The British Govt's attempts to smash the animal rights movement have long been catalogued in SchNEWS over the years, but this week it turned from the pernicious to the ridiculous as Police stretched their already tenuous use of the word 'blackmail' with regards to animal rights protest...
Last Tuesday (14th) some activists did a banner drop protesting against Ciba Vision, a subsidiary of Novartis, from an overpass over the motorway near Ciba Vision's premises at Hedge End, near Southampton. Ciba Vision make contact lenses, and are a client of vivisection lab Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). The protest was just outside the exclusion zone which limits protests near the premises of a list of companies associated with HLS as named on the injunction against SHAC (See SchNEWS 581). The two were not arrested, and only had their details taken by police for a possible court summons.
But things turned serious last Friday at 10am, when police kicked the door down at the house they were staying. With a search warrant regarding Tuesday's banner-drop, 25 coppers arrived - including Hampshire Police's two 'animal rights specialists', Martin Foster and Andrew Tester - and some plain-clothes CID to do the interviewing. The two banner-droppers were arrested for criminal damage and conspiracy to blackmail -- because, the police said, they had used spraypaint to make the banner, and that spraypaint had been used in other actions against HLS targets previously! Their clothes were confiscated for forensic analysis, to see if they could be linked to a recent 'home visit' on the manager of a HLS client which involved paintstripper on his car and other nasty surprises. As one of them said, "It's as though police think we're the only people in Hampshire with spray cans".
This was the third time this same household had been raided in the past year, and police also took a computer, owned by another resident, who is currently one of the defendants in the upcoming SHAC trials (see below). A total of six computers, three printers and ten mobile phones have been taken from this household during these raids.