[trigger warning: especially for some of the links]
The recent anti-government protests in London were met with heavy violence from the police. Somehow, no-one has yet died as a result, though several people were beaten into unconsciousness and are lucky to still be alive.
The police and government claim that they made a proportionate response to violence from the protestors. As the links - let me repeat, may be very triggering - below show, though, this was clearly not the case. If you feel up to it, please read as many of the accounts as you can - what happened needs to be widely known:
- Laurie Penny at New Statesman: Inside the Parliament Square kettle.
- BBC News interview with Rachel Bergan, a 17-year old protestor
- Shiv Malik at The Guardian: Student fees protests: woman claims she was beaten by police
- Guardian: Police tactics at tuition fees protest questioned after further angry clashes
- Jody McIntyre: Week 76 – Student Protests, Part Three
- HarpyMarx: “You are not being kettled… but contained”…. and And then the kettling started….
- BBC News: London student 'struck by truncheon' has brain injury
- Press Gazette: Journalist Shiv Malik injured by police baton
One journalist struck with a baton and needing stitches while trying to report on the protests. Another physically removed from the scene to prevent her seeing what happened next. Someone dragged out of his wheelchair for being slightly too close to the police, and his friends prevented from helping him. Several people beaten into unconsciousness and concussion, at least one critically injured as a result, and the police then obstructing medical attention. Tens of protestors hospitalised, hundreds more - most of whom won't make the news - injured.
Smug Mr Cameron approving of all this police violence and praising their response, while describing the protestors as "feral". Dehumanise those you want dead, right?
I don't doubt that there were a minority of violent protestors throwing things at the police. It's also extremely clear from these reports that the police response was not directed at the violent protestors but at the nearest ones. In any other situation this would be clearly unacceptable. The justification seems to be that by being in the same protest as people who are being violent, you deserve whatever you get.
Of course, a lot of the violence only started when the protestors were being confined by the police. The descriptions from there make it clear that the confinement, the street imprisonment without access to food, water or toilets, had a definite effect on the mood of the protestors.
This will discourage some people, of course, from protesting further. That's, presumably, the idea. It will also make others more willing to come back and do more, be more determined not to silenced. The anti-government mood in this country is growing, and this sort of unjustifiable violent suppression of legitimate protest will only strengthen it.
From a pair of governing parties who got into power in part by outflanking Labour on civil liberties issues - which was a sadly easy task - it's not taken them too long to show their true beliefs.
This is only going to get worse. There will be more protests as the government's cuts start to take effect, and people see vital services removed, and the government will encourage more and harsher reactions from the police to "control" the protests. People will die before this is over, and we'll be told they had it coming, being at the same protest as someone who threw a brick.
How do you deal with a state that's so willing to use indiscriminate violence against its own?
A couple more links for further reading
If you're in or near London and have free time and energy, Friends of Alfie Meadows, the Middlesex student nearly killed by the police, have organised a "Kettle the cops" protest against police violence for 1pm on Tuesday.