Crippen hears about systemic discrimination by the Metropolitan police against disabled protestors

Netpol, the network for police monitoring is calling on the Metropolitan Police to prevent a repeat of the systemic discrimination towards disabled protesters that was documented in their report ‘Restricting the Rebellion’.

The European Convention on Human Rights, in Article 14, says the exercise of rights including freedom of assembly “shall be secured without discrimination” but over the years, there have been repeated incidents of the targeting, harassment and ill-treatment of disabled campaigners.

This has included the physical assault of wheelchair users, the targeting of a deaf campaigner opposing a fracking site and the sharing of information about disabled protesters with the Department for Work and Pensions, to trigger investigations for alleged benefit fraud.

When Extinction Rebellion held 12 days of protests in London in October 2019, the mistreatment of disabled protesters was so shocking that even members of the Metropolitan Police’s Disability Independent Advisory Group accused it of humiliating behaviour and considered resigning en masse due to the number of stories they heard from individual protesters.

A growing intolerance towards environmental protesters from government ministers and the police has resulted in more new laws and more police powers, but the Met still has a legal duty to protect the right to protest.

Netpol is urging organisations to sign a statement calling for Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to acknowledge that a repeat of this mistreatment would amount to systematic discrimination and to provide public reassurance that the rights of disabled people to freedom of assembly will be respected and protected.

The statement reads:

“In 2019, Netpol’s report ‘Restricting the Rebellion’ highlighted the way Metropolitan Police Officers treated Extinction Rebellion’s disabled protesters in ways that were both degrading and humiliating. Efforts to make it as difficult as possible for disabled campaigners to participate also included arresting drivers delivering disabled-access toilets and confiscating vital accessibility equipment …

“We demand that Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley acknowledges that by failing to meet the needs of disabled protesters at forthcoming protests, the force will once again have systematically discriminated against them. We demand public reassurance from him that his officers will respect the rights of disabled people to protest.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A solid line of metropolitan police officers are attending a climate change protest. They are clad in full riot gear with one of them holding a large baton. In front of them is a power wheelchair which has been smashed up and is upside down on the body of a disabled protester. A large placard in standing up in the wreckage and reads ‘disabled people fighting climate change’. In the background are lots of other protesters waving banners and their clenched fists in the air. One of the police officers is looking down at the wheelchair and is saying: “Well they kept saying that they wanted to be treated like normal people …” another replies: “,,, and that’s how we treat normal people!”

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