Three legal observers have lodged complaints of assault against Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officers during a “Kill the Bill” demonstration in Manchester on 1 May, the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) says.
The three complainants have received log numbers and email confirmations of their complaints, Netpol confirmed to The Meteor.
Independent legal observers are trained to document arrests and how a demonstration is being policed. They also provide basic information to protestors on their legal rights to protest. Netpol says legal observers have reported increased targeting by police in recent weeks while monitoring police actions against protestors. A spokesperson from Netpol said:
“Greater Manchester Police has shown escalating levels of violence and aggression at Kill the Bill protests and must immediately step back from their confrontational approach. We have been deeply concerned to receive reports from campaigners and legal observers in Manchester of the Tactical Aid Unit attacking demonstrators and now… three legal observers who have lodged complaints with the police.
“It is not the first time the TAU have been criticised over their use of force. Anti-fracking protesters have complained that the Tactical Aid Unit in Manchester is out of control…
“Greater Manchester Police may believe that it can act with impunity, but it must be held to account for this shocking behaviour… Legal observers are independent of the protest, and their role is to monitor police behaviour and to challenge the police to act lawfully… Greater Manchester Police have serious questions to answer about the use of force.”
Responding to the allegations, GMP said they were:
“…aware of three complaints from legal observers at the Kill the Bill demonstration in Manchester city centre on 1 May and GMP’s Professional Standards Branch is investigating.”
Netpol also alleges that legal observers documented the presence of armed police officers at the protest on 1 May and previous protests.
Greater Manchester Police strongly denies this claim, a spokesperson said:
“Greater Manchester Police does not deploy armed officers to police protests and no armed officers were deployed to the protest on either 27 March 2021 or 1 May 2021. Armed officers do provide high-visibility patrol around the city centre on a 24/7 basis as part of GMPs protective security plan.”
An internal investigation into Greater Manchester Police is currently underway after officers from the Tactical Aid Unit (TAU), the city’s riot unit, were accused of throttling a student. Responding to the news of legal observers lodging complaints about being assaulted, a spokesperson for the Greater Manchester Law Centre said:
“We are shocked to hear of the treatment of the three legal observers at the recent demonstration in Manchester, and join in the condemnation of the increased targeting of observers by the police.
“The sad irony of this happening at a Kill the Bill demo should not be lost as the need for legal observers will only increase given the fundamental right to protest will come under increasing threat if the Government proposals are successful.”
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