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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 15:42 GMT
Play protest goes to High Court
Sikhs outside Birmingham Rep
Sikh protesters objected to the play Behzti
A man arrested during a protest by Sikhs against a play at the Birmingham Rep has started High Court action against the police.

Pritpal Singh, arrested for failing to leave, is arguing the police were heavy-handed in using dispersal powers at a peaceful demonstration.

A number of protests were held in December 2004 over Behzti, a play which depicts scenes of abuse in a temple.

The theatre eventually cancelled the play's run over safety fears.

University student Mr Singh, from Styvchale, West Midlands, was released after being cautioned.

Human rights

He is claiming that if the dispersal order was unlawful then his arrest and caution should be quashed and that he would be entitled to damages for breaches of his rights.

Speaking for Mr Singh, David Pievsky said police should not have used powers under the 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act to disperse peaceful protesters.

He told the court that on 16 December, many Sikhs wished to protest about the play over concerns about the message it was sending out about their religion.

They had been allowed inside the theatre to hand out leaflets, he said, but the theatre managers then asked police to remove them as the numbers were more than anticipated.

Once they were removed they were ordered to disperse and banned from returning that day.

Public harassed

He argued the dispersal order was unlawful because the authorisation under which it was imposed was targeted at alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour in the area in the run up to Christmas.

West Midlands Police are resisting the judicial review application, saying officers had reasonable grounds for believing the protesters behaviour could result in members of the public being intimidated and harassed.

They said a staff member was threatened, another protester kicked a poster box and another set off a fire alarm.

There were violent protests outside the theatre on the weekend of 18 and 19 December.

The case continues.

Award for Sikh demonstration play
09 Mar 05 |  West Midlands

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