Police intimidation of queer anti-austerity activist in Brighton

Summary Note: Just thought I’d let people know that if you invite me to anything on Facebook including gigs, picnics (or anything), or if you post any event in any Facebook group I’ve also posted in, the police will almost certainly be monitoring your event, and may even hold me responsible for anything that happens at it. I know this because the police intelligence team sent me a list of such events and groups telling me they believe I am ‘connected’ to them and warning me about crime and disorder at events unrelated to me, calling them ‘my events’. This appears to be due to my involvement in Brighton Queers Against Cuts, a queer political group which has never done any criminal activity whatsoever. Just FYI. (Hi police!).

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On 30 July George Bostel from Sussex Police telephoned my workplace main reception and asked our office manager if he could speak to me about “events I was organising over the weekend”. On the telephone he told me that police intelligence had identified me as the organiser of events over Pride weekend which the police had concerns about, and that he needed to hand-deliver a letter to me. He declined to tell me what events I was apparently organising over the telephone and said the letter was for my own safety as they were worried these events may attract ‘undesirables’. As I now feared for my safety, despite not knowing what event I was supposed to be organising, I agreed he could deliver a letter to my workplace.

The police telephoning my workplace is not acceptable. Especially when they have my mobile number from when they were harassing me via telephone about my legal organising of Queers Against Cuts group on Pride 2012. This action could have caused me serious problems at work, and could have outed me if I wasn’t already out as a queer person at work.

This is the letter:
police_pride_letter

I asked George the police technical support officer how I could tell the police that I wasn’t organising a BBQ, because I didn’t even know one was happening over Pride weekend. He said I could contact the council and they would tell the police, but insinuated there wasn’t much point because I’d been seen to be promoting this BBQ on Facebook and as such was now irrevocably connected to this event and listed as the organiser by the police.

So I emailed Annie Sparks and Inspector Roy Apps the following:

Dear Ms Sparks (and Insp. Apps),

I refer to your letter dated 30 July 2014 which was just delivered to me by Sussex Police. It says you believe I am organising a BBQ on the beach due to my ‘social media postings’.

Can I please make clear that I didn’t know there was a BBQ on the beach happening until I received a call from Sussex Police today. I don’t even know when or whereabouts this is happening.

I am not organising a BBQ on the beach and had no plans to go to one.

I do not know who is organising a BBQ on the beach.

Please can you remove me as your listed ‘organiser’ from this event and inform Sussex Police to do likewise.

If you or Sussex Police do not want to remove me from this event as an ‘organiser’ please supply me with evidence of where I am seen to be organising this event.

Can you also ensure that you and Sussex Police refrain from telephoning my place of work when I know that Sussex Police have my mobile number anyway.

If you have some information about this BBQ I’d be interested to hear about it as I like to keep informed about Pride events which other people are organising.

Regards,

Beth Granter
[My mobile number]

They both replied to say thank you for the information and they are pleased to hear I am not organising a BBQ on the beach. They also both telephoned me on my mobile and I explained I was not happy about the police telephoning my workplace earlier.

Roy Apps confirmed that the police had seen someone using my name promoting a beach BBQ over pride weekend.

I emailed him to ask for this evidence and received the following from George Bostel of Sussex Police (typos included):

Dear Beth

I beleive your linked to these events

https://www.facebook.com/events/691769964220244/

https://www.facebook.com/events/632040223511209/

Have posted in this Group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/brightonqac/

Links posted

https://www.facebook.com/groups/brightonqac/

http://brightonqueerpride.wordpress.com/
Regards

George Bostel

The first event is a festival including a beach BBQ, organised by my yoga teacher. This already happened two weeks ago when I was in Cheshire visiting my disabled mother. The second is a gig of my friend’s band which I declined the invitation of, because I knew I would be in Cheshire.

The group is Queers Against Cuts, a group I created in 2012 in order for people to march on the pride parade in Brighton with an anti-austerity message. The group hasn’t met up for at least a year and the Facebook group is mostly people posting links to queer club nights and parties. With some research on Facebook after receiving the police letter, I discovered one of the events posted to this group (by someone I am not friends with) includes a beach BBQ. This was the first time I’d seen details of this event.

Finally the website is a site I built clearly stating it lists Facebook events various people have organised. Some of these people I have never met. Nowhere on my website do I list a BBQ over Pride weekend.

I find it shocking that the police are using intimidation tactics against me to effectively try to frighten me from attending, or even publicly talking about, any event ever, for fear they will hold me responsible for anything that happens at these events. This is clearly trying to squash my freedom of speech.

This is particularly ridiculous since here are my pride plans (Hi police!) which I’ve already been open about on Facebook anyway (Hi police, you’re welcome):
1. stewarding the trans bloc on the parade.
2. making some badges at the cowley club.
3. probably go to Queer Prom disco party.

That said, now the police have told me there’s a beach BBQ happening, it sounds interesting, and I may or may not choose to go and have a look (not as an organiser). I haven’t decided yet. If the weather’s nice I might go sunbathing.

Clearly a list of really radical dangerous activities there, that warrant police monitoring (<-Hi police, this is sarcasm). I believe this intimidation is due to the legal activism I have been involved in in the anti-cuts movement, and because the police didn't like my criticism of how they kettled Queers Against Cuts at Brighton Pride 2012.

Please post any solidarity statements and messages of support you may have in the comments, and share this on social media so people know what’s going on. THANKS xxxx

25 thoughts on “Police intimidation of queer anti-austerity activist in Brighton

  1. Natalie says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us Beth and I’m sorry to hear of this experience of deliberate, unwarranted intimidation.

