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Footage showed a crowd sitting in front of the vehicle in Peckham, south-east London. Shouts of “Let him go” could be heard clearly.
Police were called to Evan Cook Close at 1.30pm yesterday “to a report of protesters obstructing immigration officers”.
A spokesman for the Met added: “A van was being prevented from leaving the location. One man has been arrested by immigration enforcement officers.”
He was released on bail later on.
Nearby resident Eleanor Janega, 39, said: “We were alerted that there was an immigration raid in process so locals came down to block it.”
She added: “We had been sitting here blocking the van and having ice lollies. They brought more police in and tried to break through the crowd by pushing us. We all sat down.”
Labour councillor Reginald Popoola said people “encircled the van peacefully” but claimed some were shoved during the protest.
Hearing that the man had been released on bail, Mr Popoola said: “Peaceful protest is powerful.”
Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe, a former Labour politician who was expelled from the party after being convicted of harassment, praised the crowd.
She wrote online: “In response to a Home Office immigration raid, with the power of humanity and solidarity, the people of Peckham mobilised, fought back and got their neighbour released.”
“This is people power – so beautiful to see.”
It is understood the man is Nigerian. He was suspected of overstaying his visa and was released on immigration bail.
A woman who gave her name as Nicola and who is an activist with campaigners Stand Up To Racism said that Met police officers “gave up” trying to arrest people at the scene.
She added: “Police tried to arrest a number of activists at the front, but they were held on to by others who were also sitting down and the police gave up.”
“And finally, after a lot of protest, the police announced that they were going to release him [the arrested man] and it took…about half an hour for them to actually open the doors so we all stayed and called for this to happen quickly.”
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said yesterday that “preventing immigration enforcement teams from doing their job is unacceptable”.
She added: “Blocking or obstructing them will not deter them from undertaking the duties that the public rightly expect them to carry out.”
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