On the most recent ‘Shut BMI Airlines day’ on December 20th, No Borders South Wales activists went to Cardiff International Airport where ‘Bmi baby’ operate flights from. Bmi baby is a subsidiary company of BMI Airlines. The aim of the visit was to hand out leaflets explaining how BMI Airlines make money from the practice of carrying people against their will to places they do not want to go to.
After only a few minutes of giving out leaflets in the terminal, including to employees at the Bmi baby desk, the airport manager advised that he would have to call the police. Four officers from the ‘Airport Police Group’, armed with guns and tasers, quickly caught up with us and informed us that we were being stopped and searched under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. Despite questioning our obligation to provide our names and addresses, we were told that we would be arrested, detained and questioned by ‘Special Branch’ if we refused. The Stop and Search records that we were given identify no grounds for search apart from ‘operation aviation’.
If these officers had real concerns that we were a terrorist threat, then surely they would have actually searched us and our belongings. However they did neither. Their use of the Terrorism Act served to intimidate us and to stop our protest, as well as attempt to gather further information about us.
It is another clear example of the intensification of the surveillance society and the growing criminalisation of protest. The state has used the fear of terrorism to bring in a raft of new legislation that give the police unprecedented powers. One particularly worrying change, as we and others have reported previously, is the emergence of an unaccountable, privatised police force. The implications these changes have for social control represent a major threat to everyone’s freedom.