Impact on the freedom of assembly and protest
|In November 2014, Merseyside Police imposed a dispersal order against anti-fur activists in Liverpool city centre – despite the fact that they were not even protesting at the time.|
|Merseyside Police also used section 35 powers in November 2014 against a peaceful anti-fascist counter-demonstration opposing a National Front ‘day of action’ – even though the far right group failed to show up.|
|In February 2015, dispersal powers were used against housing activists occupying empty flats on the Aylesbury estate in Southwark|
|Activists who have tried to provide support for homeless people have been criminalised. In February 2016, two campaigners were eventually cleared of charges of failing to comply with a Section 35 notice during a protest in 2015 that occupied a former bank in Liverpool.|
|At a student demonstration in London in November 2015, the Metropolitan Police used section 35 powers after containing a group of protesters as the basis for a ‘walking kettle’ to move and disperse them to the nearest railway station.|
|In January 2016, opponents of a proposed fracking well-site in Cheshire were given section 35 dispersal notices when a protest camp was evicted and were excluded from a wide area, apparently for no other reason than to disrupt their efforts to protest against the eviction.|
|Lindis Percy, a campaigner against the American air force base at Menwith Hill who holds a weekly one-hour vigil outside the base, has been arrested and charged using section 35 powers because her long-standing – and entirely peaceful – protest was suddenly designated ‘anti-social’.|
|Section 35 powers have been used against campaigners seeking to gather evidence of illegal breaches of the Hunting Act 2004, with hunt monitors threatened with arrest for alleged anti-social behaviour.
In February 2016, four hunt sabs received a dispersal notice and ordered to leave while monitoring a hunt at Redlingfield, Suffolk. None had left their vehicle throughout the day but they were dispersed because of the ‘likelihood of anti-social behaviour’. Others were allowed to remain and and they witnessed and reported illegal hunting. Police officers made reference to ‘experience and history of violence, intimidation and assault’ from hunt sabs, but no-one present had ever been charged with any of these offences, nor had any sab in the local area for well over a decade.
In March 2016, hunt sabs were dispersed from Frostendon, Suffolk, for allegedly ‘shouting and swearing on a public footpath in front of members of public’. These reports did not come from ‘members of the public’ but from supporters of the hunt, who did their best to obstruct monitoring of their activities using their vehicles. Any shouting (there was no swearing) was the result of observing the illegal hunting of hares, in full view of hunt staff and captured on film. The dispersal notice was issued along with a stop and search under section 50 of the Police Reform Act, which meant hunt sabs were forced to provide their names and addresses.
|On 12 September 2015 whilst trying to attend the away match at Birmingham City, 51 Bristol City fans were rounded up and issued a section 35 dispersal notice by West Midlands Police, escorted straight to New Street station and put on trains back to Bristol.
The Bristol City Supporters Club & Trust has sought legal advice and is challenging the dispersal order.