Police accused over squat raids

A Labour backbencher has accused police of “disproportionate” action ahead of the royal wedding after a string of squats were raided in London on the eve of the big day.

Properties in the Hackney, Camberwell and Heathrow areas of London were swooped on at dawn as part of investigations into disturbances at the student protests last year and recent TUC march, police sources said.

But Labour backbencher John McDonnell raised a point of order in the Commons to question the timing of the incidents, saying they appeared to be “some form of pre-emptive strike before the royal wedding”.

He added: “I believe this disproportionate use of force is unacceptable and I would urge that a minister comes to this House from the Home Office to explain what is exactly happening today, what are the grounds for that action and also to contact the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to explain that many of us feel that this is disproportionate and no way to celebrate this joyous wedding.”

Joe Rake, 20, a Transition Heathrow campaigner who lives at one of the squats in Sipson, said he woke up to 40 officers raiding the property at dawn.

“It seems obvious to us that they thought we were going to do something at the wedding tomorrow,” he said. “They searched through our things but took nothing away and made no arrests.”

Addresses on Camberwell Road, south London, and Lower Clapton Road, east London, were also targeted by raids.

The Heathrow raid was carried out in Mr McDonnell’s constituency. “It appears that raids like this are going on across London at the moment as some form of pre-emptive strike before the royal wedding,” he said.

Scotland Yard said later that the raids “are not specifically related to the royal wedding but have been brought forward ahead of the event”.

It added: “Nineteen people were arrested for abstracting electricity at Camberwell Road. One person was arrested at the address in Hackney in connection with the disorder following the TUC march. There were no arrests at the address in Sipson.”
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