LEYTONSTONE / WANSTEAD: Concern over dispersal zone
CONCERNS have been raised that new powers allowing police to disperse groups of just two people could be used to stifle protest during the Olympics.
The dispersal zone came into force this week and covers almost all of Leytonstone to the east of the A12, Blake Hall Road in Wanstead and most of Wanstead Flats – including the Met's controversial temporary Olympics base.
Under the new regulations, officers will be able to order groups of two or more people suspected of carrying out anti-social behaviour to leave the area for 24 hours.
Police have confirmed that the Olympics was a “consideration” for the zone but say it was also in response to reported anti-social behaviour in the area.
But not everyone is convinced.
Campaigners from the left-wing Youth Fight For Jobs group say they have serious concerns and are to hold a protest against the order outside the police base in Kirkdale Road, Leytonstone, on Friday (June 29).
It comes after legislation designed to tackle anti-social yobs, such as ASBOS, was used against protesters at Leyton Marsh, where a temporary Olympic basketball hall is being built on public land.
Protest organiser Claire Laker-Mansfield, 23, of Scarborough Road in Leytonstone, said: “We question whether this won’t be used against protests.
"Campaigners in the borough have already been given ASBOs for protesting against the effect of the Olympics on the local community.
“We also have a right to be able to walk through our local area with friends and to hang out without being treated like criminals.
“We will fight to defend our democratic rights.”
The zone also applies to young people aged under 16. Anyone in the age-range caught in the zone after 9pm will potentially be escorted home by officers if they are not accompanied by an adult.
Despite the fears of campaigners, police insist the powers are for tackling crime.
A Met spokesman said: "Dispersal zones have been used widely across Waltham Forest to address anti-social behaviour.
"The Olympics was a consideration for the dispersal zone but this is not the primary reason for the implementation of the zone.
"Local residents and businesses have supported this initiative and both Waltham Forest and Redbridge Police have worked in partnership with the local authority to address concerns about anti-social behaviour in these areas.
"A previous dispersal zone had displaced anti-social behaviour to neighbouring wards...[so] we hope to tackle this problem by enforcing cross-border dispersal zones."
The order expires on Tuesday November 20.