Polden, David

David Polden
1 December 2021News

Increased penalties, new powers and new offences announced 

The UK government is planning to bring in several new laws against nonviolent protest, including a new offence of ‘going equipped’ to lock-on.

Priti Patel, the home secretary, announced in her speech to the Tory party conference on 5 October that she would:

increase the maximum penalty for disrupting a motorway make a new crime of interfering with key infrastructure ‘such as roads, railways and our free press’ and give the police and courts ‘new powers to deal with the small…

1 December 2021News

Eastern leg of high-speed rail project (mostly) cancelled

Along with some fine acquittals, the campaign to stop the carbon-intensive HS2 high-speed railway line chalked up a major victory on 18 November.

The government announced that most of the eastern section of the project would now not go ahead after all. Instead of running from Birmingham all the way up to Leeds, the eastern arm will only stretch 40 miles to East Midlands Parkway station, south of Nottingham.

A spokesperson for Stop HS2, Joe Rukin, said: ‘The cancellation of the…

1 December 2021News

800 arrests and counting in insulation campaign

124 climate activists were arrested for blockading bridges in Central London on 20 November. They were acting in solidarity with nine members of ‘Insulate Britain’, who had been imprisoned by the high court in London on 17 November for contempt of court.

The ‘Highway 9’ had all continued to blockade the M25 after injunctions were issued banning obstruction of that motorway or any other major road in England.

It is believed the authorities had delayed the hearing in order to…

1 December 2021News

Police have spied on over 1,000 British political groups since 1968

After 11 years of struggle, Kate Wilson won another victory on 30 September. Kate is an activist who was deceived into a relationship with the undercover police officer Mark Kennedy (who was posing as an environmental direct actionist called ‘Mark Stone’).

Further ‘unreserved’ apologies, from London’s Metropolitan police and from the national police chiefs’ council, came after a damning ruling by the official Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) on 30 September.

The IPT found…

1 October 2021News

Palestine Action campaigner freed as campaign continues

A Palestine Action (PA) activist was released from Foston Hall prison after a 37-day hunger strike soon after our last issue went to the printers, on 23 July.

Yogi Bear had been remanded to prison on 17 June after refusing to accept extremely restrictive bail conditions following a PA occupation of the Arconic Factory in Birmingham. (See PN 2655.) They were released after the conditions were reduced to simply remaining in one fixed abode, which they were willing to accept.…

1 October 2021News

Fortnight of protest against UK arms fair

Before the start of the DSEI arms fair in East London on 14 September, there were several arrests as many protesters attempted to blockade the two service roads used by vehicles carrying military hardware into the ExCeL Centre.

A great variety of groups organised a great variety of actions against DSEI this year, though numbers overall were smaller than in recent times.

This year, the mostly autonomous protests were co-ordinated by a coalition called ‘Stop the Arms Fair’ (STAF…

1 October 2021News

Case dismissed as 'no case to answer'

On 16 September, two Faslane Peace Campers had the case against them thrown out of Dunbarton justice of the peace court. One of them had spent nearly six weeks in prison on remand, waiting for the trial.

Willemien Hoogendoorn and Jon had been arrested for ‘breach of the peace’ on Hiroshima Day, 6 August, after blockading the North Gate of Faslane nuclear submarine base from 6.30am till around 12 noon.

According to the Helensburgh Advertiser, ‘tailbacks were reported in…

1 October 2021News

US whistleblower gets 45 month sentence

On 27 July, former US air force intelligence analyst Daniel Hale was sentenced to 45 months in prison by a court in Virginia, USA.

Hale, 33, had plead guilty to violating the Espionage Act by sharing government documents relating to targeted drone killings and other abuses in the ‘war on terror’.

Hale spoke in court before sentencing, saying: ‘I believe that it is wrong to kill, but it is especially wrong to kill the defenceless.’ He said he shared what ‘was necessary to dispel…

1 October 2021News

Police spies targeted anti-nuclear group

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) revealed in mid-September that it had been a target of the Metropolitan police’s undercover Special Demonstration Squad during the 1980s.

Two undercover police officers were involved, according to the long-running Undercover Police Inquiry (UCPI).

‘John Kerry’ worked in the CND office in London between 1981 and 1984.

‘Timothy Spence’ inserted himself into a CND group in East London (as well as defence campaigns against the…

1 August 2021News

Police Bill 'a recipe for the arbitrary use of power' says report

Somerset and Avon police and the Metropolitan police have been heavily criticised by an group of MPs for their handling of ‘Kill the Bill’ demonstrations in Bristol in late March and the Sarah Everard vigil in south London on 13 March.

The all-party parliamentary group on democracy and the constitution also condemned the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill, the focus of the ‘Kill the Bill’ campaign.

In a report published on 1 July, the group of MPs found that ‘the police…

1 August 2021News

Cornwall actions demand climate action

Extinction Rebellion (XR) reports that 1,000 climate ‘rebels’ descended on Cornwall in mid-June to try to influence delegations at the G7 summit.

On the first day, 11 June, activists from the Global South carried letters to G7 leaders, which security at the summit venue refused to take.

On the second day, rebels marched to the G7 summit media centre in Falmouth and demanded that the press report more effectively on climate change (see photo).

On Day 3, dozens of…

1 August 2021News

Direct action campaign targets arms to Israel

There have been at least seven Palestine Action (PA) actions in the last two months – and a PA prisoner, Yogi Bear, was entering their fifth week on hunger strike in Foston Hall prison as we went to press.

In the latest PA action, at 6am on 12 July, two campaigners smashed windows and property inside a factory in Tamworth, Staffordshire, owned by a subsidiary of the Israeli drone manufacturer Elbit Systems. Two others occupied the roof, spraying red paint.

The activists aimed…

20 July 2021News

Ignoring judge, jury finds campaigners who 'damaged' Shell building not guilty

In April and May, 11 Extinction Rebellion (XR) protesters were acquitted in three separate trials for two different climate actions.

Six XR rebels were acquitted by a jury at Southwark crown court on 23 April. They’d been charged with over £25,000-worth of criminal damage to the Shell building in Central London, and the judge had instructed the jury that five of the defendants had no defence in law.

During XR’s April Rebellion in 2019, the activists had poured fake oil, glued…

20 July 2021News

UK-made weapons have been central to Yemen bombardment, say campaigners

On 22 April, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) was given permission by a high court judge to bring a case for judicial review of the government’s decision in July 2020 to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Sarah Waldron of CAAT commented: UK-made weapons have been central to a bombardment [of Yemen] that has destroyed schools, hospitals and homes and created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.’

In January the new Biden administration in the US ‘paused’ arms sales…

20 July 2021News

139 undercover officers spied on 1,000+ political groups over 40 year period

Undercover police officers spied on activist Celia Stubbs for more than 20 years as she tried to discover the truth about the death of her partner, Blair Peach. So the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) was told on 6 May.

Anti-fascist teacher Blair Peach died after being hit on the head in April 1979 while on his way home from an Anti-Nazi League demo.

The Metropolitan police sat on an internal report that found that it could ‘reasonably be concluded’ that Peach was killed by a…