Tag Archives: climate camp

We’re Paying For Big Brother

In an extraordinary turn of events, the Metropolitan Police have not just decided to troll the internet for criticism of them in advance of this week’s Climate Camp protest in London – the first since the ill-fated G20 protest in April. Or rather they’ve outsourced it – that’s right Big Brother is watching you, and you’re paying him to do it:

Police worried about the force’s reputation are scouring Facebook and Twitter for criticism and rumours, ahead of the imminent Climate Camp protest.

The force has hired 6 Consulting*, a firm of “social media monitoring and engagement specialists” for a one-month pilot to monitor the web for relevant chatter.

It follows a series of reports criticising the Met’s policing of major events, including the G20 protest earlier this summer.

A spokesman said that the deal was not part of any investigative or intelligence-gathering programme. “We are increasingly looking to the internet to get our message out,” he said.

He said the G20 protests had seen “unhelpful” rumours spread fast online, and the pilot would help Met communications staff be more proactive in addressing public concerns. It would not however react to specific messages on Twitter, however, where a special Climate Camp account has been set up to release police messages.

(via Marc Vallee)

The Met can address public concerns by guaranteeing they won’t be violently attacking innocent protesters again. They say “unhelpful rumours” at the G20 protest – unhelpful in revealing their media-blocking, peaceful protester-bashing behaviour perhaps. Maybe they should consider that there would be no need to spend thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money in the name of spin if they actually policed in the name of protecting human rights rather than wilfully trampling on them. We will shortly find out if their pre-Climate Camp charm offensive is all mouth, or if the lessons of G20 have actually been learned.

Would You Trust the Met?

After the debacle of Kingsnorth and G20, Climate Camp certainly don’t:

While most visitors to previous Camps have had an inspiring and positive experience, some of us have had to suffer violence, intimidation, theft, sleep deprivation and harassment, thanks to past examples of “pre-planned and proportionate policing operations”. Local communities have been disrupted by police road closures and indiscriminate stops-and-searches. Members of the public have been attacked with batons or arrested on trumped-up charges simply for standing on the perimeter of a campsite (nearly all of them have now been acquitted or had their charges dropped). Judging from past experience, the best thing the police could do to ensure the health and safety of the public at Climate Camp 2009 would be to stay as far away from it as possible.

It sets up an interesting collision course, with the Met attempting a media charm offensive in advance of the Climate Camp ‘swoop’ at the end of the week. It looks like they don’t believe them any more than I do, but I’ll be very interested indeed to see what happens next, and will hopefully make it a focus of the soon-to-launch new blog.

Met Police Change Tack?

Paul Lewis reports the Met will not be repeating their G20 tactics at the upcoming Climate Camp next week:

Senior officers have told representatives from Climate Camp, who are planning to construct a huge campsite next week at an undisclosed location in London, that they will be met with a “community-style” policing operation that will limit the use of surveillance units and stop-and-searches wherever possible.

In a further effort to disseminate real-time information, the Metropolitan police has activated an account on Twitter, named CO11MetPolice after its public order unit codename, which will be used to send operational information to protesters taking part in the camp.

Separately, a delegation from this year’s Climate Camp will be taken to the Met’s public order training centre on Thursday in Gravesend, Kent, where they have been asked to brief officers being drafted in from across the country to help police the event.

Activists have also been assured that there will be no “ring of steel” around their camp and that sleep deprivation tactics, used when officers blasted loud music at campers at last year’s Climate Camp at Kingsnorth power station in Kent, will not be repeated.

If they mean it, then this can only be a good thing, and considering how resistent the Met is to change it will be quite a significant development. But remember the police’s behaviour at Kingsnorth last year (as is mentioned in the final paragraph) – not just sleep deprivation tactics, but arbitrary (and violent) stops and searches, not to mention violent harassment of the media. If those things don’t happen again then we’re getting somewhere, if not then this is all just spin. But don’t forget the escalation of their tactics from Kingsnorth, through the G20 and to the pre-emptive arrests at Ratcliffe-on-Soar, nor the way in which the police and government have colluded in favour of Big Energy. The Climate Camp, environmental protesters and the government have been on a collision course for some time – why should August be an exception?

IPCC Demands the Met Be Muzzled

A pointless demand of course because the Met will just ignore them. But still:

The police has been told to immediately change the way it controls public protests after it emerged that a young woman may have suffered a miscarriage after being manhandled by officers at the G20 protests.

The incident was highlighted by the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission. In a report they said that a 23-year-old woman was at the Climate Camp in Bishopsgate in central London during the protests on 1 April when, it is alleged, she was kicked and pushed by officers with shields and batons.

This left her with a bruising on her arms and legs and heavy bleeding which doctors later said could have been indicative of a miscarriage although the woman says she was not aware whether she was pregnant or not and it has never been medically confirmed if this was the case.

Yet despite bleeding heavily the woman was not allowed to leave the area of Bishopsgate for five hours. The IPCC report, released following an investigation into claims made by the woman, condemned this and the fact that the woman pushed back by an officer using a “short shield” – a tactic which was developed by the Metropolitan Police, but has never been approved nationally.

In an interview on BBC Radio 4, the alleged victim, who has not been named, said she feared for her life during the incident.

I want people to realise they did this for no reason. No reason. Whether she had a miscarriage or not, for a woman to be bleeding heavily by an unprovoked and unjustified police assault, and then to be denied medical attention, should mean someone gets prosecuted. But not only is that not being pushed for, the Independent Police Complaints Commission is failing to acknowledge the cause – this wasn’t a problem with training, it wasn’t even a problem with tactics on the day per se (although unprovoked violence is a pretty damned serious problem). The violence exhibited by the Met that day was a result of them having been whipped up into a frenzy for weeks by senior commanders who predicted violence by protesters, without any evidence any was being planned. Yet they quite brazenly used their territorial support group (TSG) as a deliberately violent tool to counter non-violent dissent:

The IPCC report said video footage shows one officer pushing the woman with a short riot shield while another uses his forearm against her chest and neck.

