Shoreditch squatters were among 11 people in court on Wednesday for their involvement in a protest coordinated by Squatters Action for Secure Homes last month.
The group, who appeared together at Westminster Magistrates, all pleaded not guilty to taking part in an unlawful demonstration at Parliament Square on October 31. The alleged demonstration was against proposed legislation to criminalise squatting in residential properties. This legislation was passed by the Commons the next day.
The defendants claim that although they were protesting earlier that night, first outside Evening Standard offices and then outside the home of MP Crispin Blunt, the 2am Parliament Square event was “just a picnic”. The night culminated in 12 arrests and an “absolute police cordon” of Victoria Street. Read the full report by EastLondonLines here.
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 states that protests within a half-mile of Parliament need prior permission from police.
Three defence lawyers representing the group said that the picnic “did not amount to a demonstration”. The Magistrate referred to the case of Mark Barrett, who was charged with unlawful protest after organising tea parties on Parliament Square in 2006.
Two female defendants, who both squat in Tower Hamlets and Hackney, also face charges of assaulting a police officer at the alleged demonstration to which they also pleaded not guilty.
All defendants have been remanded on unconditional bail until the case continues on April 23, 2012 at Westminster Magistrates Court.