rough and I’m very shaken up. I am proud to say that my first arrest was in support of Occupy London, Occupy Democracy and everything they stand for,” Jones told organizers.
The heavy-handed reaction by authorities has transformed the protests into a movement for the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly – rights that activists and supporters feel have been trampled upon.
Comedian and self-styled revolutionary Russell Brand says the protests are a legitimate call for change.
“People are coming together to demand democracy peacefully, not violently, in a humorous way. People from different backgrounds with different beliefs are coming together to ask for a basic, fundamental right that we are told we already have,” Brand told RT’s Harry Fear in Parliament Square.
“The police themselves, before long, will be on the right side of this argument. I’m sure that before long the police will join these protesters, and then we’ll see a true unity and we will see some semblance of democracy in this Square – a symbol of our great democracy in this country – a democracy that exists in name but not in action,” he added.
One protester named Danny has been ‘occupying’ the Churchill plinth for over a day, sitting atop the statue holding a placard, which states “The revolution will not be confiscated.”
“I’m up here because Churchill is a symbol of freedom and we’ve had our freedom to protest removed, with no proper explanation why,” Danny told organizers.
“The rights of the damaged area of grass to regrow this week – rather than next week after our protest – has been deemed to be of more importance than our rights to assemble and protest, even though a significant area of the square is intact.”
Protesters aim to remain in the square until at least Sunday.
Report By RT