Highlights from Occupy London protest issues demands to democratise City of London | UK news | guardian.co.uk
- An end to business and corporate block-votes in all council elections, which can be used to outvote local residents.
- Abolition of existing “secrecy practices” within the City, and total and transparent reform of its institutions to end corporate tax evasion.
- The decommissioning of the City of London police with officers being brought under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan police force.
- Abolition of the offices of Lord Mayor of London, the Sheriffs and the Aldermen.
- And a truth and reconciliation commission to examine corruption within the City and its institutions.
I agree with them, but fear they’ll be outmanoeuvred by an increasingly belligerent Church of England, aided as it is by the right wing press and other apologists. Giles Fraser is gone, edged out by a Church completely indifferent to its scriptural objectives. The organisation which repeatedly bleats about losing its influence and how it faces ‘persecution’ by no longer being able to discriminate against whomever it pleases, is going to show just what lengths it’s prepared to go to to protect its privilege. Inequality? Who cares. Corruption in the City which is its home? Not a problem, because they do very well out of not challenging the neoliberal status quo.
We are at a crossroads. Our economies were broken in 2008 by a reckless banking elite, who have never been brought to account. Our neoliberal governments capitalised on the economic crash to force through the standard model of what Naomi Klein labels ‘disaster capitalism’, forcing through (with the right wing media’s help) economic and social changes which would have made Thatcher or Reagan blanche. We have a situation where the poor are being made to pay the price for the abuses of the rich, who are being allowed to pay themselves outrageous bonuses with our tax money. The Occupy movement is taking a stand against this calamity, and are under regular attack by the police in whichever Western country demonstrations begin. Everyone needs to watch this video and to learn how vital it is that we hold our leaders to account. ‘Yes we can’ said Barack Obama that very year – now beholden to the very interests he said he would hold to account (and then didn’t), the US President, British PM and others need to be shown how true that tagline is (and has to be).
They are bad though. An interesting analysis of recent Metropolitan Police behaviour by Jody McIntyre:
As I stated during my interview on BBC News last night, I believe that the police are acting as the biggest, armed, government-sponsored gang. Interestingly, rather than informing myself or my solicitor in advance, as would be normal procedure, the findings of the investigation were released straight to the media, late on a Friday afternoon. It is becoming increasingly clear that the police are intent on whitewashing what is a clear case of police brutality. They have now admitted to striking me with a baton, and there is video evidence, which has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people online, of a police officer tipping me out of my wheelchair and dragging me across the road. If this had been any other member of the public, he would be on trial for assault, but because it was a police officer, unaccountability is once again the order of the day.
The normal MO of the Met is to commit an act of brutality, lie horrifically about it, spin relentlessly about it with disinformation and then get off scot free because coroners hate to challenge them about as much as the IPCC. He can’t surely be surprised that an investigation into their treatment of him at the student protests exonerated them fully, when they look like they’re going to get away (as he points out) with prosecuting Alfie Meadows who they themselves beat.
Simon Harwood is going to be prosecuted but only because a) the Met were caught so badly on the back foot by cast iron evidence of his guilt b) its dissemination across Twitter and the wider web, c) a campaign by professional and citizen journalists was unwilling to let the force get away with it. Key though was the Met’s need for a scapegoat. Harwood’s brutality was standard operating procedure by the TSG, and they’ll get away with their excesses at the student protests because the media narrative was so overwhelmingly anti-student. Noone has yet been prosecuted for Jean Charles de Menezes’ murder.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said of his force’s policing operations in advance of the Royal Wedding:
He fiercely defends having made pre-emptive arrests of suspected troublemakers before the wedding. “Things were put in place to try to prevent trouble on the day and arrests were made. But you also saw British cops at their best.”
He was particularly proud of the way his men engaged with the public and got them on side so that when difficult crowd manoeuvres had to be performed, they were compliant. As he passed one knot of spectators they were chanting: “We love Gary”, Sir Paul recalls. “Who’s Gary?” he asked. The policeman replied sheepishly: “It’s me, guv.”
