Arts lodge leader charged after demonstration about repossession in Victoria Park

Arts Lodge incident: Picture: JCD Photographic  From: John Douglas
Arts Lodge incident: Picture: JCD Photographic From: John Douglas
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The leader of an arts centre who was arrested after demonstrating against the council when it repossessed the centre has been charged by police.

Mark Lewis, who runs Art and Soul Traders, which operates from the The Lodge Arts Centre & Park Cafe, in Victoria Park, Portsmouth, was arrested yesterday.

Police at the Arts Lodge in Victoria Park, Portsmouth on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 having been sent in to repossess the building by Portsmouth City Council  Picture: Loughlan Campbell

Police at the Arts Lodge in Victoria Park, Portsmouth on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 having been sent in to repossess the building by Portsmouth City Council Picture: Loughlan Campbell

A fracas ensued when police were called by workers from Portsmouth City Council after they changed the locks on the building.

As previously reported, the authority took back the centre, which Mr Lewis has renovated and run for 15 years, as it wants to improve the café facilities and offer opportunities for adults with learning disabilities.

However protestors gathered at the lodge yesterday, who were upset at losing the facilities the centre already provides, a standoff followed and Mr Lewis was handcuffed – and he claims he was sprayed with pepper spray.

This morning he posted on Facebook that he had been charged with four offences.

Arts Lodge incident on Tuesday: Picture: JCD Photographic

Arts Lodge incident on Tuesday: Picture: JCD Photographic

He added: ‘Thanks guys we just got out after 15 hours,,, yes I was pepper sprayed for wielding a broom stick and dripping mop to protect our property!!

‘Thanks to everyone who showed up today on such short notice... this is totally an illegal eviction, we still have a meeting with them Thursday at 10am civic offices about our monthly rolling contract and tendering for the new contract (sic).’

He added that police had banned him from the park and Anglesea Road until March and said they had confiscated his phone.

A spokeswoman from Hampshire Constabulary confirmed that five arrests had been made.

Mark Lewis at The Arts Lodge & Park Cafe.   Picture: Aidan Butler

Mark Lewis at The Arts Lodge & Park Cafe. Picture: Aidan Butler

She said that Mr Lewis, 48, of Teddington Road, Southsea had been charged with: two counts of assaulting a constable in the execution of his/her duty, possession of a controlled drug of class B – cannabis/cannabis resin, using threatening/abusive/insulting words/behaviour with intent to cause fear of/provoke unlawful violence.

Alison Brett, 51, of Clarence Parade, Southsea, had been charged with assaulting a constable in the execution of his/her duty.

They are both due to appear at Portsmouth Magistrates Court on March 9.

The spokeswoman added that a 23-year-old man from Portsmouth received a police caution and a 52-year-old man and a 28-year-old man were released with no further action.

The Arts Lodge & Park Cafe in Victoria Park Picture: Aidan Butler (161256-1502)

The Arts Lodge & Park Cafe in Victoria Park Picture: Aidan Butler (161256-1502)

Yesterday the council defended its actions.

Owen Buckwell, Portsmouth City Council’s director of property and housing, said: ‘Mark Lewis was contacted over eight months ago advising him the lease would expire on Sunday, February 5.

‘Repeated efforts were made offering alternative premises, and we urged him to get in touch because the lease expiry was fast approaching.

‘We had hoped to avoid any confrontation and resolve this amicably. Today’s actions are upsetting for everyone involved. Two female members of staff felt aggressively threatened and had no choice but to call the police.

‘Mark Lewis was fully aware that we had planned to take back the property and we had asked the keys to be returned yesterday because renovations to the lodge are due to get underway shortly, which include installing public loos, improved café facilities and opportunities for adults with learning disabilities.’

As previously reported, nearly 5,000 people signed a petition calling on the council to let the Art and Soul Traders stay at the lodge.