Grimshaw calls cops on leafleting activists

Each morning this week activists have been visiting Grimshaws, the firm of architects who accepted the contract to design a 3rd runway at Heathrow. The firm designed the Eden Project and is ultra keen to be seen as green, but saw red when a handful of Workers Climate Action activists started giving out leaflets to their workers. Cue an amusing run-in with the old Bill.

Since it became public they had been awarded the contract, Grimshaws has become a target for those opposing the third runway. WCA has focused on explaining to Grimshaws workers why people oppose the company's involvement. Their message couldn’t be more reasonable: suggesting that Grimshaw workers should have a democratic discussion about the company’s position on the 3rd runway; highlighting the environmental unsustainability of such projects and stressing that their continued employment doesn’t depend on Grimshaws winning such polluting projects.

Despite Grimsaws’ protestations of openness, it seems there's only so much open debate they can handle before calling in the law. The Metropolitan Police turned up yesterday morning to confront the handful of leafleters. Leafleting is, of course, completely legal. Plane Stupid spoke to one WCA activist, who described what happened:

"This was another example of zealous and stupid policing we've come to expect from the Met. After asking me what I was doing, to which to answer was rather obvious, the officer proceeded to inform me that it was illegal for me to flyer and my actions were in 'breach of peace'. [Not true: see Redmon-Bate v DPP - Ed.] After explain that this was my democratic right, they attempted to get my details and when I refused, they decided I must be a real threat and should be searched.

"I questioned the legality of their position and under what section I was searched. 'Are you a lawyer?' one asked. 'No,' I replied. 'A journalist?' 'Why do I look like one?' 'Yes.' Clearly Islington cops are more used to humiliating young people who don't know their rights than with people who understand what they can and can't do.

"The cops eventually decided that I was being searched under Section 1 of PACE. But even after Kingsnorth and the G20 protests in London the police still don’t know what their powers are. They not only took my details of my ID cards [unlawful - police only have the power to search for contraband linked to the crime they suspect you of, such as drugs or weapons (and they must specify which at the time of search) and not to find out who you are - Ed.], but also attempted to take my IMEI number.

"When I again informed them this was totally illegal, the searching officer asked me why I had two phones. After seriously contemplating making a pithy comment, I decided to defuse the situation, asking if they'd seen the Arsenal game the night before. Such banter continued until they, unsurprisingly, didn't find anything and left me to continue flyering.

"This sounds like just another activist sob story - boo hoo, nasty cops. But the point is that we are clearly starting to create divisions between management and the workers; while management are rattled enough to call the police, many of the workers seem perfectly happy to engage with us."