So the question is, given what his thugs actually did, was he actually defending it or were these genuinely rogue operations, not sanctioned by him? It brings up an eerie recollection of the inquest into Jean Charles de Menezes’ death – noone told the cops who incompetently followed him, or those who ultimately murdered him to do so, but a certain environment was set up and sanctioned by the top which allowed it to happen. Is this what allowed the pre-wedding abuses to take place so freely? Let me remind you what they actually were:
There was this appalling ‘snatch and grab’ of people peacefully singing in Soho Square (via Liberal Conspiracy):
And what of the mind boggling arrest of Charlie Veitch for pre-crime (this video will shock you):
I’ve blogged about ‘Love Police’ Charlie before. To see him arrested for ‘conspiring to’ (read: thinking privately to himself about) potentially upset a royal supporter or two makes much of the police’s antics under New Labour look tame. Is this British policing at its best? The outcome here:
Charlie was collected by the Metropolitan Police from Parkside and taken to an undisclosed police station in London for 8 hours. Efforts by his lawyer, family, and partner to locate him were made in vain – he had effectively been ‘disappeared’ into the police system. Charlie was denied his right to a phone call from London, again continuing the obstruction of his access to his lawyer, family, partner and supporters. He requested that the police telephone his partner to inform her of his whereabouts, which was promised but not performed. With his family in the dark as to his whereabouts, concern was considerably growing.
Charlie was eventually released on bail 23 hours and 45 minutes after his arrest at approximately 1600h on Friday 29th April from Edmonton Police Station, London – just within the 24 hour limit that a person can be lawfully arrested and detained without charge.
Entirely political policing, which, as Veitch himself noted in the video is what we’d expect of China, of Bahrain, of Syria even. Since when did we start arresting people at home because they might do something politically (and peacefully) which we disagree with? You might ask that of Chris Knight:
Knight similarly hadn’t done anything, but the Met decided that he should be pre-emptively arrested essentially for conspiring to use his freedom of speech. A mock execution of an effigy of Prince Andrew away from the wedding procession might have caused offence, but since when was that an arrestable offence, especially considering it hadn’t happened yet? Is that British policing at its best? I’ve blogged about Knight too – suspended from his job in advance of the G20 protests merely for publicly stating what he thought the consequences might be on the day of the Met’s inflammatory rhetoric. British policing also swooped on his planned event in Soho Square (seen in this video):
And what about these arrests at Charing Cross? Of course there were many other outrageous acts of blatantly political policing (links available via the Liberal Conspiracy site earlier in this article).
Sir Paul may express his pride in this British policing, but he notably doesn’t mention TSG thug Simon Harwood, nor of his colleagues who enabled him to attack Ian Tomlinson and who then shielded him from accountability. I would argue the opposite to the Commissioner – his force, more than ever, is a tool to enforce the status quo through violence and political repression. That can’t reasonably be any cause for anyone to feel pride.
The film shows senior police officers assuring members of UK Uncut who had peacefully occupied Fortnum & Mason that they would not be confused with the rioters outside, and would be allowed to go home if they left the store. They did so, and were penned, handcuffed, thrown into vans, dumped in police cells and, in some cases, left there for 24 hours.
Isn’t all that supposed to have stopped? Haven’t we entered a new era of freedom in which the government, as it has long promised, now defends“the hard-won liberties that we in Britain hold so dear”? No.
In May 2010, after becoming deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg pledged that the government would “repeal all of the intrusive and unnecessary laws that inhibit your freedom” and “remove limits on the rights to peaceful protest.” The Queen’s speech firmed up the commitment by promising “the restoration of rights to non-violent protest”. So how did this grand vision become the limp rag of a bill now before parliament?
Because a) Clegg is more interested in power than principle and b) Clegg presumed he had about as much influence as Tony Blair had over George W Bush. But there’s far more in play than just those issues. Clegg also wants to prove (apparently at any cost) that coalition politics can work in the UK, but he’s labouring under a massive misapprehension – coalitions are supposed to be based on red lines and principles, not a supine desperation for approval by the dominant party. The betrayal of UK Uncut and attack on the students in Trafalgar Square are reminiscent of the worst authoritarian excesses under New Labour, and Cameron, Clegg and Home Secretary Theresa May appear entirely comfortable with them, then again this isn’t surprising. They’ve always known their ‘savage’ cuts would cause severe social unrest – apparently free-market ‘Orange Bookers’ find that a price worth paying. If it’s a choice between liberty and the unfettered free market, we know what’s most important for Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats. Monbiot goes on to say:
I don’t believe Clegg’s claim, which seems to have gulled the usually sceptical Observer journalist Henry Porter, that this act is the beginning, not the end, of the coalition’s reforms; and that, in Porter’s words, “there may even be a great repeal act down the road that would look at some of the laws not addressed in this bill”. Perhaps he is unaware that the original title of the current legislation was the freedom (great repeal) bill.