“It is clear from video footage that she is unable to move backwards due to the number of people behind her,” the report said.

The officers involved were identified as being from the TSG and from Richmond and Twickenham, in south-west London.

A spokesman for the force said the incident offered “a real opportunity for lessons”, adding that it was already reviewing tactics following similar recommendations by Denis O’Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, in a report released a month ago.

He added: “A senior Metropolitan police service officer has offered to meet with the complainant to discuss the potential learning from this incident and apologise for distress caused.”

We are in the post-Blair age of governing by belief, with solutions being provided by professional politicians and civil servants, without problems to justify them. The Met had decided there would be a ‘summer of rage’, announced their intention to be violent in response, and then followed through on their boasts. This mad culture is so ingrained that they didn’t think they’d be called on it, and they may not have if they hadn’t caused Ian Tomlinson’s death. Yet despite his death, the media frenzy which followed, the O’Connor report and the IPCC censure here, the final paragraph above suggests they are unlikely to change their behaviour any time soon. The Metropolitan Police will remain a quasi-militia under no meaningful governmental control – we can’t stand for this.

The Police Haven’t Learned From Kingsnorth

Following the release of the report into the Kingsnorth climate camp protest, Emily Apple doesn’t think so:

None of the civil liberties concerns raised by activists and politicians in relation to the camp are addressed. In fact, the report praises the police for meeting one of their key objectives of “facilitating peaceful protest”, which is simply not true. Facilitating protest must include adherence to all human rights law, including the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. Stating that, during a protest which extended over several days, the police facilitated one march at the end of the week ignores all the civil liberties abuses which took place at the camp itself.

While no mention is made of the use of excessive violence by officers using batons strikes against peaceful protesters, the handwriting of officers is criticised, with fewer than 25% of all forms legible. However, instead of criticising the need for 8,000-plus searches, the report laments the fact there weren’t more details to put onto the police database. The fact details of thousands of protesters has been entered into a database is not examined, nor is the admission this information is disseminated to the Forward Intelligence Teams (Fits), and that people should not give the police personal details if they do not want to end up on such a database.

It’s such a fundamental demonstration of what’s going wrong in this country. Young people in particular care a great deal about environmental politics, and attended the Kingsnorth climate camp in large numbers – entirely peacefully. Not only did the police respond with represssion, intimidation and violence, but the report into their behaviour then whitewashes the entire affair. Not a word from elected representatives, indeed under Jacqui Smith the Home Office pursued climate protesters aggressively in public from then on. It’s yet another result of the way in which the Home Office manages everything – they develop a solution (aggressive policing against an increasing ‘climate protest threat’) without there even being a problem (Prove there’s a threat? You must be joking!). Then they try propaganda to justify their behaviour, but it’s always lies.

The next climate camp will take place between 27th August and 3rd September. I’d like someone who’s intending on going to get in touch please, and discuss how best to record the camp’s achievements and the inevitable police repression.

Ask a policeman for his badge number? Arrested!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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.

Bring the Met to Heel!

What, more you cry? Well yes, because you need to keep having the evidence shoved in your face to realise just how badly out of control the Metropolitan Police now is. This is a video showing the attack on the Climate Camp protesters by the Territorial Support Group (TSG) riot officers on 1st April:

The bits you’re looking for are at 4:50 and 7:50, and you must remember that this is an attack on protesters who were there legally and 100% peacefully. For some reason people seem to overlook those two rather fundamentally important variables, but in our society you simply can’t. For police violence to be acceptable it must be proportionate – you tell me who’s behaving within the law in that video and who isn’t. The Times runs us through the two principal assaults in the video:

It (4:50) is the moment when an unidentified riot squad officer, his face half-hidden by a black balaclava and visored helmet, was filmed using a round shield to “punch” Alex Cinnane on the left temple.

The video shows the 24-year-old IT technician from London facing away from his assailant, stationary and appearing to offer no physical threat to the police officers surrounding him. His mouth opens in pain as the shield strikes.

“I had turned around to go to someone who was screaming because they were being crushed when he reached out and hit me on my forehead with his shield,” said Cinnane last night. “I was in shock. I had to sit down and felt concussed and nauseous for over an hour. Where he hit me came up in a lump of broken skin.”

Then:

A second video (7:50) shows another riot squad officer delivering a powerful right hook to an unidentified male demonstrator’s jaw as a crowd retreats from an advancing police line. The protester’s head jerks backwards as the punch lands.

Since when were we a nation which policed peaceful protest with violence? Maybe a Met apologist can explain that to me. I thought the police was there to protect our rights and uphold the law, not to enforce their own petty prejudices and attitudes. Something is fundamentally wrong here, and I would take any promise from senior Met officers that things will improve as the lie it will certainly be – as Chris Huhne points out later in the next article, they have made promises about their behaviour before, yet the force is now largely unsuccessful at self-policing. Nick Hardwick, the Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) made clear:

his concerns about incidences of officers disguising their identifying numbers, which should always be displayed on the shoulders of their uniforms, arguing that colleagues should have reported such wrongdoing.

“I think that raises serious concerns about the frontline supervision,” Hardwick said. “Why was that happening, why did the supervisor not stop them? What does that say about what your state of mind is? You were expecting trouble?

“I think that is unacceptable. It is about being servants, not masters: the police are there as public servants.