Today a group of 10 people from Brighton No Borders took part in a peaceful protest at the Mercure Hotel, Povey Cross Road, Crawley, demonstrating against Arora Hotels International Ltd.’s plans to turn the 254-bed four-star Mercure hotel into the third immigration detention centre in the Gatwick area.
The anti-detention campaigners unfurled banners calling for an end to detention and deportation inside the hotel’s main lobby and distributed leaflets to both staff and customers explaining their reasons for opposing the application. On arrival, the demonstrators asked to speak to the Manager, who arrived quickly but refused to give any comment. Most staff seemed surprised to hear of the proposals and both customers and some staff were initially willing to listen to the demonstrators. However, the management quickly adopted heavy handed and threatening behaviour, attempting to seize banners, leaflets and cameras and on at least three occasions pushing the demonstrators. They repeated demands to leave and then called the police. The demonstrators remained in the lobby, although senior staff became increasingly abusive and began to escort passing customers out through a side door to prevent demonstrators from engaging with them or handing out leaflets.
After about 30 minutes three police vehicles arrived, at which point the demonstrators calmly left the building. They were then detained by police, while the manager made false accusations of damage to property and anti-social behaviour. The police tried to force the demonstrators to give their personal details, threatening arrest, but after a brief stand-off seemed to realise the disproportionate nature of their response and let them leave.
This demonstration was successful in drawing the hotel management’s proposals to the attention of customers and staff. Following a similar demonstration outside the Manchester branch of the hotel chain last week, it showed the company management that there is considerable opposition to the application and to their disgusting attempt to profit from the detention of children and families, the harmful impact of which has been widely reported. As the first application of this kind, we also wanted to send a clear message to the hotel industry more widely that this type of proposal will be met with strong opposition.
The application is due to be considered by Crawley Borough Council on 25 January and there will be a larger demonstration on this day.