This legislation shows every sign of having been stopped and searched, fingerprinted and stripped of any content that might have rebalanced the relationship between people and power.
He’s right. Clegg’s early boasts mimic Obama’s promise to close down Guantanamo Bay – they promise change to get power, which when pushed turns out to be the objective they care about most. Neither Britain nor America has the slightest chance of change we can believe in – it’s no wonder young people are fighting back.
What’s new, I hear you cry? Well in the past they’ve normally been adept at covering up their excesses. Not so after the #march26 March for the Alternative protest when they mass arrested dozens of entirely peaceful UK Uncut protesters. Watch:
Appalling. And read Adam Ramsay’s account of his arrest:
When we were inside Fortnum & Mason, the police made it clear to us: if we left, we would not be arrested. At 6pm or so, we left, together. The police kettled us outside the shop. I was towards the back, and so could not see exactly what was going on, though I could see in front of me people who had left about an hour earlier, having been let out by the police.
It then became clear that they were, one after another, leading people away to be arrested. So, we shared notes on what this was likely to involve, and sang songs to keep people cheery.
Eventually, it was my turn. I was placed in handcuffs, asked on camera for some basic details, then led down a side street by my arresting officers – one of whom later turned out to be a part time officer, full time German language student. I was told why I had been arrested (suspicion of trespass and criminal damage) and was asked a few basic questions & told we were in for a long night as they struggled to find enough places in stations to fit us all.
You have to ask yourself why the Metropolitan Police would lie like that – what’s in it for them? Then again they are an institution with a long history of deceit: blaming the crowd for Ian Tomlinson’s death at the G20 (they themselves caused it), blaming Jean Charles de Menezes for his own murder (they carried it out), to name just two recent high profile instances. Did a superior officer see a chance to get back at them for humbling them so often in recent instances of direct action? Was there political pressure to find easy scapegoats for the disorder which did occur (yet not at Fortnum & Mason)? Or (watching later scenes in the video) was there a darker motivation? Was this a blatant case of the police being used yet again as the violent means of enforcing the status quo? Did they simply change their minds to prosecute UK Uncut members for daring to challenge the political order?
Given the anger that this mass arrest caused, there’s no doubt it won’t end here and nor should it.
On Saturday I attended the highly successful #march26 March for the Alternative, and I was almost outside Fortnum & Mason when the TSG riot police blocked Piccadilly off entirely. I knew that protesters from UK Uncut had occupied the store but it was still a shock to see the sheer volume of police removing what I ‘d understood to be a sitdown protest with considerable prejudice. One of them has shared her experience, and it makes a great deal more sense now:
UK Uncut conducted itself with this peaceful etiquette throughout the three-hour occupation of Fortnum & Mason, a shop they said they had chosen because a related company allegedly avoided £40m in taxes.
Despite being detained in the store, Joan Higgins, 61, from Liverpool, described the protester’s theatrical show as “the perfect accompaniment to my tea and scones”. The exit was slightly less polite.
Police officers inside the building thanked protesters for their cooperation and promised that they could leave together without interrogation. Outside, however, riot police pushed those who exited into a small area where they were unlinked by force, photographed, arrested and led away. The protesters, who spent the night in police stations around London, believed they had been duped. Or communication between police inside and the force outside the shop had completely broken down. The riot police told me that protesters were being arrested for “aggravated trespassing” and that the customers unable to leave the shop were “scared half-to-death”. A spokeswoman for Fortnum & Mason said: “The damage is minimal. We have cleared up after the disruption and are now helping our neighbours on Piccadilly do the same. The store is open for business as usual.”
My partner and I were walking right behind the building on Jermyn Street to bypass the trouble, when a bank of TSG started marching down the street in our general direction. Clearly an order had been given by someone to secure the entire area with as much menace as possible, without any interest in differentiating between Black Bloc anarchists (who were causing significant trouble, and had done throughout the day) and anyone else. Laurie Penny said of the situation at Fortnum & Mason:
What differentiates the rioters in Picadilly and Oxford Circus from the rally attendees in Hyde Park is not the fact that the latter are “real” protestors and the former merely “anarchists” (still an unthinking synonym for “hooligans” in the language of the press). The difference is that many unions and affiliated citizens still hold out hope that if they behave civilly, this government will do likewise.
