Activism

Police accused of using 'fear tactic' after arrested climate activist banned from protests

Jen Kowalski faces a possible three months in prison after police accused her of organising an unauthorised protest

Climate activist Jen Kowalski

Climate activist Jen Kowalski has been banned from attending protests in Scotland until her court date in July. Image: Supplied

A climate activist arrested over a demonstration in Glasgow has accused police of using a “fear tactic” by targeting her and banning her from attending protests while on police bail.

Officers turned up at Jen Kowalski’s house the day after she took part in the protest against fossil fuels on May 8 and arrested her, accusing her of not informing police that she had organised the protest, a charge which she denies.

“I was just in a state of shock the whole time, and for a few days after,” Kowalski told The Big Issue. “I feel like it’s a bit of a fear tactic that was used against the group in general.”

Kowalski, 26, says she acted as a steward, not an organiser, of the Just Stop Oil protest, which blocked roads for about an hour in the afternoon along its route from Garnethill Park to George Square in Glasgow city centre.

As a condition of her police bail Kowalski is banned from organising or participating in protests in Scotland until her first appearance at Glasgow and Strathkelvin Sheriff Court in late July.

She faces a possible three-month prison sentence or £2,500 fine if convicted.

“I feel like it’s a bit of a fear tactic,” Kowalski said. Image: Supplied

Netpol, an organisation that monitors street policing, said it appeared to be a case of “deliberately disruptive targeting” by police of an activist.

Campaigns co-ordinator Kevin Blowe said: “Lots of spontaneous marches in Scotland go ahead without a clear organiser. This seems like the deliberately disruptive targeting of a known campaigner of Just Stop Oil.

“It has the potential to negatively impact public safety, by dissuading potential stewards from volunteering to help manage marches for fear of prosecution.”

Under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, anyone organising a protest march must give police written notification of it.

At the time police said they had “no concerns” about the protest and no arrests had been made.

Kowalski, who has previously been arrested for blocking oil terminals, said: “I wasn’t even an organiser. I was a steward, leading the protest along the right route for the organisers in case they did get arrested.”

The incident comes amid fears over proposed anti-protest powers granted to the police in the government’s new Public Order Bill.

Police will have power to issue “protest ASBOs”, or Serious Disruption Prevention Orders, banning people from protests. The passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill also means police have new powers to place restrictions on protests.

The last six months have seen widespread arrests and jailing of environmental protesters from Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain, but those have largely been for protests where the activists intend to get arrested either for breaching injunctions or blocking oil terminals.

“The fact they told the media there would be no arrests and then came and arrested one person at their house when nobody could see it, definitely made it feel like it was a manipulative intimidation attempt,” said Kowalski of Inglefield Street, Glasgow.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “A 26-year-old woman has been arrested and charged in connection with a protest march which took place in Glasgow on Sunday, 8 May, 2022. She was reported to the Procurator Fiscal.”

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