Entries tagged with “Police”.

Following the recent arrest and charging of UK Uncut activists involved in a protest at Fortnum & Mason during the anti-cuts demonstration in London on 26 March, I felt moved to email my MP with the request that she sign John McDonnell’s Early Day Motion 1146.  This was raised last December and says:

That this House congratulates UK Uncut for the role it has played in drawing attention by peaceful demonstrations to tax evasion and avoidance and to the need for firm action to secure tax justice.

Her response was that while of course she supported UK Uncut’s work in “highlighting tax avoidance by large companies”, she would not be adding her name to the EDM because of her

“concerns about UK Uncut’s response to the violence against the police and vandalism that occurred in parallel with the TUC March for the Alternative on Saturday 26 March. Specifically I note that at no point in the organisation’s response to the march (or in any other public statements) do they openly condemn these acts, which occurred in and around Soho and outside Fortnum and Mason” and that therefore “I am unwilling to publicly support the group until it clearly distances itself from these actions.”

Sheila Gilmore is a Labour loyalist and of course is simply repeating the party line as laid down by Yvette Cooper.  Disappointing, but no great surprise.  The demand that UK Uncut demonstrators have to “condemn” other demonstrators, whose actions they were not part of and have no control over before they can have the Party’s support, is obviously perverse.  It is a sure sign that Labour is still far more worried about appearing ‘respectable’ than celebrating witty, creative and effective non-violent direct actions.

The Labour Party is obviously almost as wary of UK Uncut as the Government.  Direct action?  A non-hierarchical structure outside the control and direction of Party and TUC leaderships?  No matter that they appear to pose a bigger threat to the neo-liberal agenda of public sector cuts and ‘austerity’ than any number of A-B marches or opposition speeches in Parliament, the Labour Party’s reflex response is to collude with the establishment in attempting to marginalise and criminalise effective protest.  Even now that police have been forced to admit that the UK Uncut arrests were motivated by “intelligence gathering”, I do not expect any significant change from the Labour leadership or the PLP invertebrate vote.

Although the reporting by The Guardian and others into the tragic death of Ian Tomlinson has helped to expose violent and, possibly, criminal actions by one of the police officers at the recent G20 demonstrations in London, I feel there is a danger that it is turning into a hunt for a ‘rogue’ individual who was out of control.  As many demonstrators and witnesses have confirmed, this was not an isolated incident; there were many other reports of people receiving the indiscriminate use of batons and police dogs.  The officer who allegedly assaulted Tomlinson was ‘unlucky’ in that this action resulted in a fatality and was captured on cameras.  But should he be made to take all the blame?  If officers were in fact ‘hyped up’ prior to the event to respond forcefully, who was responsible?  If this particular officer did mask his face and remove his identifying numbers, as reported in The Guardian, could this have happened without the consent and collusion of supervisors and fellow officers?
The aggressive behaviour of officers and the use of confrontational tactics such as ‘kettling’ is indicative of the way the police approaches public order when faced with dissent.  This is not new and will be familiar to anyone who has been on demonstrations, particularly in central London.  Indeed, for an example of how the more things change, the more they stay the same, people should read William Morris’s account of being attacked by police on a peaceful demonstration to Trafalgar Square (‘Bloody Sunday‘) in 1887, ‘London in a State of Siege‘ (compare these with the Metropolitan Police’s more self-serving account).

Bloody Sunday, London 1887

It is a great pity that it takes a fatality to open up the debate on the policing of protest.  Those concerned to ensure it is not repeated should act now to make it clear that this is not acceptable, even if only by adding our names to avaaz.org’s petition.