The younger generation in particular, who reached puberty just in time to see a huge, peaceful march in 2003 change absolutely nothing, can’t be expected to have any such confidence. We can hardly blame a cohort that has been roundly sold out, priced out, ignored, and now shoved onto the dole as the Chancellor announces yet another tax break for bankers, for such skepticism. If they do not believe the government cares one jot about what young or working-class people really think, it may be because any evidence of such concern is sorely lacking.
She has a point. The increase in radical behaviour on the streets can easily be tracked back (in large measure) to New Labour’s betrayal over Iraq. The power of the signal which Blair sent out in his refusal to acknowledge the will of over 2 million people who protested entirely peacefully can’t be understated, and Penny is right when she notes that a significant number of young people have understood it; peaceful protest changes nothing. Having said that, I haven’t heard a single account of the protest at Fortnum & Mason to suggest it was marred by violence (when other local premises had been attacked), and she continues:
A large number of young people in Britain have become radicalised in a hurry, and not all of their energies are properly directed, explaining in part the confusion on the streets yesterday. Among their number, however, are many principled, determined and peaceful groups working to affect change and build resistance in any way they can.
One of these groups is UK Uncut. I return to Fortnum’s in time to see dozens of key members of the group herded in front of the store and let out one by one, to be photographed, handcuffed and arrested. With the handful of real, random agitators easy to identify as they tear through the streets of Mayfair, the met has chosen instead to concentrate its energies on UK Uncut – the most successful, high-profile and democratic anti-cuts group in Britain.
UK Uncut has embarrassed both the government and the police with its gentle, inclusive, imaginative direct action days over the past six months. As its members are manhandled onto police coaches, waiting patiently to be taken to jail whilst career troublemakers run free and unarrested in the streets outside, one has to ask oneself why.
Of course the mainstream media and usual suspects will now lump UK Uncut alongside Black Bloc and others who were responsible for violence before and after this event. But Laurie Penny’s analysis of the power relations in play couldn’t be more poignant – however much those who disapprove of protest may bleat their anger about people being unable to shop at a branch or two of Boots for a spell, UK Uncut provides an invaluable means of peacefully highlighting the fraud behind the government’s ideological attack on the public sector. The ConDems’ savage cuts were not voted for, they aren’t necessary, and you do indeed have to question why the police expended so much energy against them, when the ringleaders of the violence were blatantly clear even to uninformed passers-by. I applaud anyone, young or old, who is prepared to stand up for the society they want, in the face of shock doctrine economics, and the social disaster which inevitably comes with it.
It shouldn’t really surprise anyone. The Metropolitan Police after all is the force which lied about and tried to cover up its murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, and which lied about and tried to cover up its responsibility for Ian Tomlinson’s death. Now they’re attacking thoroughly peaceful tax protesters with CS spray:
Hundreds of people staged peaceful sit-ins at high street stores around the country as part of the latest UK Uncut day of action, designed to highlight companies it says are avoiding millions of pounds in tax.
In London protesters had successfully closed down Boots in Oxford Street – one of the companies campaigners accuse of tax avoidance – when police tried to arrest a woman for pushing a leaflet through the store’s doors. Other demonstrators tried to stop the arrest and at least one police officer used CS spray, which hospitalised three people.
Jed Weightman, one of those who went to hospital, said protesters had joined hands to try and prevent the arrest.
“One police officer sprayed towards us and because I was tall I got a lot of it in my face,” he said. “My eyes were streaming and I couldn’t see anything.”
Let me make this clear: attacked with CS spray for pushing a leaflet through a door. How on earth can the police not insist that they’re not the violent enforcers of the state, when the evidence is so clear that they are? No doubt they’re following the ACPO line (remember ACPO is a for-profit, 100% unaccountable organisation), believing their violence is justified because of the inevitability of violence in anti-cuts protests. Pity for them they have no evidence for that.
The cop in charge of the for-profit Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has defended recent Met policing of protests in London:
Orde admitted that use of text messages, Twitter and Facebook to organise campaigns in record speed had created “a whole new dimension to public order”.
The Metropolitan police faced questions over its handling of violent student protests last December, but Orde defended the use of “hyper-kettling” – corralling activists into an area then decreasing the space – despite admitting that it could “interfere with the rights of citizens”.
“I can understand the need for it,” he admitted. “[It is done] for the greater good, and that’s the really complex part of policing.”
Orde admitted he feared protests could become more violent as public anger grew over government cuts. He claims that the use of horses to charge protesters was, when “proportionate”, a “very useful, effective tactic”.
