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Dec 1

How to Escape a Kettle

Posted on Wednesday, December 1, 2010 in anti-cuts resistance, civil liberties, ConDemNation, Politics, protest

Priceless footage from yesterday’s #dayx2 #demo2010 student demonstration against the ConDem coalition’s planned huge rise in tuition fees and university budget cuts. Late in the day the Met swore blind they had no intention of kettling the student demonstrators on Whitehall (despite bountiful evidence and testimonies to the contrary), but the students themselves knew otherwise and the #catandmouse chase, as you can see, made fools of the cops.

The Met however remained determined to infringe the students’ right to protest peacefully, as you can see:

The territorial support group (TSG) riot officers even returned to their old tactic of covering up their identifying shoulder numbers. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Nov 30

The Battle Against Cuts in Lewisham

Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 in anti-cuts resistance, ConDemNation, Politics, protest

The fight begins in my home borough against the ConDem cuts:

Hundreds of angry protesters besieged Lewisham town hall in Catford last night, as the council forced through cuts. They stood outside and demanded “Let us in!”, as councillors voted behind closed doors. Before long, about a hundred of them got into the building, some letting off smoke bombs. Soon dozens of police vans loaded with riot squad had arrived, and were engaged in combat with some of the protesters.

This was the furious response to Lewisham council’s decision to implement half of the long-term projected cuts of £60m – or “efficiency savings”, as the official euphemism has it – to local services. These cuts affect services for children and young people, libraries and support for schools. The immediate cost in jobs will be 446 redundancies. This is a microcosm of what is happening to local services across the country, with the total cuts package costing half a million jobs. And the protest comes amid a wave of student action, which some of the protesters said had inspired them.

A shocking story, which I heard about as it was happening, through Twitter. I’m stunned to hear of dozens of police vans arriving though, with TSG officers. The similarities though with the student protests are clear:

The scale of the police’s mobilisation suggests they have been preparing for situations just like this, and expect many more. The police are setting themselves up as the hard end of the austerity wedge.

The Met have been expecting action like this and (as per the quote I repeated yesterday by film maker Ken Loach) are behaving as the violent enforcers of the status quo that they are set up to be. And as Richard Seymour points out, what never changes is this:

The vote on cuts went ahead behind closed doors. Labour unanimously endorsed the cuts. The Liberal Democrats abstained – as ever, finding the cowardly way to be unprincipled – and the Green councillor, Darren Johnson, along with the two Tories on the council, opposed. This is redolent of the poll tax, in which a Tory policy was enforced most energetically by Labour councils. The fact that Tory councillors voted against the cuts suggests that the Tories have a dual strategy of devolving the political costs of the cuts to local councils – and it will hurt most in Labour-run councils – while attempting to pick up credit for local opposition. But it won’t wash.

No, and Darren (who’s also my councillor) offered a different path forwards:

@DarrenJohnsonAM @IslingtonRed My alternative – reducing senior pay, cutting consultants, reducing PR spend, cutting energy bills, sharing CEO with PCT

A new generational battle against disaster capitalism is escalating and it’ll only grow. Where it ends up is anyone’s guess. The Socialist Worker reports:

many people rushed into the town hall to voice opposition to the cuts. Around 100 protesters managed to get in.

Police then attacked the protesters with horses, dogs, riot shields and truncheons.

One eyewitness, an NUT member, told Socialist Worker, “The police were like animals. The beat people with their truncheons and even attacked a 72 year old pensioner.”

A student at Goldsmiths, told Socialist Worker, “We marched down from the college and people joined us. We recognise the need to demand not just a future for students but for everyone.”

“Then they denied us access to the town hall and police attacked us, grabbing people by the hair and the neck.”

“It shows how little democracy there really is.”

Nov 26

No Horseback Charge? Really?

Posted on Friday, November 26, 2010 in civil liberties, protest

The Metropolitan Police would like you to think that the police violence was necessary in order to counter #dayx #demo2010 student violence on the protest this week against massive tuition fees rises and university budget cuts:

“We have been going through a period where we have not seen that sort of violent disorder,” [Commissioner Sir Paul ] Stephenson said. “We had dealt with student organisers before and I think we based it too much on history. If we follow an intelligence-based model that stops you doing that. Obviously you realise the game has changed. Regrettably, the game has changed and we must act.

