Police criticised after employees of arts charity detained in Extinction Rebellion raid

(Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The Metropolitan Police have been accused of acting “unlawfully” after a number of employees were arrested at the arts and architecture charity Antepavilion. 

The charity offers studio and art exhibition display spaces, as well as occasional event and performance space, from a mixed-used building in Hackney, north-east London. The building also includes residential units. 

Two of the charity’s staff and one tenant were detained as part of a dozen arrests made in a “proactive” raid that was intended to target members of climate activist group Extinction Rebellion before a planned protest at the weekend.

The group’s members had been attending workshops on the premises. 

The police said 11 people were arrested for conspiracy to cause public nuisance and one for dangerous driving. 

They have all been released under investigation, except one person who was released with no further action to be taken. 

Russell Gray, director of the property company Shiva, which owns the building and sponsors the charity’s annual competition, spent the night in jail after he was accused of dangerous driving.

He accused the police of pushing him around, acting “unlawfully” and arresting him on “blatantly unsustainable charges”.

He said the police also threatened to dismantle an art installation on the roof of the building that used the same tensegrity technique as used in a protest by XR.

The climate activist group erected the structure and used it to block access to Broxbourne printworks in Hertfordshire last year.

The bamboo structures won the 2021 Special Early Summer Commission in the charity’s annual competition.

Gray said the charity’s workshops often attracted supporters of XR, but that did not extend to an endorsement of the group or its actions. 

Alanna Byrne, an XR spokesperson, said: “Why are the police confiscating an art installation? Under what powers are they arresting employees of an art space and people who live in the building? 

“This is a vast overreach of police powers, a major infringement on the lives of those arrested, and suppression of freedom of expression. 

“Would this be happening if Extinction Rebellion wasn’t holding Rupert Murdoch and the rest of the billionaire-owned press to account?”

Chief Inspector Joe Stokoe of the Metropolitan Police’s Public Order Command said: “We took proactive action to prevent and reduce the likelihood of any disruptive activity during the course of the weekend. 

“This action should further demonstrate our commitment and proactivity to preventing criminality.”

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