    I can respect the police for being proactive with their plight to keep Brighton Pride events safe and enjoyable for all. However it’s really disapointing to see the misuse of data and without having done a smidgen of research. If you have access to our social media posting and a cause for concern is flagged to you, then I believe it is due diligence to set a pair of human eyes on the problem to see if action is justified.

    Had this been the case, I don’t believe you would have been contacted at all Beth.

    Sussex Police Force should take a look at this case in light of how they want to be seen to be using our personal information. I would hope that they move away from this current process of intimidation.

  2. Joseph Healy says:

    Beth, as one of those who was with you when we were kettled in Brighton Pride 2 years ago I am astonished that the police are harassing you like this. I have alerted Queers Against the Cuts in London this morning about this and we are going to release a statement soon. I will also raise it with my contacts in UNITE as I am Vice Chair of the UNITE London & Eastern region LGBT Committee. It is outrageous that you are targeted like this and it is definitely a form of intimidiation. Even more weird is the fact that you are not involved in organising the event which they are so worried about.

    As someone, and there are many of us, who will no longer attend Brighton Pride because of its totally commercialised nature minus any political content whatsoever, I have been supportive of efforts to build an alternative Pride in Brighton. The last non-privatised space, the St James Street Party, has now been assimilated into the corporate jamboree with wristbands and charges – as you covered on your blog. Clearly politicised queers are no longer welcome in Brighton. I will also be in touch with an gay councillor friend in Brighton about this attack on your civil liberties. Keep fighting! Solidarity

    Joseph Healy
    Treasurer, Queers Against Cuts

  3. Paul Hutchings says:

    Calling you at work is clearly intimidation and totally unacceptable.

    Sussex Police’s policy of holding individuals responsible for health and safety rules and regs at political events has a long history. I was organising a march and they threatened to prosecute me if we didn’t provide enough toilets at the end of the march. I ignored it and I don’t have know of anyone who has been prosecuted for it. In the end we stopped negotiating with them at all and just told them what we were doing.

    Anyone who wants to see what information the police hold about them can do so under the data protection act http://www.acro.police.uk/subject_access.aspx. You may want to check what is held on the National Database and but the local force.

    I hate how much power the police have and how they abuse it.

  4. Liam Zheerin says:

    This is an absolute shocker.

  5. Steph says:

    This is so wrong on so many levels, as someone who has an MI5 file because i am trans and working on government sites. I find this level of intrusion horrific

  6. Ceb says:

    Thank you for sharing this Beth, totally unacceptable. The random police ‘intelligence’ would be amusing if it wasn’t also concerning. Have a great weekend and know there are people all over the country supporting you and your work

  7. Sorry you’ve had to deal with this, Beth. This is an awful abuse of power. Will be signal-boosting this blog post on the Queer Working Class Zine Project Fb page.

  8. Cel West says:

    Massive solidarity from London.

  9. Jim Granter says:

    We’re right behind you on this up here Beth. Love your writing, a highly effective mix of seriousness and humour. Good to see the widespread support you are getting. Love, Dad.

  10. Milk says:

    This would all be almost amusing (how dare you be loosely connected to people organizing a BBQ that may attract people you don’t know, who may consume alcohol, on a public beach…) if wasn’t just plain scary. Keep up the good words. x

  11. Anna says:

    That is outrageous harrassment and something should be done about it. You are not at all a public order risk and I have only ever known you to organise safe, community, inclusive and peaceful events. Of course I understand that the police need to monitor any potential risks to public order and safety but in this case they are entirely wrong: please find out why they think you are a potential risk and are organising things you are not.
    Truth and justice will win. Always.

  12. Caroline Norris says:

    That is absolutely shocking! I am posting (a) in solidarity to you (and others experiencing the same) and (b) in the hope that the police track me too and show up at my wedding.

  13. Rob Mansfield says:

    Astonished and angry, Beth. Having stood and applauded the police participants in today’s parade, it’s sad that the level of intimidation and incompetence they’ve shown towards you stands in direct contradiction.

    Desperately sad 🙁

  14. s says:

    Sussex police are dangerous bullies. I am now taking legal advice from a lawyer with protest law/public law expertise due to an incident whereby Sussex police mishandled my information and hope you consider doing the same. Solidarity this is such bullshit xxx

  15. sean mcgee says:

    Welcome to the NDEU database.. All the best people are on there 🙂

    Sorry to hear about your troubles .. most unfair..

    Got this info from NETPOL and thought i would send my respects to you and your friends..

    hoping for more democratic and just times in the UK..
    But not holding my breath yet 🙁

    peace light and love to all here
    A refugee in Ireland until common sense returns to the UK
    Sean

  16. Gary Barnett says:

    This sort of thing is precisely why society needs courageous people like you to stand up against inequality, oppression and the abuse by the state of its powers.

    I tip my hat to you Beth

    Gary (@thinkovation)

  17. Iain Chambers says:

    It would be quite funny to ‘not organise’ the biggest not-actually-a-Beach-BBQ you can manage. Get hundreds of people to promise not to attend a Beach BBQ at a certain time on a certain day. You can then have people from all over the world promising not to come, and claim a massive success when nobody does, and people could post pics of themselves not attending your UnBBQ.

  18. Jamie-Lee Gauntlett says:

    This has got to be the most pathetic action that I have ever seen authorities do. I mean really! You can do what you like and there is no law about going on the beach or anything like that. So if you werent LGBT and you organised a event on the beach on the same day, would you be done then? No I thought not! Whats worse is accusing you of doing something you havent done before you have even done it. I am even more appalled that they contacted you at work. So then you could be done for bringing your organisation into disrepute. Absolutely outrageous… Sorry you went through this, when as stated before you are a peaceful activist.

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