A SWINDON councillor is among anti-war protesters in line to receive compensation of more than £4,000 each for being prevented from reaching an RAF air base.
Coun Derique Montaut (Lab, Liden, Eldene and Park South) was part of a group that was stopped by police from reaching a mass rally at Fairford at the start of the Iraq conflict in 2003.
A County Court judge in London has ruled that officers acted outside their powers when they took similar action against another group at Lechlade.
Judge David Mitchell said the move ‘was an interference with the right of ordinary citizens to go about their business’.
Coun Montaut was in a separate group several miles from the air base, but believes they too will be due compensation as the police also barred their way.
He said: “I’m pleased that the judge has reached this decision.
“We live in a democratic state, but that day it felt like a police state. Everyone has a right to their point of view and to the right to protest peacefully. Whether people agreed with the protestors or not, we should have been able to voice our opinion.”
Coun Montaut said the group stopped at Lechlade was ‘thoroughly searched and left feeling humiliated’ before being sent to London.
Coun Montaut said: “There were between 40 and 50 of us and, as we started to march on the border of Gloucestershire, we were met by a body of fairly gruff looking officers from Gloucester-shire Constabulary who were taking an aggressive stance.
“They were out in strength and told us we were not going any further, it was intimidating and frightening.
“As much as we disagreed with it, we were on a peaceful march and nobody wanted to be arrested so we went back to Swindon with our tails between our legs. However, we followed up our protests and it received widespread media coverage.”
The Lechlade group campaigners will receive between £4,200 and £5,100 compensation, opening the way for other claims.
Coun Mountaut said: “Lessons have to be learned.
“The financial claims brought to bear on Gloucestershire police show they acted irresponsibly against citizens who were acting completely peacefully.”