Police were hounded out of an estate in London by a baying mob who forced them to release a suspect arrested for immigration offences.
Amid the remarkable scenes on Saturday afternoon (June 11), a huge crowd of people encircled an immigration enforcement van in Evans Cook Close, Peckham, shouting “let him go” as police attempted to take the man away to custody.
Some protesters laid in front of the vehicle to prevent it leaving and the mood turned ugly as police used force to try and clear the area.
It is understood the man is Nigerian and was suspected of overstaying his visa, while a spokesman for the Met Police said: “Officers attended and found a van was being prevented from leaving the location.
“One man has been arrested by immigration enforcement officers for immigration offences.”
The crowd chanted “We won’t be moving until the man is released”, and “You say people, we say power, people power”.
With a determined army of Londoners digging their heels in and refusing to bow down to the police, officers had no option but to release the suspect and to skedaddle with their tails firmly tucked between their legs.
As they trudged off, the large gathering cried: “Don’t come back to Peckham”.
A spokeswoman for the Home Office, though, said: “Preventing immigration enforcement teams from doing their job is unacceptable.
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“Blocking or obstructing them will not deter them from undertaking the duties that the public rightly expect them to carry out.”
A woman, who gave her name as Nicola – and who is an activist with the south London arm of Stand Up To Racism – said police “gave up” trying to arrest people.
She said: “Police tried to arrest a number of activists at the front, but they were held onto by others who were also sitting down and the police gave up.
“And finally, after a lot of protest, the police announced that they were going to release him and it took, I don’t know, about half an hour for them to actually open the doors so we all stayed and called for this to happen quickly.”
Labour MP for Leicester East Claudia Webbe was quick to applaud the protesters, tweeting: “This is people power – so beautiful to see.”
But her comment brought some angry responses, with one replying: “It’s pathetic, luckily this wouldn’t be blocked by anybody if happening outside of woke London”, while another added: “A credible MP would challenge this through the proper channels and not celebrate lawlessness.”
Webbe did have her backers, though, with one man writing: “This is proper English/London people standing beside their neighbours. Solidarity.” And there was “People of Peckham, you should be so proud”, from another.
Labour councillor Reginald Popoola reacted to the news of the man being released on bail, by saying: “He’s being released, peaceful protest is powerful.”
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