A prominent peace activist faces prosecution for trespass after she was arrested at Menwith Hill intelligence station near Harrogate whilst protesting by carrying an upside-down US flag. The arrest of Lindis Percy took place on the day Barack Obama was re-inaugurated as US president on January 21.
Percy had written the words ‘Now then...second and only chance Obama’ on the flag. She wanted Obama to reduce American military involvement across the world and use the money saved to address poverty in his own country.
Under the 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) Percy’s case is now in the hands of the Attorney General, Dominic Greaves, who must decide whether she will face charges. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has been asked to investigate.
If Percy is sent to trial this would be the second time she has faced a trespass prosecution under SOCPA. Two years ago she successfully defended herself after she had showed her driving licence to obtain entry to Mildenhall US Air Force base in Suffolk.
After wandering around the base unchallenged for over an hour - during which time no criminal damage occurred - she was arrested as she made her way to the exit. Despite the prosecution calling five base witnesses, a district judge at Bury St Edmonds Magistrates’ Court dismissed the case and heavily criticised a security guard’s evidence. CCTV coverage of the gate that Percy had used to enter the base had earlier gone missing.
Percy was also arrested in 2011 when she displayed outside the American Embassy in London a upside-down US flag bearing the words “Independence from America”. She was threatened with arrest under SOCPA and then detained for an alleged breach of the peace. She was later released without charge.
Percy, a former nurse, also had charges of “wilfully obstructing three Ministry of Defence police officers in the execution of their duty” at Menwith Hill on August 16 2011 dismissed in April last year. District Judge Jane Goodwin criticised the arresting officers for failing to interview independent witnesses.
The Campaign for Accountability of American Bases (CAAB) holds a demonstration outside the main entrance at Menwith Hill every Tuesday evening.
The base opened in 1951 and is under the control of the US forces.
The site is a communications intercept and missile warning base that, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is becoming “increasingly vital to US intelligence.”
Doctor Martin Schweiger, who regularly attends the CAAB pickets, said: “SOCPA legislation is a very blunt instrument that can suppress legitimate peaceful public protest. It has never been properly debated in Parliament and is implemented by police officers interpreting the framework given to them by ministers.
“Clearly there are problems with the legislation because the police have failed when challenged in court. Given the costs in time and money there will be good reason to question any decision to proceed in Lindis’s case.”
Neither the Attorney General or the CPS was willing to comment on an ‘ongoing case.’ An attempt to get a statement from the shadow Attorney General Emile Anne Thornberry was also unsuccessful.