A UK Uncut activist was arrested in Edinburgh at around 12.30pm on Saturday for breach of the peace and obstructing the pavement. Under Scots Law, breach of the peace is a specific criminal offence, which can be prosecuted in the courts, and rare cases can lead to a custodial sentence.
The action had attracted a heavy police presence from the outset, with 6 police officers – including two Forward Intelligence officers – in attendance when the group assembled in Bristo Square this morning.
After visiting RBS, Barclays and Topshop, the small group of activists were at their final target of the day, BHS on Princes Street, when the police became more aggressive. Edinburgh Uncut had already left the shop voluntarily and were continuing their demonstration outside by handing out flyers and holding up a banner. The police started threatening activists with arrest for allegedly blocking the pavement (under section 53 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 it is an offence to wilfully obstruct a passageway and not desist when instructed to do so by the police), even though they were taking up only a small part of the pavement’s width and there was plenty of space for anyone else to walk around, or to enter and leave the shop.
Lothian and Borders officer A5910 roughly shoved one young man and restrained him against the shop window by holding both of his arms. The officer claimed that the man was obstructing a fire exit and that the megaphone he was carrying could be used as a weapon. The activist asked several times whether he was being detained and was told that he was not, but when he objected to being held, he was arrested. The police had to be asked several times before they would explain the reason for the arrest.
Members of the public who had witnessed the arrest were clearly upset by the police’s actions and can be heard shouting at the officers on the footage, telling them that no crime had been committed. The police simply told them that it was none of their concern.
A solidarity demonstration was called outside of St Leonard’s police station, where UK Uncut supporters and friends of the arrestee gathered to wait for his release. He was eventually released on police bail at around 6.30pm, with the condition that he is banned from Princes Street, St Andrews Square (the site of the current Occupy Edinburgh protest) and most of the New Town area. The police have also confiscated his megaphone and, for reasons best known to themselves, his hat.
This is the fifth time that a member of Edinburgh Uncut has been arrested this year. All of the arrests were in response to incidents in BHS and in three cases the charges were dropped, while a fourth member received a fiscal fine.
The arrestee has given permission for us to use the footage of today’s events, but has asked that his name is not made public. We ask that anyone who recognises him respects his wishes, and does not mention his name in the comments or in any other public forum.