FOI request to Met Police

Public Access Office
New Scotland Yard
10 Broadway
London
SW1H 0BG

7 February 2006

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST: POLICING OF ISLAMIC PROTESTS

Dear Sir or Madam:

I would like to request information about the way police patrol Islamic protests held in London. Can you firstly confirm:

1. If any instructions or guidance exists on how police handle Islamic protests. If so, I would like a copy of this material.

2. How many Islamic protests have occurred in the past three years. If possible, list the date and location of these protests.

Secondly, I would like more detailed information about the recent Islamic protests held in London in response to the publication of Muslim cartoons in European newspapers.

3. Please confirm what protests took place (date and location).

4. I would then like the police logs for these protests.

5. I would also like any other documentation (including correspondence) that involves the decision not to arrest protestors.

My preferred format to receive this information is by electronic means. Alternatively, if the data is only available in manual form then I can accept mailed copies or come and inspect the data in person.

Although this request relates to law enforcement activities and thus may fall under section 31 of the Act, there is a strong public interest in ensuring that protests are policed fairly, equally and without undue political interference. The most recent protests 3-4 February 2006 in Regent’s Park and the Danish Embassy have led to questions in Parliament about why the police failed to arrest those holding placards advocating mass murder. In fact, the only arrests made were of two men found carrying cartoons of Prophet Mohammed. Meanwhile, the police have shown no delay in arresting peaceful protestors. According to Hansard[1], police have arrested 28 people protesting peacefully for taking part in an ‘unauthorised demonstration’ in the ‘designated area’ around Parliament since 1 August 2005. Indymedia reports that Met Police arrested 57 people engaged in a peaceful protest outside the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition September 2005. Peter Tatchell and Glenn Halton, members of OutRage! were arrested outside the international Islamic fundamentalist conference held at Wembley Arena on 7th August 1994, while peacefully protesting against the murder of lesbians and gay men by the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran.

There is legitimate concern that the police’s vast powers to arrest may be unduly influenced by political wishes and particularly ‘political correctness’. There is worry that a two-tiered justice system is being created whereby the police are fearful of arresting Muslims. The public need to be confident that the law is applied to all equally, regardless of race or religion. Instead, the police record on arrests seems to show officers taking a ‘softly softly’ approach when policing religious extremists who threaten violence (evidenced by few if any arrests) but a ‘sledgehammer’ approach when faced with middle-class peaceful protestors (evidenced by plentiful arrests). Such discrepancies need answering and the only way to do so is to provide documented information about the way protests are policed.

I would be grateful if you could confirm in writing that you have received this request, and I look forward to hearing from you in the 20-day statutory period.

Regards,



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