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Police defend response to incident at street soup kitchen in Norwich following criticism from People’s Picnic

PUBLISHED: 06:55 18 July 2017 | UPDATED: 17:33 18 July 2017

Police at the People's Picnic street soup kitchen on Saturday evening. Photo: People's Picnic.

Police at the People's Picnic street soup kitchen on Saturday evening. Photo: People's Picnic.

Archant

Norfolk Police has defended its response to an incident at a street soup kitchen in Norwich following criticism from event organisers.

Police at the People's Picnic street soup kitchen on Saturday evening. Photo: People's Picnic. Police at the People's Picnic street soup kitchen on Saturday evening. Photo: People's Picnic.

The People’s Picnic said multiple officers descended on its food stall on Haymarket on Saturday night following a “minor scuffle”.

It claimed police then went on to threaten others with dispersal orders as they were waiting to be fed.

The organisation, which provides free hot meals to vulnerable people in the city centre, accused officers of attempting to “socially cleanse the area of ‘undesirables’.”

It comes as Norfolk Police announced it would be increasing patrols in the city centre over the weekend as part of a crackdown on aggressive beggars following concerns from the public.

Police at the People's Picnic street soup kitchen on Saturday evening. Photo: People's Picnic. Police at the People's Picnic street soup kitchen on Saturday evening. Photo: People's Picnic.

The Peoples’ Picnic said around three PCSOs were already monitoring the area when it arrived to set up its hot food service.

“It’s fair to say their 
presence was intimidating 
and created unnecessary agitation for those queuing 
for their evening meal,” it 
said in a Facebook post.

The organisation said a minor scuffle broke out 20 minutes into service, which was “dealt with” in less than a minute by a volunteer.

However, it claimed that when the PCSOs radioed in for back-up, they described the incident as a “mass event”.

“The area was suddenly descended upon by at least 12 officers, in four vehicles, threatening innocent members of the community we were feeding with threats of dispersal orders,” it added.

Police said its PCSOs were already patrolling around Haymarket on Saturday as part of its work to address concerns around anti-social behaviour in the area.

At around 8.10pm a PCSO reported a fight and requested urgent assistance, a spokesman said.

“Eight officers responded and dealt with a disagreement involving two people – one of which had suffered a broken nose,” the spokesman added.

“The victim did not wish to pursue a case, however as a result of enquiries a man was given a direction to leave notice.”

Police said multiple officers were deployed as public order incidents “can escalate quickly”, adding that the area is currently subject to a police action plan.

The People’s Picnic claims the man with the broken nose suffered the injury prior to the incident on Saturday.

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