January 21, 2011 3 Comments
Very late on this but the Met released a PDF of a leaflet they were handing out on 19th January at the EMA protest in London. The aim was to “inform demonstrators of what to expect from the police”. I am sure that a few of us could have bunched together and produced something equally – if not moreso – “informative” at a lesser cost. The bottom line is: The police are beyond the law and will do what they damn well want to, whether you are in the wrong or not. They may as well have written that on a small piece of card and handed it out.
I’ve taken out a few interesting points, based on my experience at the tutition fees demonstration in December last year. (I’d write the whole thing out but I think you get the idea!)
What to expect – I don’t really want to quote from this section as it’s very long and you can see it for yourself on the PDF, but basically it explains that police are at protests for ‘your safety’ and to ‘prevent crime’ etc.
On the march to Parliament, near Leicester Square, I noticed policemen hurrying up the pavement either side of the people marching, and I had the foresight to run. I outran a line of police, and when I looked back all I could see were people being hit with batons. I still don’t know to this day how this is justified. It seemed to me like an attempt at kettling people – but only succeeded in diverting protestors down small roads. Which of course, gave rise to the outcries of “They didn’t stick to the agreed route!” – if you prevent people from walking down the ‘agreed route’ then of course they will find another way. Similar reactions at Trafalgar Square when, prevented from walking down Whitehall by a line of mounted police, protestors turned right towards Buckingham Palace (but only to continue towards Parliament). I remember seeing alarmed Tweets of “THEY’RE GOING TO BUCKINGHAM PALACE!” I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say protestors couldn’t be less interested in the Royals who, contrary to beliefs of older generations, are more irrelevant and outdated now than ever.
On Kettling – “Containment is used as a last resort… The containment will be in place for no longer than is necessary to deal with the issue. The officers will be mindful of your welfare and they will attempt to let you know what is happening..” It goes on to say that if you’re suspected of being involved in disorder, you’ll be questioned.
If this is the case, why were people being kettled at 2pm when nothing was happening? Why were people ‘contained’ on Westminster Bridge for six hours? Why were protestors only allowed out when they had given their name and had their photos taken? Is protesting or being at a protest now tantamount to “disorder”? Last time I looked it was a democratic right. Also – giving information about yourself to the police is not compulsory, and from what I heard, they used the threat of arrest to get information from protestors.
On violence – “If you are near an outbreak of violence or disorder move away and create a distance between you and those taking part…Give [police] room to work.”
Interesting, this one. If there is an outbreak of violence, it tends to be as a result of police kettling tactics (as mentioned above, kettling started at 2pm when no violence was taking place) so how is it possible to ‘create a distance’ or ‘move away’? Those that were near violence and disorder were right next to police lines – being beaten back by police into the crowd. How do the Met expect people to move away from that? Not to mention that a high proportion of the violence was perpetuated by the police themselves.
Call me paranoid but having been pushed for no reason by policemen, and having witnessed scores of people being beaten at the protest, I don’t trust the Metropolitan Police in the slightest. This leaflet is yet another attempt to discredit and silence the protestors’ narrative of police brutality – a narrative that was so prelavent in the blogosphere yet systematically dismissed and swept under the carpet by the mainstream media.