Wednesday, 15 April 2009

More police thuggery

Sometimes it seems you can hardly move these days without The Guardian or the BBC unearthing another video of police violence at a peaceful demonstration.

In this one we can see (or rather hear) a little provocation - but it's hardly proportionate, is it: a few angry swear words met by a slap in the face and a baton swipe to the legs from a well-tooled (and quite large) man to an upset woman wearing a, erm, floppy cap.

It's hardly a surprise. Anyone who regularly finds themselves a demonstrations will immediately recognise that this is the reality of how they are policed today, especially in London. All that's new is that they're getting caught.

How many times have peaceful demonstrators been told in court that if it's their word against the police then the police evidence is effectively unquestionable. If no-one caught it on camera, in other words, it just didn't happen, ok?

The only real surprise about this latest incident of official thuggery is that it challenges that nice cosy idea: that all demonstrators are anarchists thugs desperate to bring down civilisation as we know it and that all police are the peaceful voices of reason and order in any situation. We all know that when protests turn ugly, it's usually the police that kick things off. As this video clearly demonstrates.

The officer concerned has been suspended. Well, that's a start, but having two fall guys pushed in a week is hardly going to change the culture of policing protests. It really is about time the duty under the Human Rights Act to facilitate peaceful protest becomes coppers' number one priority in such situations, and that some heads at the top roll to make the point. Let's have someone take some political responsibility.

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