Last week I attended a screening of ‘Which Side Are You On?’, a 1984 documentary by director Ken Loach. And in it he showed the extent of the police brutality during the Miners’ Strike. Extreme, preemptive violence, and the removal of police ID badge numbers defined their behaviour as agents of the state. In 28 years this video proves nothing has changed:
Two female protesters who challenged police officers for not displaying their badge numbers were bundled to the ground, arrested and held in prison for four days, according to an official complaint lodged today.
The incident was caught on camera, and footage shows officers standing on the women’s feet and applying pressure to their necks immediately after the women attempted to photograph a fellow officer who had refused to give his badge number.
The images are likely to fuel concern over the policing of protests, which is already subject to a review by the national police inspectorate and two parliamentary inquiries after the G20 demonstrations and the death of Ian Tomlinson.
Val Swain, 43, and Emily Apple, 33, both mothers with young children, believe they were deliberately targeted for arrest at last year’s climate camp demonstration in Kent because they campaign for Fit Watch, a protest group that opposes police surveillance at demonstrations.
The pair were remanded to a women’s prison for four days and released only after the demonstration against the Kingsnorth power station had finished. They believe their treatment is symptomatic of the increasingly aggressive approach taken by police at political demonstrations.
It’s not a new tactic, but no less indefensible. Loach argued that this behaviour should not be a surprise because it’s the function of the police, and all the recent evidence suggests he’s right. Mess with the interests of the state, even merely through protest, and they’ll do whatever it takes to stop you. Kingsnorth, Bishopsgate, Ratcliffe-on-Soar – these are only the opening shots in a new round of conflict.