It was certain an effective tactic at the last student tuition fees protest outside Parliament. An event which had by all accounts started more or less entirely peacefully became increasingly violent as a direct result of en entirely unnecessary horse charge. The real question is ‘the greater good’ for whom? Certainly not students, teenagers, young people from underprivileged backgrounds or protesters. It’s a strange position to take for someone who has voiced fears in the past about the police being seen as the violent agents of the status quo, and his position on kettling is downright alarming.
Orde, the head of Acpo, a limited company run by police chiefs, criticised the lack of willingness of new protest groups that have sprung up around the internet to engage with police before protests. He said if they continued to refuse to co-operate, then police tactics would have to become more extreme.
“It is not good enough to throw our hands up in the air and say ‘Oh, we can’t negotiate because there is no one to negotiate with,’” he told Prospect magazine in an interview published today. “There are lots of people we can talk to, but they need to stand up and lead their people too. If they don’t, we must be clear that the people who wish to demonstrate won’t engage, communicate or share what they intend to do with us, and so our policing tactics will have to be different … slightly more extreme.”
So what he’s saying is that if students refuse to engage with police who lie about their own tactics and intentions, then they’ll be…beaten pre-emptively around the head for no reason? The more things change…
We’re not even into the second calendar year of the ConDem coalition – you remember, the one which said it would do better than New Labour on civil liberties? – and already things are threatening to become far worse than at any point in that period. The Metropolitan Police, ever trigger and truncheon-happy, is now threatening to ban protests:
Asked at the press conference if the Met would consider banning future marches, Sir Paul replied: “That’s one of the options we have got. Banning is a very difficult step to take, these are very balanced judgments.
“We can’t ban a demonstration but we can ban a march, subject to approval by the Home Secretary.”
But he went on: “When you have got people willing to break the law in this way, what is the likelihood of them obeying an order not to march or complying with conditions on a demonstration?
“Sometimes putting that power in could just be inflaming the situation further.”
Strange, that. He seems not to understand that it’s his force which has already inflamed the situation further. That his force, embarrassed by poor planning but surprisingly good policing of the first student protest, has now embarked on a vendetta against this country’s children and young people. Pre-emptive kettling (and lying about it)? Check. Hitting children and young people (not to mention kettling them) for no reason at all? Check. Running contained protesters (and others) down? Check. Baitvans? Check. Giving protesters brain injuries, then trying to deny them medical assistance? Check. Banning further protests would of bloody course inflame the situation further. The fucking idiot should be trying to defuse the situation, not make it worse.
He said public buildings and monuments in London, such as the Cenotaph, could be boarded up to protect them during future demonstrations, as happened ahead of May Day protests in recent years.
Sir Paul conceded the events are stretching his force’s capabilities, saying: “When you are putting 3,000 people out, not just on one day but a significant number of days, the consequences of that for the rest of the organisation are quite clear.”
He said he is “very worried” about the knock-on effect on securing neighbourhoods and town centres as hundreds of officers are redeployed to Westminster.
Sir Paul said he did not want a “paramilitary model” of policing in Britain but admitted a fresh review is taking place of whether or not water cannon should be used against rioters.
“I do not want to engage in an arms race, a knee jerk reaction to thugs and hooligans who do not know how to behave when they are accompanied by an overwhelming number who want to demonstrate peacefully.
“I am most reluctant to move towards this but at the same time we should keep everything under review.”
This is the man who the other day said protesters were lucky they weren’t killed by the police that day. I don’t believe a police commissioner in any Western city should be using such language or even suggesting using additional weaponry on protests which have been wholly legitimate; angry but legitimate. Blaming angry students for grievances shared by many more people than just them, overexaggerating the violence, dismissing the violence of his own people and justifying the tactics his Commander Bob Broadhurst thinks makes sense for policing large scale protests in London; this is a return to G20 style policing without a large scale outcry. In this grudge match he no longer seems to feel the need to justify his thugs not wearing their ID badges:
Does someone have to die again before this continued abuse of their role stops? And why is most of the press complicit in it this time?
Further proving John Pilger’s charge of coasting on the back of unquestioning journalism, the BBC has responded to the criticism of Ben Brown’s interview of Jody McIntyre:
We have received a considerable number of complaints about an interview Ben Brown did last night on the BBC News Channel with Jody McIntyre. The context of the interview was that Mr McIntyre was on the student demonstrations in London last week and video emerged yesterday of him being pulled out of his wheelchair by police.
