ST IVES, England – Police arrested seven activists on their way to the beach after “trying to find a reason to arrest people”, protesters have said.
Police detained the activists for two hours before eventually finding paint, smoke grenades and loudhailers in their car in Cornwall, southwest England, as world leaders descended on the county for the G7 summit along with a massive policing operation.
Those arrested are activists with Animal Rebellion, an offshoot of environmentalist group Extinction Rebellion, who were on their way to the beach in some downtime away from protesting at the summit.
VICE World News understands that one of the protesters has been released with bail conditions that they leave the counties of Devon and Cornwall immediately, do not associate with the other six arrested activists, and have a curfew from 9PM to 7AM. The other six are still in custody.
Harley McDonald-Eckersall from Animal Rebellion told VICE World News how multiple police officers stopped a car “on a technicality, essentially saying that it might not be safe to drive”. They also stopped another van with activists who had stopped to see what was going on.
“It seemed to us like they were trying to find something wrong with it, to justify stopping it for a technicality. They spent about two hours searching every inch of it, testing the wheels and headlights, trying to find a safety fault, to say that it couldn’t be on the road. It had its MOT two months ago and is completely fit to drive.”
After some time, three more police vans showed up with more officers, McDonald-Eckersall says, and at that point the people who had been in the car and van were arrested on conspiracy charges.
“One person was really upset. She had a bathing suit, and yeah, she was really distraught, saying, ‘I just want to go to the beach’.
“We expected, I think, intense policing at G7. But it really seemed to us that they were trying to find a reason to arrest the people. And even after they couldn't find the reason with the car, they still went ahead and arrested seven people who were trying to go to the beach. So yeah, we were quite a bit shocked by that.”
“Everyone in Animal Resistance who is prepared to take direct action completely knows the risks that they're taking and knows what they're doing… Whereas the people arrested yesterday were literally going to the beach. They weren’t prepared, which is why one of them was very upset, because she wasn’t even doing anything.”
Devon and Cornwall Police said, “Officers carried out a vehicle stop on a car and a van, near Loggans Road, Hayle, at around 5PM on Thursday the 10th of June.
“A search was carried out on the vehicles which were found to contain items including paint, smoke grenades and loud hailers.
“A 30-year-old man from London, a 21-year-old woman from Wales, and a 20-year-old man from Bournemouth were arrested on suspicion of possession of an article with intent to commit criminal damage.
“Two men from London aged 25 and 27, a 45-year-old woman from London and a 26-year-old woman from Epsom were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance.
“They remain in police custody at this time.
“The items and the vehicles have been seized by police as part of ongoing enquiries in relation to this matter.
“We continue to support the facilitation of safe and legal protest but criminal activity and public disorder will not be tolerated.”
Kevin Blowe from Netpol said, “Despite all the rhetoric about understanding the importance of the right to demonstrate against the G7 Summit, Devon & Cornwall Police appears to have decided to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to any potential disruption and treat anyone they don't consider ‘acceptable’ as a threat. This appears to include any group that has ever used civil disobedience tactics in the past or who have chosen – as is their right – not to talk to the police.
“However, all protests cause at least some temporary disruption – in all likelihood, far less to local people than the massive police and security operation designed to allow world leaders their picturesque backdrop to talks.
“We often hear the police talk about ‘striking a balance’, but they always give more weight to the rights of state and corporate interests and none to protesters. There is no balance.
“Instead, we have the arrest of campaigners on extremely dubious ‘conspiracy’ charges, rather than because of actions people have actually taken as part of peaceful protest. This is about taking people away from even having the opportunity to protest, It is about shutting down opposition to the G7.”
5,500 police officers have arrived in Cornwall from around the UK to police the event. There is a “ring of steel” around the conference site and the town of Carbis Bay is effectively out of bounds to the public. Some residents in Carbis Bay are having to show photo ID to leave their homes. Campaigners have criticised the policing operation as authoritarian.
VICE World News previously reported how Rob Higgs, a prolific protest-artist, received a visit from uniformed and plainclothes police officers to his home and place of work, warning him that they could arrest him at any time before the conference.
Several hundred people took part in a peaceful Extinction Rebellion protest through St Ives to “sound the alarm” on climate change on Friday. A peaceful “Fridays for Future” climate change protest also took place in Falmouth.