Following the suspension of UEL Professor Chris Knight, the Metropolitan Police have stereotypically ratcheted up the war of words ahead of the G20 summit next week:
Yesterday, the Metropolitan police was understood to have contacted a number of protest groups warning that the main day of protest, Wednesday, 1 April would be “very violent“, and senior commanders have insisted that they are “up for it, and up to it”, should there be any trouble.
The force has refused to rule out the use of anti-terror legislation, with Sir Paul Stephenson, the Met commissioner, conceding that the week ahead, in which President Barack Obama will lead a cortege of other world leaders to the UK, will be the Met’s greatest challenge.
Senior officers insist there is intelligence that some activists demonstrating against climate change, capitalism, war and globalisation are intent on violence and will try to disrupt the summit. They say that some troublemakers who were active in the 1990s have emerged once more, and that chatter between groups shows they are forging alliances to take their message to world leaders. Some protesters have also promised to storm buildings, taking out their anger over the collapse of the capitalist economy with direct action designed to bring London to a standstill.
However, David Howarth, a Liberal Democrat MP who is leading a parliamentary group of observers at the protests next week, said: “I am increasingly worried that what the police are saying about the protests will end up in a self-fulfilling prophecy. By talking up the prospect of violence they will put off peaceful demonstrators and start to attract other sorts.”
Andrew Dismore MP, who chairs the joint common human rights, said police language in recent days had been “not very helpful”.
“The police have a duty under the Human Rights Act to facilitate protest and not frustrate it. If they act in a confrontational way and use confrontation language, they will start to provoke the kind of behaviour they are seeking to prevent. There may well be a fringe element that want to incite violence. But that doesn’t mean police should criminalise every protester.”
Let me get this straight. The Metropolitan Police are actually threatening violence next week? At least they’re being honest, but come on! Andrew Dismore is right – the police have codified responsibilities when it comes to protests and the right to demonstrate, which they are being increasingly directed to flout. But no word whatsoever from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, merely the constant refrain about protesters ‘intent on violence’, some of them demonstrating ‘against climate change’. Did we not hear the same thing before the Kingsnorth Climate Camp protests? Did we not hear the police say they were subjected to violence and then find out after their violence against protesters and intimidation against the media that they lied? Why is anyone putting up with this police intimidation now?!