Tag Archives: demonstration

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.

Cooperate With the Police? You Must Be Joking!

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.

Human Rights Committee Slams Metropolitan Police

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has attacked the Metropolitan Police‘s handling of the G20 protests:

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) said that the widespread use of kettling, a tactic which pens protesters in behind large cordons for hours, did not give “sufficient weight” to the rights of individuals.

The report said: “In our view it would be a disproportionate and unlawful response to cordon a group of people and operate a blanket ban on individuals leaving the contained area, as this fails to consider whether individual circumstances require a different response.”

The MPs also criticised those officers who removed their identification numbers and urged service heads to use the strongest disciplinary action against them. They added that police had a “long way to go” before they fully respected human rights in their operations.

Cameron Trashes Right to Protest

Some of us have been saying this for months now – do you think Cameron and his ‘caring’ Conservatives (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one) would be any better than Brown and his authoritarian New Labour cronies? After all he’s had member of his team attack ID cards (without ruling them out), RIPA legislation and other Blair/Brown infringements of the rule of law. But you have to remember this is the man who thought Section 28 was a good idea, who intends to repeal the Human Rights Act and consorts with extremists in the EU parliament. He’s gone one step further now:

A Tory government would attempt to remove the long standing peace camp in Parliament Square, David Cameron says.

Anti-war campaigner Brian Haw has been camping opposite Parliament since 2001, surrounded by banners and placards.

He has been joined in the square by other protesters over the years – most recently a large group of Tamils.

The Tory leader said he was in favour of free speech but the square had been turned into a “pretty poor place” and it was time to say “enough is enough”.

‘Enough is enough’?! So the right to protest lasts until it offends the putative Prime Minister’s sensibilities? That’s despotism in a nutshell. Even Brown and his government have gone through consultations to formally restore the right to protest (which Blair rescinded), although they’ve recently signalled a possible last-minute change of heart. But for Cameron to deny Haw’s right to protest because his camp’s ‘noisy’ and an ‘eyesore’ is one step even worse. Under the Human Rights Act Brian Haw has the freedom of speech, and because his speech isn’t inciteful there’s no cause to restrict it. If you believe in the freedom of speech it must cover people you don’t like, as with those you do. David Cameron is clearly disinterested in the freedom of speech and the right to protest; he could be even worse than Blair/Brown.

(via Greenwichlad)