'We Were Treated Like Terrorists': Brits Charged With ‘Racial Hatred’ Over Russian Flag Speak Out
01:10 GMT 20.09.2022 (Updated: 15:21 GMT 28.05.2023)
The charges have been dropped and the group is pursuing legal action against the arresting officers, a spokesman told Sputnik. He condemned the UK’s dystopian double standard: “you can wave the Ukraine flag – in fact, we could have had swastikas and they wouldn’t have said anything – but not a Russian flag.”
British protesters who were taken into custody on charges of “inciting racial hatred” for displaying Russian flags in public earlier this year are suing the police, a spokesman for the demonstrators told Sputnik News.
Footage recently published on social media shows Essex police arresting all six activists holding Russian flags as they protested official government Covid policies outside the Colchester General Hospital on March 15.
In the video, an officer is shown telling the group that they’ve committed a “public order offense” because “people are taking offense to the Russian flags that you are displaying as there is currently a war going on in Ukraine with Russia.” The activists would ultimately be charged with not only disturbing the peace, but also using “threatening or abusive language,” as well as “inciting racial hatred.”
For Ian Drew, a 72-year-old retiree who serves as spokesman for the unnamed and loosely-organized coalition that’s been protesting government injustice since 2020, the only offense committed that day was carried out by the police.
“We were treated like terrorists, really treated like terrorists for having a Russian flag,” he said, calling the officers’ decision to arrest him and his compatriots for charges which would ultimately all be dropped an “abuse of their powers.”
“We were wrongfully arrested and imprisoned.”
Drew confirmed that the arrests had a chilling effect on the group’s freedom of expression, noting they haven’t “used the Russian flag so much” since being detained for doing so.
The group is reportedly now pursuing legal action against Essex police for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment in an effort to “clean up the police.”
According to Drew, the previous week the activists brought larger Russian flags to a demonstration, and at one point explained to officers they were “supporting the Russian people because we felt that they are being persecuted over what's happened in Ukraine.” But on the day of the arrest, they were actually carrying a “seven-meter-long bunting,” which contained the flags of “every nation in the world.”
“We said that we are supporting all nations who are affected by conflict – most of which is caused by NATO – and by the wars around the world. So when they said that one of the charges was actually inciting racial hatred, you know, they could not substantiate that charge.”
But officers apparently decided to move in anyway. The aging activist, who’s affectionately known around town as “the protesting pensioner,” says he and all five of his compatriots were quickly arrested by police – several of whom were armed with pistols – and held overnight on charges which would ultimately be dropped four months later.
For Drew, it wasn’t his first run-in with the cops in Essex. “Our faces are known by the police,” he explained, describing frequent surveillance from officers, who seem to be monitoring the group’s online activity:
“Every time we went into the town, everywhere we went, [police] would turn up – they must be looking at social media because they were always aware of where we were going to be.”
In their last contentious interaction with police, Drew says while officers may not have agreed with their message, they at least allowed them to express it. That came in recent months amid nationwide protests which called on the government to alleviate British motorists’ pain at the pump as Western nations’ sanctions on Russia hit their working populations hardest.
Drew characterizes the sanctions regime as an intentional effort by the ruling class to “wipe out” small businesses “by making their fuel bills so high that they can't work.” He adds, “this is another way of getting control of everybody.”
While gas prices have subsided somewhat since August, Drew predicts the government will “gradually start pulling [the cost] up again and blaming [Russian President Vladimir] Putin” when they do.
“Everything is ‘let’s blame Russia,’” he laments, adding “it's so false, but unfortunately, loads of people believe it because they listen to the BBC and they think what the government says is right – even though they know deep down the government lied to you because of all those things they got up to during the COVID lockdowns.”
“They didn't take part in lockdowns. They had their parties… and all the little scams they were involved in, where they were getting money for all the PPE stuff that had to be bought for covid.”
Allegations of rampant bribery and nepotism were widespread in Britain during the early days of the pandemic. A report
from the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2021 found that “a fifth of UK government contracts awarded to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic last year contained red flag indicators of possible corruption.”
“They were all in on it,” says Drew. “And people have been told this and they still trust the government.”
Until more Brits wise up, the fiery group has pledged to continue their efforts.
“We’re still supporting people who are affected by wars around the world,” says Drew. As for the latest act of police intimidation?
“It’s not gonna stop us.”