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Date: Sun, 22 Sep 2002 22:54:59 +0100
Subject: Porkbolter 48

The Porkbolter - No 48, September 2002

Titnore Woods demo report - 1st September 2002

Operation Hysteria!

FORGET burglaries, car theft, vandalism or assault. The most serious crime facing Worthing police at present is people trying to deliver letters along rural footpaths.

That's the only conclusion to be drawn from the cops' absurd and widely ridiculed handling of the latest episode in the battle to save precious ancient woodland at Titnore Woods, Durrington. This blatant and laughable piece of overkill was even given an official name by the cops - Operation HASP. Presumably this stood for Hysteria at Sussex Police.

The pages of the local papers are filled each week with tales of riled householders, disgusted pensioners and shocked victims who have been fobbed off with "staff shortage" excuses when they try and get the boys in blue to investigate their particular crime.

But, it appears, there were unlimited numbers of police, riot vans, video-camera squads and reinforcements available on Sunday September 1 when a group of people decided to deliver a scroll to rich landowning family the Somersets asking them not to sell land off Titnore Lane to a giant property consortium.

And it wasn't just on the day itself that the town's top cops managed to suddenly tap into some previously undreamt-of resources.

In the run-up to this harmless event - which was only ever planned as a symbolic gesture - they had already gone to great lengths to harass and intimidate anyone they thought might be taking part in a perfectly legal and peaceable form of protest. First of all a woman who helps produce your very own independent newsletter, The Porkbolter, was intercepted in the street outside her home on her way out for the day with her two kids, by two plain clothes cops.

These were Pc Sean McDonald (CM440) and DC Jodie Moss (DM725) from the Divisional Crime Unit. (It never became clear what "crime" they were investigating. Are they so short of crime to look into that they have to branch out into hassling people trying to protect the environment?) The cops were interested in our report in the August issue on the plans by Ye Olde Friends of Titnore and were eager to be provided with names of "organisers" so they could "help" them. Needless to say, no such information was provided.

Next, news started to filter in of letters that had been sent out by recorded delivery by police to various people they thought might be involved in the protest. We have heard of six people receiving them, though there could obviously be many more (let us know if you got one!). The letter from A/Chief Inspector (Operations) R Whitfield began: "As you may be aware, a protest has been advertised for Sunday 1st September 2002, meeting at the 'Coach and Horses', Arundel Road, Durrington, at 1.00pm. This is a protest against the development of housing in the Titnore Lane area. Sussex Police is aware that you are one of those who feel strongly about this issue and attended a previous protest on Sunday 26th May 2002 at Titnore Lane."

It added, in somewhat garbled English: "Sussex Police strongly urge you, if you are an organiser, or can tell us who the organiser of the event is, who can contact the organisation on 0845 60 70 999 and ask to be put through to the Highdown Planning Department. In any case, police officers will attempt to speak to you on the day of the protest to ensure you are aware of how this demonstration can best be facilitated."

The deliberate atmosphere of intimidation and criminalisation of dissent continued on the day. The fifty people who gathered to symbolically hand over a scroll were amazed at the size of the police operation that had been launched.

Police riot vans were parked up in laybys along the A27 for miles in either direction, video camera wielding "evidence gatherers" were openly filming protesters (and also hiding in roadside bushes) and metal barricades had been erected around the Coach and Horses, the pub where they were meeting up.

Clement Somerset failed to turn up at the pub to meet the campaigners, as he had earlier promised. And when the group started strolling up the public right of way to the Somerset family's Holt Farm, just north of the A27, their way was blocked with a thick line of police and a riot van - with another van and reinforcements seen lurking by the farmhouse.

They were informed by the police that "Section 42" emergency powers had been invoked and anyone continuing along the public footpath would be arrested. Eventually Mr Somerset arrived on the scene, accepted the scroll and engaged in a brief, polite debate with the delegation about his status as a friend of the countryside and the impending sale of the Titnore land to a consortium of property developers - he refused a donation of £1 to help him out of his hardship - before the group dispersed back in the direction of the pub.

Said Bob Bobbins of Ye Olde Friends of Titnore: "The presentation passed off completely peacefully, as we always knew it would. "We have been amazed at how wrong the police have got this all along. This was never even going to be a proper demonstration - it was just a gesture more than anything. Someone in the force must surely now be brought to book for launching this massive and costly over-response."



Another threat to the West Sussex countryside is being faced up in Horsham, where there are plans to put a new football stadium and housing in the green gap (while developers build over the current football ground). You can currently vote against this in the local paper's internet poll on

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