Titnore protesters defy police - but one arrest

29.10.2005
A PROTEST against the destruction of Titnore Woods in Durrington, Worthing, went ahead this afternoon (Saturday October 29), despite police attempts to crush it.
One man was arrested but at the time of writing is not known to have been charged with any offence.

A campaign of intimidation in the local press was followed up by massive over-policing, with around 60 protesters faced by the same number of cops, some of whom had been drafted in from as far away as Hastings in East Sussex, 50 miles away.
The event was billed as a vigil for the death of democracy, because of the way overwhelming local opposition to the 875-home estate and associated road widening has been bulldozed out of the way by the local council, and a "coffin" bearing the corpse of democracy was paraded.
But the title has proved highly appropriate in another way, as Sussex Police proved once again how far we have progressed towards a police state, with protest virtually regarded as a criminal act.
Local people arriving early for the vigil at the Titnore Lane roundabout on the A259 were told by police that they would not be allowed to stay there after 2pm - the advertised start of the vigil.
Cops tried to hand pieces of paper to everyone arriving, outlining restrictions on where people could protest.
It seems the police were planning to force the vigil away from the highly visible roundabout and into an "authorised" protest zone where they could not be seen.
But when the numbers swelled and they realised any heavy-handedness would be embarrassingly visible to queues of motorists, they backed down and did not enforce this policy.
With video-camera wielding "evidence gatherers" creating a mood of intimidation, the police began their familiar petty games of provocation.
People were given constantly shifting instruction as to where they were "permitted" to stand. Sometimes they were not allowed to cross the road and sometimes they had to.
A group of people who decided to use the footbridge over the A259 were told this was not permitted because it represented a traffic hazard. Earlier on, these same people had been directed to use the bridge by police.
Eventually, a man who declined to cross over a road and rejoin the main demonstration was arrested and bundled into a police van, to the anger of fellow protesters.
He is currently still being held at Worthing Police Station in Durrington, but had not been charged with anything yet, according to latest information.
After the arrest, police moved in reinforcements from around the corner somewhere and adopted a more aggressive stance, forcing people away from the side of the road and forming a line in front of them, ostensibly to "stop an accident" but clearly to stop the placards being seen by motorists, many of whom hooted their support.
When the vigil ended at 4pm, evidence gatherers followed a group of protesters to Goring station and continued filming them until they boarded the train towards Worthing.
Police appear to have formed some kind of exclusion zone around Titnore Woods themselves, perhaps fearing a land occupation and protest camp, and there were reports this evening that some Titnore Lane residents who had been on the protest were stopped from returning to their own home afterwards.

Update on arrest

The arrested man was released on bail earlier this evening, having been charged with "failure to obey conditions imposed on a public assembly", with a court date of Wednesday November November 9 at Worthing Magistrates Court.
Meanwhile, there are suggestions that the "Section 14" order imposed on the event by the police may have been illegal...