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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 February, 2004, 17:25 GMT
'How we were kept on coach'
Protesters returning to London. Photo by David Kaplowitz
Police escorted the coach all the way back to London
Jesse Schust, 32, who works in IT in London, was one of the anti-war protesters detained on a coach by police, which High Court judges ruled on Thursday was an abuse of the law.

I was on the coach as a volunteer legal observer, as somebody who has legal knowledge and to watch for the police abusing the rights of the public.

I knew this was probably the biggest demo ever at Fairford and now bombers were flying to Iraq 24 hours a day I thought the policing would be different.

I brought a notepad, a camera and plenty of legal notes so I knew what the laws were.
My friend had to urinate into a sandwich box in the foot well.
Jesse Schust

When I showed up there was about 120 - 140 people waiting for the coaches at Euston.

When we got about 10 miles outside Fairford the police were following us and leading us along, then they pulled us over so they could search the coaches.

I didn't think it was a big deal and we all cooperated and got off the bus in an orderly way as the police requested.

I was quite sympathetic towards the police, I thought they were there just to move the coaches, slow them down and discourage protesters from doing things, search for weapons - I thought that was reasonable in a non-violent protest.

Police by the side of protesters' coach
Protesters thought they would be allowed on their way

I did think we weren't going to get to the protest on time. Little did I know we wouldn't get there at all.

The search took about one hour and 20 minutes. I have never been searched before but it was a superficial kind of search and I didn't have anything taken.

I was really surprised by some of the stuff taken - humorous things like frisbees and batteries for personal stereos.

A few people left, they just decided they had to go to the protest and hitch hiked.

The rest of us assumed we would get there faster on the coaches but when we got back on a policeman boarded the coach and said something very quietly that only the people at the front could hear.

He told us that due to items seized it was felt there would be a breach of the peace if we were allowed onto Fairford so we were going to be sent back to London.

Protesters on one of the coaches
We ended up putting signs on the windows saying let us stop for toilets as there were no toilets on board
Jesse Schust

We drove off and the police ran holding the doors till the coaches were up to speed, we were effectively imprisoned at that point with no means of contact with the police.

We ended up putting signs on the windows saying let us stop for toilets as there were no toilets on board, my friend had to urinate into a sandwich box in the foot well.

The journey took two and a half hours and people were trying to figure out what would happen to us when we got to London, we became very frightened and when we stopped in traffic some people fled the coaches.

I stayed on till Euston to see the whole thing and make sure everyone was safe.

The police escort had remained until we got back to Euston then they drove off.

Me and my friend were too traumatised to go and watch the big anti-war demo in London and sat in a cafe trying to understand how that sort of thing took place.

It took me quite a while to feel confident to go on a hired coach, at the end of the summer I did travel on one and found I was getting nervous.

It was an unfortunate situation and a bad precedent to allow to go unchallenged.

It was disappointing and really hurt not to be able to go and make my protest.

The BBC's June Kelly
"After a year long battle victory for the anti-war protestors"

Police 'abused power' during demo
19 Feb 04  |  Gloucestershire
Rights abuse claim at airbase
16 Jul 03  |  Gloucestershire
Police pay price of war in Iraq
23 Jun 03  |  Gloucestershire
Extra cash to police Fairford
27 Mar 03  |  England

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