Following several incidents of disruptive, abusive and intimidating behaviour at public council meetings, Lambeth council is reviewing how to manage access and security.
During the latest incident, councillors and council officers faced aggression from a small number of protestors not only during the meeting but as they left and on their journeys home. One planning officer was followed onto a bus, heckled and subsequently had to disembark and get a taxi home.
In May a full council meeting had to be abandoned after repeated shouting and aggressive behaviour prohibited any meaningful discussion. There have been incidents of glitter being thrown directly into a council officer’s face, plastic eyes being thrown at councillors with intimidating chants of ‘we’re watching you’ and repeated abusive and threatening language.
Police have had to attend council meetings for the safety of all those present, due to the unacceptable behaviour of a small hardcore group.
The vast majority of attendees to council meetings held in public engage productively and respect acceptable standards of behaviour.
For example, during the recent planning committee meeting to decide an application relating to Brixton Arches, which received much media attention, local business representatives from the arches listened and contributed to the discussion productively and peacefully. However a small group of people stood on chairs, shouted, threatened and intimidated officers and councillors, forcing police to intervene.
It is many of the same group that has repeatedly sought to disrupt full council and cabinet meetings and planning and licensing committees in recent months.
Leader of Lambeth Council, Lib Peck, said: “It is a very sad state of affairs when public servants are abused simply for doing their job.
“Lambeth is a borough with very strong communities, huge diversity and a high level of political engagement, that is one of the things that makes Lambeth such a special place. Most people coming to public meetings do so to engage and debate peacefully.
“However a small hardcore mob seem intent on disruptive, aggressive behaviour and it simply will not be tolerated.”
Lambeth’s Democratic Services team will review arrangements for public council meetings in future, which are currently being held in various locations across the borough as the Town Hall is closed for refurbishment. Police will be consulted.