Young campaigner arrested in High Street
SHOPPERS watched in disbelief as a team of seven police officers dismantled an animal rights stall set up by two young campaigners in Stroud High Street.
Shortly after, one of the pair, Chris Potter, 17, was bundled into the back of a police car after mounting a sit down protest when officers demanded his name and address.
The youngster and friend Ziggy Ramone, 26, from Nailsworth, had been running a stall on Friday to raise awareness of animal testing and the fur trade.
But despite agreeing to move on, the first officer to arrive called for backup and Chris was arrested after refusing to give his details.
Police, who were called to investigate a complaint about the stall around 2.15pm, said the pair did not have a trading licence and were potentially obstructing a public highway.
While no trading licence was required, the pair were accepting donations and should technically have applied to the district council for a collection permit.
But many shoppers who saw the incident felt the police were heavy-handed and could have handled the situation in a less confrontational manner.
Town mayor John Marjoram, who witnessed the incident, was surprised by the police response.
"For the past 25 years there has never been a problem with people who are campaigning and not selling things," he said.
"It's part and parcel of being a liberal town and it helps add to the colour of the street.
"They were directly behind a letter box so I couldn't see how they were blocking the street.
"I felt it was extraordinary to have so many police there for two youngsters."
David Michael, 51, from Springhill, Stroud, also watched as officers made the arrest, dismantled the stall and seized a pot of donations.
"It was quite overwhelming and was an incredible over-reaction," he said.
"I think it's fantastic that young people are taking a stand as so many are disenfranchised these days."
Another shopper, Gill Rogers, who was visiting Stroud from Bristol, said: "Does it honestly take seven policemen to move on one young man?
"I didn't want to sign his petition but I did feel sorry for the guy."
Another shopper handed over £20 when he saw what happened.
Chris, who has campaigned for Gloucestershire Animal Action for the past year, sat on the floor in protest after what he felt was an unreasonable request for his details.
"For the police to turn up and start demanding my details I felt was a little intimidated," he said.
"We were just giving out information."
Ziggy, a professional model, echoed her friend's concerns.
"Lots of people stopped and we certainly weren't forcing our opinions on anyone," said the former Stroud High School pupil, who added that they never ask for money.
According to Stroud District Council's licensing department, groups do not require a permit to set up a stall if they are not trading.
Commercial services manager Phil Park said: "If people are not actually selling anything they do not need the council's consent."
However, a collection permit, which is available free of charge from the council, is required if money is handed over, even if it is a donation.
Chris was released by police without charge less than an hour after his arrest.
A Gloucestershire police spokesman said Chris, from Gloucester, was arrested for refusing to give his details.
"There are rules and regulations governing the setting up of these stalls," he said.
"If he had given his details in the first place, which is something he later did in the custody suite, it would have saved everybody a lot of time and hassle."