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Date: Thu, 27 Jun 2002 00:19:53 +0100
Subject: PORKBOLTER 46

Titnore POW demo report + details of police harrassment

A SUPERB show of defiance from hundreds of people has really thrown the gauntlet down in the bid to save Durrington's Titnore Woods from the bulldozers.

Some 350 people ignored efforts by police to declare the Protect Our Woodland (POW!) protest "illegal" and scare them off taking part. The protesters, young and old, gathered at the southern end of Titnore Lane outside Northbrook College from about 1.40pm on Sunday May 26. Then at around 2.20pm, as police with loud hailers looked likely to try and order their dispersal, they moved off en masse up the lane, whistles blowing, banners flying and chants ringing out of "No more houses - Save our woods!"

The unstoppable mass forced police to divert traffic as the procession travelled the whole length of Titnore Lane and back, closing the A-road for a couple of hours. This was a strong-willed but good-natured crowd, as early police statements in the press admitted. The next day's Evening Argus quoted the police as saying: "They were a friendly group who have made their protest lawfully and peacefully."

But while local coppers may well understand and even sympathise with the residents' anger at the plans for a 900-house estate and road widening on green fields and ancient woodland, there are clearly elements in the police who are openly hostile. Many people on the demonstration were outraged to find they were being filmed by police "evidence gatherers" using aggressive "in-your-face" tactics. Why the need for this if nobody was doing anything wrong?

At the end of the protest, on the A259 roundabout, police decided to arrest one man, a youth and a woman. Charges against the woman are still pending so we cannot comment further on this until the case has been heard - or the charges dropped before it ever comes to court. There were further instances of harassment both before and after the event. Reports have reached us of people leafletting to publicise the protest in a supermarket car park being followed and videoed by a phalanx of police the day before the march and of local residents being intimidated by constant visits from police demanding to know who was "organising" the protest.

A public manifestation of this hostile attitude has come in the Worthing Guardian, which seems to be the police's chosen mouthpiece - perhaps because, being a free sheet, it has wide circulation. Friday May 24's edition, delivered over the weekend of the protest, carried the huge front page headline "Don't Walk Into Trees Trouble", warning that "militant eco-activists will take over the demonstration". PC Mark Stevens was quoted as saying: "If an undesirable element takes over, the local people are tarred with the militants' brush."

Faced with the actual reality of hundreds of local people turning out on the day, PC Stevens still tried to pretend that he had been right all along and in the following week's Worthing Guardian rebutted the statement from POW! that all three arrested people had been local. In the face of a complaint to the editor by POW!, PC Stevens still refused to admit he had got it wrong, claiming that by "not local" he meant from Worthing rather than Durrington!!

So how come the police are getting involved in what is really a battle between local people and property developers? What's it got to do with them? It strikes us that this is a classic example of where upholding "the law" has got nothing to do with upholding justice or telling the difference between right or wrong. If greedy millionaire developers like convicted criminal Gerald Ronson go ahead and chop down hundreds of ancient trees at Titnore Woods they will be, in the eyes of most people, committing a terrible crime. But, if they have permission from the council, they will be acting within the law and so, as far as the police are concerned, have to be protected from the people opposing their scheme - who, although they are in the moral right, are thus regarded as criminals.

The intimidation and harassment of protesters - ordinary men, women and children out to express an honestly held view - is nothing new. Sadly it happens all the time. When the police are behind it, it's often referred to as the "criminalisation of dissent". When the Government does it, it's called a smear campaign - such as in the case of the rail crash survivor on whom Tony Blair's spin doctors wanted to "dig some dirt".

The aim of both approaches is identical and chilling. Anyone who challenges the powers-that-be has to be stamped down on in any way possible. It's up to us all to make sure they don't get away with it.

Anyone who witnessed the arrests at the Titnore Lane demo and is willing to give evidence in court is asked to get in touch with POW! at


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