Arrested by the most liberal policemen in Bristol

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 3, March/April 1980

The arrests in Cardiff were followed in October by the arrest of a Hands Off Ireland! supporter in Glasgow and in December by the arrest of Val Greene under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in London (see Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 2). The new year got off to a fine start with the arrest of three supporters of Hands Off Ireland! in Bristol on 5 January.

The three comrades were held for seven hours in Bristol Central police station then charged with ‘obstruction’ under the Highways Act. They were subjected to the usual ‘insulting and abusive’ behaviour from the police. A female comrade was forced to undergo a humiliating and degrading strip-search. All this, we were told, was routine for such a charge! This only leaves us to imagine what the Bristol police ‘routine’ is for more serious charges!

The three were in fact arrested for selling Hands Off Ireland! They were arrested whilst selling in a very large open-air underpass. Even if they wanted to it would have been impossible for them to obstruct such a large area. The arresting officer – the inappropriately named PC Brain – let the cat out of the bag in any case. As our comrades were being bundled into the police car, one of PC Brain’s colleagues asked him ‘What are these lot in for?’ PC Brain leant over, lowered his voice and whispered ‘Oh they’re IRA supporters’. Obviously a Brain in name alone!

This has rather spoilt the Bristol police’s efforts to argue that the arrests were not political. The police have stated that the arrests could not possibly have been political because PC Brain is the most liberal policeman in Bristol and has even been to university! Far be it from Hands Off Ireland! to suggest that a university educated ‘liberal’ policeman might nonetheless be a racist anti-Irish tool of the British ruling class!

Again a defence campaign has gone into action to defend our comrades. The date for this trial has been set for 3 March. Our comrades organised a rally on the same site a week after the arrest and are now organising further protest.


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