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02 May 2024

Arrests made as protesters block coach taking asylum seekers to Bibby Stockholm

02 May 2024

More than 40 people have been arrested after protesters blocked a coach set to take asylum seekers to the Bibby Stockholm barge.

Police said they were called at around 8.40am on Thursday to reports of people obstructing a coach, which was parked outside a Best Western Hotel in Peckham, south-east London.

A total of 45 people were arrested after officers were assaulted whilst trying to stop the protesters from obstructing the coach, the Metropolitan Police said.

A large group of people, many with their faces covered, surrounded the coach and were seen linking arms and sitting in Peckham Road.

Pictures showed lines of police officers attending the scene, while footage captured some jostling with protesters at one point.

The demonstrators could be heard chanting “no borders, no nations, stop deportations”, “say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here”, and “when refugees are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back”.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said in a statement: “It saddens me greatly to say that a number of officers have been assaulted in the course of their duty following an incident in Peckham today where they sought to uphold the law.”

He said that officers spoke to the coach driver and protesters “at length” and warned them that they could be arrested, and added: “After this demonstrators blocked the road and continued to prevent the coach, and police vehicles, from leaving.

“More officers were sent to the scene to safely remove people from the road, allow the vehicles to leave and for the road to reopen.

“A number of officers have reported being assaulted. Thankfully I’m glad that none of those are seriously hurt.”

But protesters claimed police had been “pushing and shoving” peaceful demonstrators.

Laurence Smith, founder of the charity Lewisham Donation Hub, said two of his organisation’s volunteers, who are asylum seekers, had been threatened with being sent to the barge.

He told the PA news agency: “I came down today to make sure our volunteers left that hotel and went to the private accommodation that we found.”

He added that he had spoken to Superintendent Matt Cox, from the Metropolitan Police, at 10am to try to defuse the situation.

Jennie, 34, who did not want to give her surname, is a member of one of the groups who were involved in the protest.

She told PA: “We’re now trying to support the asylum seekers who weren’t removed.”

Jennie, who had visible cuts and bruises on her arms and hands, said police were “pushing and shoving” people and that she needed medical attention.

PA understands the asylum seekers were taken off the coach and have not yet left the hotel.

No amount of chanting, drum banging or tyre-slashing by a noisy few will prevent us doing what is necessary to deliver the firm but fair approach that the British people expect

The Home Office has not confirmed whether there are plans to try again to move the asylum seekers to the barge on another day or if the move had been abandoned, but Home Secretary James Cleverly said protests would not deter the “firm but fair approach the British people expect”.

He said: “We will continue to remove those with no right to be here, despite continued efforts by the Labour Party and a coalition of disparate student groups to stop us.

“No amount of chanting, drum banging or tyre-slashing by a noisy few will prevent us doing what is necessary to deliver the firm but fair approach that the British people expect.

“I’d like to thank the police for their swift and professional action. They have my full support in clamping down on unacceptable criminality, racism and intimidation regardless of where it comes from.”

It comes as the Home Office abandoned plans to move a group of asylum seekers to the barge in the wake of protests in Margate last week.

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