I am aware that there is a web campaign encouraging people to complain to the BBC about the interview, the broad charge being that Ben Brown was too challenging in it. However I am genuinely interested in hearing more from people who have complained about why they object to the interview. I would obviously welcome all other views.
I have reviewed the interview a few times and I would suggest that we interviewed Mr McIntyre in the same way that we would have questioned any other interviewee in the same circumstances: it was quite a long interview and Mr McIntyre was given several minutes of airtime to make a range of points, which he did forcefully; Ben challenged him politely but robustly on his assertions.
Mr McIntyre says during the interview that “personally he sees himself equal to anyone else” and we interviewed Mr McIntyre as we would interview anyone else in his position. Comments more than welcome.
Kevin Bakhurst is the controller of the BBC News Channel and the BBC News at One and the deputy head of the BBC Newsroom.
John Pilger in his new documentary ‘The War You Don’t See’ charges the BBC above most news organisations with a disinterest in challenging power, particularly in questioning the position of the state. Brown’s interview and Bakhurst’s defence of it proves his point as effectively as his film – Brown took the police’s position on the action at the #dayx3 protest, the rationale behind it, and only ever attacked McIntyre on the most spurious grounds, fed by the police, not from anyone else’s experience or account of the day. Again and again he lambasts him for being a ‘revolutionary’ and implies that, under any circumstances, a man with his disability could have posed a threat to riot police. Never once does he pick up on McIntyre’s complaint about the Met’s attack and outrageous treatment of Alfie Meadows; Brown just soldiers on, implicitly again and again labelling his interviewee as part of the problem that day.
Brown’s ‘polite challenges’, through making them at all, effectively supported the police’s behaviour against him, through acknowledging that their claims and only their claims might have had merit. It’s disturbing but not surprising that Bakhurst doesn’t understand why that’s such a problem. It’s what FOX News does; it’s not what most of us expect from the BBC.
After the #dayx3 student protest, timed to coincide with the parliamentary vote to skyrocket university tuition fees, much was made in the UK press about the incident that evening involving Prince Charles and Camilla. Their Royal car had paint thrown at it and Camilla was allegedly ‘poked’ through the window by a protester. In response to that, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson allegedly offered his resignation:
According to the Sunday Times, Sir Paul Stephenson, Britain’s most senior cop, offered his resignation as Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police to His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, after the car carrying Charles and his wife was surrounded by protesters in central London last week.
Now we know that HRH, number two in a constitutional monarchy, has long had ideas on architecture, planning and whatever else swims into his appalled view – if not above his station, certainly beyond the parameters of his ‘above the fray’ non-political role. But even Charles clearly baulked at the idea that he should accept Sir Paul’s resignation.
The Met Commissioner is responsible to us, the people, through the Home Secretary. His grand-standing offer to go (he admitted to colleagues, apparently, that his resignation was unlikely to be accepted) was all of a piece with the fiasco that unfolded on Thursday during the student protests against the coalition Government’s trebling of tuition fees.
Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable that the boss of London’s police should offer to resign because the heir to the throne and his wife were a little bit upset! Why not offer to resign after his force killed Ian Tomlinson? He may not have been the Met’s boss at the time but why not resign after the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes? Robert Chesshyre goes on to add:
So the question should be: if Sir Paul is seriously thinking of quitting, ought it not to be for the consequences of failures by his force other than the upset experienced by the heir to the throne?
One student, 20-year-old Alfie Meadows, was allegedly struck so severely by a police baton that he fell unconscious and required emergency brain surgery.
That is bad enough. But the story emerging is far, far worse: that police officers prevented Alfie’s tutor summoning an ambulance; that when he finally did get to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, there was a stand-off because according to Alfie’s mother the hospital was treating injured police who didn’t want an obvious protestor, however badly hurt, treated in the same building.
Even in Afghanistan, coalition Medevac helicopters will remove injured Taliban fighters for treatment even in the heat of battle.
It was only – as Alfie’s mother, Susan Matthews, 55, herself a university lecturer and also on the demonstration reported – the intervention of an appalled ambulance man, who insisted that Alfie stayed put, that stopped him being driven away to another hospital with severe (and possibly fatal) consequences.
A senior nurse then took the stricken Alfie to a separate resuscitation room to keep him away from the police who found it “upsetting” to see protestors in the hospital.
