Apr 28 2011 By Dan Coombs
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POLICE have been criticised by an MP over a disproportionate response after 40 officers in riot gear fruitlessly raided a vegetable garden.
Officers swooped on Transition Heathrow's site in Vineries Close, Sipson, just 24 hours before the Royal Wedding.
They were searching for items which could have been used in connection with criminal damage, but no items were seized and no arrests made. The raid took place on Thursday at 7.15am.
Joe Rake, 20, Transition Heathrow member, said: "We got woken up by 40 police officers all in riot gear from the police Territorial Support Group (TSG). It was completely disproportionate.
"All we do is grow vegetables and fix bikes. There were seven of us here at the time.
"They said they were looking for items which could be used for criminal damage, paint was mentioned.
"Apparently two other raids were made on similar squats across London round the same time. It does seem like we have been targeted."
Another Transition Heathrow member joked on their website, "We are armed only with vegetables."
John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington (Lab), whose constituency includes the Heathrow villages, visited the site on hearing of the raid.
He said: "I am anxious about it, this is a group of young people who have made a great contribution to revitalise Sipson. They are extraordinarily nice young people who have turned a derelict site into a real community garden.
"To have that large number of police officers turning up, is quite unnecessary and disproportionate.
"I am quite angry about it and will be raising it in Parliament. There was no reference to the Royal Wedding but it seems an exceptional coincidence that the raid was just one day before it. Otherwise I cannot think what they are trying to prevent."
Police confirmed the raids were part of a proactive investigation to tackle 'suspected criminality'.
They said the intelligence led operation was not specifically related to the Royal Wedding, but had been brought forward because of the event.
As part of the operation, two addresses in Camberwell, south London, and Hackney were also raided, with 19 arrested in Camberwell for abstracting electricity, and one in Hackney in connection with the TUC march.
Transition Heathrow are a group of young people who formed in response to the third runway plans, occupying a derelict community garden, transforming it back into life again, winning the support of the Sipson community. Since the runway was cancelled the site's owners have registered an interest in seizing back the land, and a civil case in ongoing at the county court and will be held this coming December.