The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) today released a strong condemnation of the Metropolitan Police’s tactics at the G20 protests today, and in today’s Guardian the committee’s chair Andrew Dismore makes further recommendations to improve things for future protests:
Traditionally, protest has involved a march from A to B and a rally at the end. Organisers know how to set these types of protest up and steward them, and the police know how to police them. Discussion between organisers and police normally facilitates the arrangements to the benefit of both.
However, we are now seeing the development of more innovative protest tactics such as climate camp and the G20, which provide new challenges for the police. This has resulted in mutual frustration and distrust between police and protesters. Both sides must share information to enable a demonstration to take place safely and effectively. It is clear the communication at the G20 both before and during the protest was poor. Before the event, climate camp’s legal team found it very difficult to even make contact with the appropriate officers at the Met and when a meeting was eventually arranged late in the day there was no effective dialogue.
Except the climate camp and G20 didn’t provide new challenges for the police. Each event promised large-scale (but nothing compared with the 70s or 80s) peaceful protests, and that was exactly what was delivered. Frustration for the police, when it was the G20 protesters who tried to talk to the Met, and were resoundingly rebuffed? It’s all well and good Dismore recommending a point of contact in every police service, but the Met were geared up for trouble – they announced their intentions in advance and behaved accordingly on the day. Does he really think that they’ll take his recommendations on board? Given the Met’s predilection for violence that day, what incentives are there for protesters to respond to a ‘point of contact’ should one actually become available?
The Met decided there would be a ‘summer of rage’, setting up their operations with outlandish preconceptions – another case of Home Office solutions having problems fabricated for them, to make it look like they’re actually doing something. Until that changes, all of Dismore’s fine words won’t count for anything, and we won’t see an iota’s worth of change from the Met.