Sunday, 26 December 2010

Justice for the police.

Finally, someone has realised that what was done to children and young adults at the tuition fees protests isn't acceptable, and are duly sueing the police. False imprisonment, assault, exposing minors to inhuman treatment, all valid accusations now being levelled at the men in charge of the police force.

Every time I write about this I feel the need to start with a disclaimer. I am not some kind of anti-police anarchist, who will use any opportunity to have a dig. I am not making sweeping generalisations about police men and women, most do their duties admirably. But equally, that doesn't mean I will excuse the horrifying sights of young children being charged at by police on horseback and of a protester being carried away from the scene with a brain haemorrhage. Those responsible have to be held to account.

The whole tactic of kettling itself needs serious scrutiny, I've never understood how it can be defensible in the kind of situations that it has been used recently. The tuition fees protests were not innately violent, they started peacefully, and remained that way other than a few isolated incidents. The fact that the media refused to show the peaceful aspects in lieu of the small pockets of violence means many have a warped sense of the atmosphere at the protests.

There are plenty of videos and accounts which describe how rather than being used as a last resort by police, kettling was used even before any violence broke out. Anyone with more intelligence than your average chimp can see that if you lock people up in a small area, in the cold with no food and water, not even toilet facilities, and keep them there for hours on end, then violence is going to flair up as people become understandably frustrated. Kettling might contain violence, but without being kettled the violence might not start in the first place.

And then you have the disgusting violence towards protesters, which was completely out of proportion. You can see this through the use of charging horse, overly officious use of batons, and the denial of medical care to protesters who had been seriously injured.

Protest is a vital part of any democracy, people need to have a voice, especially when the people who they voted to represent them so shamelessly break the promises they peddled to be elected in the first place. We should protect the right to protest, not discourage people by treating them like second-hand citizens.

We treat our prisoners better than the people who take to the streets because they want to have their voices heard. Can you imagine a prisoner suffering a brain haemorrhage after being hit by a baton, the media would rightly be all over the story like a bad rash. Why not the same for protesters?

I hope this legal action succeeds, and I hope it forces the Met to review their tactics. They can't carry on like this, at least not if they want to keep the respect of the people they serve.

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