As I’ve pointed out (and will continue to do so) the incident with Alfie was hardly an isolated incident, and it’s phenomenal that Stephenson should find it so easy to trivialise the brutal behaviour by his officers. I wasn’t at the demonstration, but I acknowledge that there was violence on both sides, however this is clearly a man who has his priorities all wrong. He’s willing to sacrifice his career to impress the heir to the throne, yet not in response to wanton, excessive violence by his uniformed thugs. Speaking of those uniformed thugs I am dumbstruck every time I hear them and their superiors complaining about the missiles thrown at them. Think this through – they have said they had snooker balls thrown at them. I know from my experience at demonstration at the Millbank Tower that the harder elements at that protest were throwing missiles, but can someone tell me why a) getting hit by a snooker ball when you have body armour on is a problem and b) how many students were likely to have gone out en masse to steal balls from snooker halls? Please. For that matter how the hell does a handful of snooker balls against riot cops merit indiscriminate attacks with batons against unarmed young people?
David Cameron has repeatedly invoked the concept of a ‘broken’ Britain; this is the surest example I’ve yet seen of one. And yes, Stephenson should go, but we all know he won’t.
Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), a for profit organisation, has warned that the police should not be seen as the means by which the ConDems’ will is enforced:
Asked if there was a danger to the police’s reputation by repeated clashes at demonstrations, Orde told the Guardian: “Yes, if it is allowed to be played as the cops acting as an arm of the state, delivering the elected government’s will, rather than protecting the rights of the citizen.
“We need to be clear we are doing it as operationally independent, and not subject to influence by anyone as to how we do it.
“As long as that is maintained we can rebut any allegations that we are doing what we are told by our political masters to advance a political agenda. The police are not against anybody.”
Far too little and far too late. It’s become plainly clear even to children that the opposite is true – they are the state’s enforcers. Rebel against it and face pre-emptive civil liberties restrictions and unprovoked violence. Want some proof?
Tahmeena Bax, a third-year history student at Queen Mary University in east London, said she was hit directly over the head at least three times by a riot officer when police charged a group of kettled protesters on the evening of 30 November.
The incident took place at the north east end of Trafalgar square, close to the National Gallery at around 6pm, as protesters some distance from Bax lifted barriers protecting the police line. The police charged the crowd. “The police suddenly rushed forward and I couldn’t escape. I was hit at least three times, mainly on the right side of my head,” she told the Guardian.
Bax, 20, who had become separated from her fellow protesters from Queen Mary’s, staggered 10m away from the police and collapsed unconscious on the ground.
A witness, Katia Ganfield, said: “I saw her curled up in a ball. There was no response from her. We were all in shock as we didn’t think a young girl would be hit to the ground like that.”
Mr [Jody] McIntyre described what happened: “I was in Parliament Sq with my brother and we saw everyone running to one of the corners so we ran and made our way to the front.
“One policeman hit me with his baton in the shoulder then suddenly four or five of them picked me up, and dragged me from my chair. They carried me quite violently and against my will and put me on the pavement.
“Eventually after about 5 minutes, my brother was let through.
“What was even more shocking though, later on I had moved to the other side of Parliament Sq and I was sitting in my wheelchair in space in the middle of the road. A policeman recognised me from the earlier incident and came running over, pushed me out of my chair and dragged me across the road. This was completely unprovoked.”
Mr. McIntyre has not yet decided whether he will make a complaint against police, but was eager to make the point that this is not an isolated incident. “I’ve been to a lot of these protests and people are always violent with me” he said.
“Even though I’m in a wheelchair, I like to think we’re all equal human beings. There was plenty of violence towards students yesterday, and even though I’ve had media attention, all of this violence is equally disgraceful. But this is standard police behaviour.”
The police watchdog launched an independent investigation today after a 20-year-old student was left unconscious with bleeding on the brain after being hit on the head with a police truncheon.
Alfie Meadows, a philosophy student at Middlesex University, was struck as he tried to leave the area outside Westminster Abbey during last night’s tuition fee protests, his mother said.
After falling unconscious on the way to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Mr Meadows underwent a three-hour operation for bleeding on the brain.
His mother Susan, 55, an English literature lecturer at Roehampton University, said: “He was hit on the head by a police truncheon.
“He said it was the hugest blow he ever felt in his life.
“The surface wound wasn’t very big but, three hours after the blow, he suffered bleeding to the brain.
“He survived the operation and he’s in the recovery room.”