Anonymous masked demonstrations

Meeting: 
MQT on 2015-11-18
Session date: 
November 18, 2015
Reference: 
2015/3736
Question By: 
Kemi Badenoch
Organisation: 
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor
Category: 

Question

How do we prevent anonymous masked demonstrations from happening in London, such as the November 5th "Million Mask March", especially when there is a clear intention to commit public disorder?

Answer

Answer for Anonymous masked demonstrations

Answer for Anonymous masked demonstrations

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Yes.  Thank you, Kemi.  There were some appalling attacks in this demonstration on six police horses, unbelievable, cynical and brutal attacks by people on animals; just despicable.  One attack caused the rider to be thrown to the ground.  Several of the horses were hurt.

You ask what we can do to prevent people like Anonymous behaving in this way or the Million Mask March from behaving in this way when they came clearly to commit disorder.  We have to allow people to process and to make demonstrations.  We have about 5,000 a year.  These people did not engage with the MPS and we have made about 50 arrests.  I hope that insofar as we have been able to catch the people involved in hurting the horses, they will face very severe penalties indeed.

Kemi Badenoch AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  My particular concern is about the people who are covering their faces to avoid prosecution.  Like you say, there were 50 arrests.  Three individuals refused to reveal their identities, yet they were given unconditional bail by Westminster Magistrates Court.  Is there any chance of them ever appearing before the Court and how can we stop what is, quite frankly, a ridiculous situation from happening again, where people go to court and refuse to give their names and we have no idea who they are?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  It is very interesting that the Magistrates Court gave them unconditional bail even without giving their identities.  Surely they have to give their identities.  I am surprised by that.  It is a long time since you were able to give a false identity in a court of law in this country or not to give your identity.  I will look into that.  I do not understand what happened.

The police do have powers under the Public Order Act 1994 to ask people to remove their masks.  That is obviously an operational matter for them.  Obviously, if they think it appropriate to get people to take masks off in order to make the march safer, then they should get on and do that.

Kemi Badenoch AM:  Do you know how many were removed in this ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I do not know.  I do not know how many masks were removed.

Kemi Badenoch AM:  What can we do then to stop people whose intent is to cause public disorder, not to protest, from hiding their identities?  What more can we do?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  One thing that we do before big marches and big demonstrations, if we remember, is that we sometimes have a bit of a preliminary action.  There is a group called the ‘black bloc’, for instance, and other groups of anarchists, and we tend to try gently or the police try to inform themselves of who is likely to be doing what on the day and to take some action in advance.  There are steps taken in advance to discourage violent protests, but the most important thing to do is to come down very hard on them if they break the law and to arrest them and to make sure they face serious penalties.

Kemi Badenoch AM:  OK.  Thank you.