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Thursday, 2 April 2009

Fools and bullies

On Mark Lawson's excellent interview series on BBC4 he just spoke with the screenwriter GF Newman. Newman made his name with the 70s series Law and Order, which for the first time showed the massive levels of corruption endemic in the police at that time.

He also spoke of his boyhood experience of a local copper stealing from him and hitting him so hard he became deaf in one ear.

Power corrupts was his thesis and experience and Newman's suggestion was that police uniforms become pink and that they're renamed 'public assistance officers'.

Two scenes from yesterday's protest made me think that nothing's really changed in thirty years. Any chance any of this violent bullying lot will be charged with anything? I think not.

Comment from Dave Hill's LiveBlog from the G20 Protests:
I'm a media photographer employed by a large photographic agency. I carry a
press card at all times, which states that I'm recognised by the Assoc of Chief Police Officers as a "bona fide newsgatherer".

After a few hours covering the protest, I needed to exit the area in order to go and wire my pictures back to the agency. Met by a wall of unmoving and seemingly mute police officers, who gruffly refused to respond to any questions, I made my way down to one very small point where it seemed people might be being let out.

I showed my card to one officer who stated (and as a newsgatherer, I Quote...) "I don't care who you are, you shouldn't be here". When I pointed out that he was obstructing a member of the free press from doing their job, he said (without seeing the irony) "I'm just doing my job."

Numerous City workers appeared and just by waving their building access cards, were allowed through the cordon (funny kind of proof if you ask me- just cos you work there, you're immediately innocent). Well, not all- at least two were challenged by officers with "You don't look like you work there" (referring to how they were dressed). One quite rightly pointed out that he'd been told by his work to dress down.

One man was allowed through the cordon simply because he waved a foreign passport (Mexican), which I again found odd, as a large number of the masked and dressed-in-black 'anarchists' were French and Spanish (I know because I asked them).

I repeatedly asked a few of the officers why we were being detained, and more specifically, why I was being detained. Of those who even responded (silence seemed to be the order of the day when confronted by this question), most did so in a thoroughly intimidating manner, two even threatening my arrest if i did not move back.

An older journalist appeared beside me- thoroughly middle class and wearing a suit- also producing his card for the police. He too was told that they didnt care if he was a journalist.

Everyone around me was getting very agitated, some people shouting at the police and hurling insults. Apparently, the police tactics were to PREVENT A BREACH OF THE PEACE... which is funny, because it seemed to be pissing people off rather a lot. A hell of a lot in fact. To the point where you might think it was being done deliberately to provoke... call me cynical....

After 45 minutes of waiting at this point, I began to become a little worried by the piles of riot helmets that were being stacked against one wall, while more police vans arrived and the lines were joined by more cops.
For the N'th time I waved my card in the (apparently) senior cop's direction, pointed out I was a member of the Press, and why was I being held? This prompted a great response - "The more times you ask me that, the more I'm going to ignore you."

1.5 hours of waiting, and suddenly the cop goes "OK, you can go through now. See, I told you someone would deal with you in due course," and they parted and off I went. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the hundreds of others stood around me.

While I realise that they're attempting to contain some troublesome elements in a certain place, the police's attitude was thoroughly confrontational, suggesting they WANTED an excuse for violence. Their attitude toward the press was also very dubious- but then we kinda know that anyway.

Frankly, the whole experience just left me with a rather bitter taste in my mouth- why should anyone respect these fools and bullies when their attitude is that a uniform gives them the right to do as they please?

Beforehand I'd have disagreed with the many of the protestors' view of the police.
Now, I kinda agree with many of them- Facists and BullyBoys.

I'm glad my taxes are well spent....
Here they are attacking entirely peaceful people at the climate camp on Bishopsgate - the campers have got their hands UP and are chanting "Peaceful Protest" in a show of non-violence:

Despite assurances made on Tuesday morning by Commander Broadhurst to climate campers in the office of David Howarth MP, at 7pm riot police violently attacked the camp, injuring many peaceful campers and bystanders who were not allowed to leave the area.

Despite this incursion, the atmosphere at the Camp remained calm and happy until around midnight, when riot police again moved in and aggressively dispersed the Camp.
A LibDem blogs here about what happened at the Camp:
This country is founded upon the peaceful right to protest – as I said to one of the riot police who would not let me leave. We are not a police state. Whoever was responsible for the police operation here deserves to be condemned, but then I suppose encouraging violence justifies their ever spiralling security budgets.
Of course all police aren't fools and bullies but the ones who aren't end up covering up for the ones who are.

The hard and long fought for right to protest publicly in this country is, bit-by-bit, slipping away.

  • More footage of the violent police break-up of peaceful climate camp

1 comment:

  1. Paul, I work in the City and what was interesting about last week was that violent confrontation was effectively in the interests of the current state. We live in messed-up times indeed.