Protestor at Palestine march arrested for wearing Keffiyah scarf wins case

Thursday 29 February 2024

Audrey Cherryl Mogan of the Garden Court Protest Law Team represented the protestor, instructed by Sarah Robertson of Birnberg Peirce.

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On 14 October 2023, more than 30,000 protestors marched through central London calling for an end to the violence against Palestinians. A protestor was arrested and violently dragged through the crowd for failing to remove his keffiyah scarf when approached by police officers and was charged under section 60AA of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

An order was put in place for the duration of the march, which allowed police officers to ask people to remove face coverings, but only where they reasonably believed the person was wearing the covering “wholly or mainly for the purpose of concealing their identity”. When the officer gave evidence, it became obvious that he had completely failed to consider whether the defendant had been wearing the covering to conceal his identity. The officer had simply been forcing anyone wearing a mask to remove it under the threat of arrest – clearly acting unlawfully. Audrey submitted there was no case to answer at the close of the prosecution case and the charges against the defendant were dismissed.

The request to remove a facial covering gives police officers significant powers to interfere with people’s lives and should be subject to proper scrutiny. Concerns have been raised by several organisations including Netpol, Liberty and Black Protest Legal Support, about the over policing of Palestine solidarity protests that have taken place regularly across London. On the same day, in addition to section 60AA powers, there was a restriction under section 12 of the Public Order Act which restricted the route of the protest, and an order under section 14 which prohibited protestors from gathering outside the Israeli embassy and specific roads. Campaigners argue that powers are being used to intimidate protestors and suppress the right to protest.

Worryingly, many (including a number of prominent KCs) have called for more restrictions to be placed on the solidarity protests, while draconian legislation is passed and unprecedently, peaceful protestors are being given long prison sentences. This has resulted in strong criticism from the UN Special Rapporteur and a chilling effect on the right to protest.

The officer’s failure to understand the powers under the legislation raises serious concerns about the legality of many of the arrests that took place on the day. 

The case has been covered in The Independent and The Standard.

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