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Smash EDO protesters complain about police liaison at Brighton march
Buy this photo » A protester speaks to a police officer outside Barclays in Brighton
Protesters have complained about a new breed of police officer being sent to demonstrations to talk to people.
Smash EDO’s march in opposition to a possible war with Iran passed peacefully yesterday (June 4) with about 100 people walking from North Street, Brighton, to Hove Town Hall.
But many protesters complained that police “protest liaison” officers – used throughout the weekend to allow organisers to discuss plans as events unfolded – were intrusive.
The officers marched among the demonstrators at the Smash EDO event. But when protesters gathered in North Street they were addressed by a speaker who told them the officers were not welcome.
Anarchists, with their faces covered, used umbrellas to try to block the officers’ views, and argued with their own legal advisers over how to get rid of them.
Long-time Smash EDO supporter Glenn Williams said: “They are mingling in with the crowd.
“People have been objecting to that, and that has been the only source of conflict.”
But Ch Supt Bartlett said: “While those involved in today's event chose not to speak directly with us in advance, most on the march today were happy to talk to liaison officers.
"I hope this continues so that we can speak with organisers of future events like this, which helps us plan effective and proportionate policing.
“We recognise we still have a way to go to build trust with some people, but feel today’s peaceful protest and the willingness of most people to speak with our liaison team bodes well for the future.”
He said the officers were not there for crowd control or to gather intelligence about activists.
He said he was pleased the organisers had been open about their plans, which they published in an open letter to The Argus.
Otherwise the event passed without incident.
A spokesman for Smash EDO estimated 150 people had taken part, although police put it at about half that.
He said: “The demo is about raising awareness about the threat of war with Iran and the need to build a strong anti-war movement that can be a real opposition to that.”
A 25-year-old man carrying a flag of a German “autonomous” anarchist group said: “The more people realise a war with Iran is on the cards, the more people will take it on themselves to say, ‘No, we don’t want this’.”
Passers-by said they did not think the prospect of a war with Iran was an immediate worry.
Tony Lembo, 60, from Eastbourne, said he would not be put off visiting Brighton by a protest unless whole streets were closed off, adding: “It’s nice to see people are still demonstrating and putting their views across, as long as it’s orderly and peaceful.”
Stanley Williams, 86, of central Hove, watched the march pass at Churchill Square. He said: “I think it’s stupid.
“The bus was diverted. I thought it was a Jubilee parade.”
A woman watching the march in Western Road, who declined to give her name, said: “What is the point of having their faces covered? I don’t see the sense.”
Another said: “It shouldn’t be allowed.”