Fears have been raised over civil liberties today (28 April) after raids on centres associated with activism and the apparently random arrest of people with radical lifestyles. The raids and arrests appear to stem from attempts to prevent protests at tomorrow's royal wedding.
Fourteen arrests have been reported in Camberwell in London today, following a police raid on Ratstar, a grassroots community centre, in the early hours of this morning. Ratstar is in the unusual position of being a squat in which the squatters have permission from the owner to be there.
The police said they had a search warrant for one part of the centre on suspicion of "stolen goods", but an observer accused them of having broken into another part which the warrant did not appear to cover.
Ratstar runs a cafe and provides training and workshops on subjects such as the repair of bicycles. The police had still not left Ratstar by 6.00pm, though it is unclear what they were looking for.
There were also police raids at the Off Market centre in the Lower Clapton Road and the Grow Heathrow squat, both in London. Off Market, which runs advice services on topics such as housing and gardening, is also a squat. Observers say there has been one arrest there and that the police have broken windows and a door.
Arrests elsewhere in London have also been reported. One activist, who frequently visits both Ratstar and Off Market, said it would be "ridiculous" to suggest that all those arrested were violent extremists.
She told Ekklesia that she regards the raids and arrests as "politically motivated", adding that it would be absurd to regard the simultaneous raiding of several squats as a coincidence.
"The timing of it seems obviously related to the royal wedding and to May Day," she said, "I think that the police are trying to crack down on activism".