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 German Pirate Party has held a flashmob at Berlin’s Tegel airport, in response to its unquestioning adoption of new, intrusive body scanners after the abortive attempt to blow up the flight in Detroit at Christmas. And they’ve kindly shared their ‘fleshmob’ with the world:
(via Privacy International)
They suggest it’s about giving the impression of improved security – I would tend to agree but it’s not just a sop to public opinion. It’s a further, needless intrusion into the private realm of the individual for no need. If the intelligence agencies had done their job properly – Abdulmutallab’s father had alerted the American security services to his son’s behaviour for goodness’ sake – he would never have ended up on that plane. Why should the rest of us suffer yet further attacks on our privacy because ‘intelligence’ officials can’t do their jobs properly? Well done, Piratenpartei!
Yes I know I took my own pictures of the Carter-Ruck flashmob last week, but this one has me in it. I’m in print! In the Guardian! Yay! Peter Preston also has some interesting points about the new alliances forged as a result of the second Carter-Ruck injunction on the Guardian:
as the Guardian‘s triumphant Alan Rusbridger noted, is that it wasn’t a win for press battalions or nippy legions of Twitterers alone. You needed the resources of a determined paper – and, in parallel, a dogged BBC – to pursue the toxic case of Africans falling violently ill in the Ivory Coast. And you needed an elliptical front page story in print about a gagged Commons question to set the blogosphere buzzing.
It’s a cute, quick conclusion, but he should bear in mind that there was no deliberate alliance, and after Carter-Ruck clearly got nervy about their misjudgment with it and varied the second injunction, it rapidly fell apart. Between Tuesday and Friday night’s reversal of the first super injunction, the blogosphere and Twitter in general had completely lost interest in Trafigura and Carter-Ruck. The issue for Twitter was the question of freedom of speech in parliament, nothing more – when that was restored it was job done, everyone then piled on Jan Moir for her homophobic bile, even though the Guardian was still operating under severe restrictions. The BBC also didn’t act uniformally with the Guardian and blogosphere – Newsnight and the Guardian may both have exposed Trafigura’s role in the toxic waste dumping in Ivory Coast, and both were facing legal action by Carter-Ruck as a result, but the BBC was almost entirely silent when the Guardian went on the offensive.
Don’t get me wrong I think some very interesting changes have happened as a result of Carter-Ruck’s historic misjudgment with the second super injunction, but the relationship between old and new media is unstable and the outcomes frequently overstated. The fight against hack Jan Moir’s homophobic attack on Stephen Gately may have generated an historic number of complaints to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), but the Daily HateMail’s editor Paul Dacre remains chairman of the PCC’s Editors’ Code of Practice – the very code his employee (and he by extension) broke. As long as that’s the case all the tweets in the world won’t really change anything, and indeed although Trafigura and Carter-Ruck are rapidly backtracking from their hardline behaviour, libel law is unchanged in the UK, other super injunctions remain in place and noone is holding Trafigura to account.
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger confirms law firm Carter-Ruck have backed down on their gagging order against the paper:
It’s a monumetal victory for the Twitterverse and free speech. Now join me on Thursday outside Carter-Ruck’s offices:
To protest against the Guardian Gag, ordered by Carter-Ruck, blocking reporting of the goings on of our OWN PARLIAMENT (and for no other reason than the protection of corrupt private enterprise) we are going to GAG THEM
Silent flashmob, come stand silently out side the offices of Carter-Ruck (map below), gagged with a piece of black fabric.
We won’t be breaking the law, they, and the people they represent are.
Nearest Tubes: Chancery Lane, Faringdon.
Well done everyone on Twitter. Together we undid the best efforts of an unscrupulous law firm and their industrial polluter client.
On Saturday I attended the flashmob at Canary Wharf by the I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist project, in support of photographers’ rights. Most people don’t realise Canary Wharf and other, similar, not-quite-public spaces have restrictions on photography, in large measure in the name of combatting terrorism. Here’s a slideshow of my photos of what was a highly successful event by a project strongly supported by this website.