Anger as protesters who blocked UK immigration raid are taken to court | Immigration and asylum

Before Thursday 13 May 2021, few people beyond South Glasgow had heard of Kenmure Street. But when its diverse community gathered by the hundreds that day to block a raid by British immigration officials, their action was celebrated internationally and the place became synonymous with community spirit and inspiring activism.

Much of the media coverage focused on the jubilant and community atmosphere – families celebrating the first day of Eid joined veteran campaigners, a pop-up confectionary shop was opened at a bus stop and local businesses in Pollokshields donated food and water to protesters.

The successful action saw the two detained Indian men – Sumit Sehdev, a chef, and Lakhvir Singh, a mechanic, suspected of overstaying their visas – released to enthusiastic cheers after an eight-hour standoff.

But now, a year later, some protesters remain locked in a bitter battle with police as they fight the charges they received that day.

Police Scotland confirmed in May last year that they had arrested and charged a 23-year-old woman and two men, aged 31 and 32, with public order offenses and sent a report to the Procuratorate Revenue. The three men were told earlier this year that the state intended to pursue the prosecution, with trial dates set for early August.

Now dubbed ‘the Kenmure Street Three’, they have launched a petition to have their charges dropped, along with an appeal for images that could help their defense and an appeal for the public to pressure MPs over the ‘affair.

The three demonstrators describe their arrests as violent. “The police want you to believe that they were there somehow to facilitate the protest; they weren’t,” they wrote in a statement launching the petition.

“They were there to enable the kidnapping of two men by the racist Home Office. We were simply resisting this, just as many of you and thousands of others have been, but we have been brutalized and locked up, and now face a repressive and painful legal process.

Their account of the day is consistent with those of other protesters who describe heavy-handed and aggressive policing. Beth Douglas, 28, joined the protest after seeing calls on social media and encountering “the largest police presence I have ever seen in Glasgow”. “It was not a presence to enable a safe demonstration, but rather an army to intimidate protesters,” she said.

Glasgow-based human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, who successfully negotiated with police on the ground for the release of the two detained Indian men, who had lived in Scotland for more than 10 years, described the presence police at the time as “incendiary and provocative”. ”. His firm has since taken over the affairs of the Kenmure Street Three.

“It is disappointing that Police Scotland are bringing charges against anyone at the protest that day,” Anwar said. He confirmed ‘van man’, an activist who lay under an immigration van for eight hours, was not among those prosecuted after police agreed in on-the-ground negotiations not to take any action against him.

A protester, who wished to remain anonymous, witnessed and filmed the arrests. “The protesters who were arrested did absolutely nothing different from the rest of us,” they said. “It looked like the police had chosen a few random people to remind everyone that they could, and would, arrest us. It felt unnecessary and brutal because it was all completely peaceful.

A spokesman for Police Scotland confirmed the arrests and said they had received no complaints about the protest. “Police Scotland is a rights-based organisation,” they said. “This means we will protect the rights of people who want to demonstrate or counter-protest peacefully, taking into account the rights of the wider community.”

The Public Ministry and the Tax Prosecutor have confirmed that three active cases are due to go to court on August 3 and 4.

While those arrested hope their charges will be dropped before trial, the decision to press charges is seen as a provocation by activists.

“An action like this will only bring us together more and unite our communities to resist,” said Savan Qadir of Glasgow’s No Evictions network, which coordinated a response that day. “They can’t sue all of us for standing up for what’s morally right.”

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