Video footage has emerged of a police raid on the East London multi-arts complex Antepavilion that took place last Friday, 25 June.
The focus of the raid was a rooftop installation, titled All Along the Watchtower, which resembles a bamboo and cable structure used at protests last year by the climate action group Extinction Rebellion, whom the police were targeting as they believed it to be associated with Antepavilion.
It was left intact and on display, but the building's owner and landlord Russell Gray, and four others were arrested and later released under investigation.
The raid, conducted under Section 18 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, drew shock from the artistic and architecture communities. The release of the footage revealing the level of force used by The Metropolitan Police has resulted in a renewed expression of outrage.
“I mean, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to realise that we're an arts organisation and we have no connection with Extinction Rebellion,” Gray tells The Art Newspaper.
Videos of CCTV footage shared on Instagram by artist Damien Meade show police forcing entry to the building and a large number of police entering the building. The videos also show Gray, who was arrested for dangerous driving, being forcibly removed from his moped as he arrives at the scene.
“The Met have taken proactive action to prevent and reduce criminal disruption [by Extinction Rebellion] which we believe was intended for direction at media business locations over the weekend. Twelve people have been arrested at three locations in London. During the arrests, a number of items were seized by officers, including bamboo structures, lock-on equipment and other items which could be used to cause criminal damage and obstructions,” reads part of a statement released by the Metropolitan Police on the day of the raid.
The structure All Along the Watchtower was built by the organisation Project Bunny Rabbit after winning the Antepavilion Early Special Summer Commission. Made from bamboo, wire and flags, it is described as “an agile, demountable, movable tensegrity structure designed as a functional and symbolic centre for activism in Hackney” on Project Bunny Rabbit's Instagram page. The commission announcement, renders and construction of the work are documented on their public page as is the inspiration for a similar structure used at protests by Extinction Rebellion.
When Antepavilion awarded the commission to Project Bunny Rabbit, it did not anticipate that erecting the structure on the roof of the building would result in action from the police.
“I didn't know they were going to work in such a bizarre way but now, after the event, it seems pretty clear...Namely, they thought resemblance to a structure used by Extinction Rebellion in some demonstrations, somewhere was enough,” Gray says.