Thursday 25 November 2010

Student Demos

So the Metropolitan Police Commissioner is predicting “more disorder on our Streets.” ( He makes it seem like a shocking surprise that, in the wake of all the cuts the coalition government plans to make, people would be up in arms and vocal about it.

What perhaps took him aback is that in the demonstration yesterday in London there were plenty of school aged kids. Good for them. This rise in tuition fees and the dismantling of the allowance that’s designed to help keep them in school directly affects their future. They need to be angry about it. A lot more of them need to be furious about it.

What was really worrying about the police actions at this demonstration is that they made it seem as if the protestors were being punished for exercising what is a perfectly legal right – to demonstrate. They even had permission to rally outside Downing Street, permission later revoked.

Yes, a police van was vandalised, but why, exactly, did the police leave it in with the demonstrators. It offered the perfect provocation and allowed them to turn the demonstration into what the Commissioner called “a crime scene.” So they could keep the demonstrators there in the cold until late. There may have been water and Portaloos or not – tales vary – but TV footage shows wielding of batons with great glee in some cases, and there’s footage of a policeman kicking a 15 year old girl.

The vast majority of police around the country do wonderful work in extremely trying circumstances, and they deserve to be praised, not to have their jobs cut. But there’s an element in the force, the Tactical Support Group, that’s always pulled out for these events. You might remember some of them with their numbers covered up at the G20 demos. It was one of their number who pushed Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper seller who died afterwards. Their reputation is for being the hard men who can handle this stuff, namely kettling kids and preventing their legal right to demonstrate peacefully, something that most of them were doing.

Gold Command, which gave the orders yesterday and on all demos, is either too blind to see that their heavy-handed tactics will radicalise many more people, or they don’t care, feeling a situation like China is far preferable. Maybe it’s time to break up the TSG, and, more than that, hold the heads of these organisations to account for the actions of the staff. Given their cavalier attitude it’s hardly any surprise that more disorder is to be expected.

More than that, how many of these perfectly legitimate demonstrators will end up on databases of "domestic extremists" that are being kept by secret police units ( They will have been photographed and identified. Of course, the police say anyone who finds themselves on a database "should not worry at all". Of course not. Big Brother is definitely watching, with the approval of al the major parties.

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