In recent years the Met had reduced the numbers of officers deployed to tackle demonstrations, he said. “Regrettably, we are going to have to review that. We are going to have to take a more cautious approach.”

Check out my blog post before this one, about the events that actually happened on the day. The violence began in response to pre-emptive police kettling, first on a large scale, and then an increasingly restricted one, and that’s not even taking the #baitvan police van into account. Stephenson also said that there was no horseback charge against the students:

Sir Paul Stephenson faced the Metropolitan Police Authority panel at City Hall today to respond to criticism that police charged student protestors on horseback, and were heavy handed during student protests in Westminster yesterday.

Sir Paul Stephenson said that there was  “no reference at debriefing or record” of charging by any officers on horseback.

Sir Paul Stephenson in his briefing at City Hall described the actions of the students protestors as  “quite shocking” and the scenes were “very violent scene, and very difficult”.

The Guardian reports an entirely different reality.

So for all their claims about having learned their lessons after the G20 disaster, all the old tricks are back. Pre-emptive violence and then lying about it is just the tip of the iceberg I’m sure, compared to what’ll happen next. They got away with it with Jean Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson – why should they stop there? The Met have clearly realised their big problem on those previous two occasions was an inability to spin the situation to their advantage – now they have a Tory government who think they’re doing a ‘good, professional job’ in attacking children on horseback, and kettling them for hours, at night and in freezing temperatures. The next four years are going to be very dangerous indeed for anyone who dares to rebel against the ConDem coalition.

Apr 1

Will the Met Always Get Away With It?

Posted on Thursday, April 1, 2010 in civil liberties, protest

The first prosecution against the Metropolitan Police for the violence it perpetrated against unarmed, non-violent protesters at the G20 protests last spring has resulted in an acquittal:

A Metropolitan police sergeant who was filmed hitting a woman with a baton at the G20 demonstrations walked free from court today after a judge ruled he acted lawfully.

Delroy Smellie was suspended last year after video footage was posted on YouTube showing him back-handing a protester and striking her twice on the legs with his metal baton.

He was acquitted of assault by beating after a four-day trial in which his alleged victim, protester Nicola Fisher, declined to give evidence.

Smellie, from the Met’s territorial support group (TSG), a specialist public order unit, argued during his trial that he believed Fisher posed a threat to himself and fellow officers. He said he repeatedly struck Fisher, who was considerably smaller than him, after mistaking a carton of orange juice and digital camera she was carrying for weapons.

The district judge, Daphne Wickham, said there was no evidence that his use of the baton was not approved, correct or measured, adding that Smellie had a “mere seven seconds” to act, and other witnesses had feared for his safety.

Erm what? The TSG must be laughing themselves sick this morning. A big, burly TSG officer really, genuinely thought he had something to fear from a small, female protester attending a non-violent vigil for Ian Tomlinson? And a highly trained riot policeman really thought a carton of orange juice and a digital camera were weapons? Check out the video and see for yourself. Is there really any hope of justice for Ian Tomlinson?

Mar 27

Why Aren’t We Talking About Ian Tomlinson?

Posted on Saturday, March 27, 2010 in civil liberties, Community, protest, surveillance society

We’re talking about Delroy Smellie of course, but what about the unnamed officer who caused Ian Tomlinson’s death? What about the senior officers who gave the orders for such violent policing? What about their role in the attempt to cover up the cause of Tomlinson’s death, blaming the crowd rather than their own? Tomlinson’s wife, as the run-up to the first anniversary of his death approaches, has gone on the attack:

Last August the CPS was asked to consider whether the officer should be charged with manslaughter and, weeks later, Starmer promised swift action. “My view on these things is we should move quickly,” he said, adding that he hoped for a decision “in a few months”. CPS officials later told the Tomlinson family they could expect a decision by Christmas.

“Keir Starmer has let us down personally,” said Julia Tomlinson. “Why did he say there would be a decision around Christmas? Why are we still waiting? My kids need to move on from this. They’re left without a dad now and their lives have been turned upside down over the last year, especially the four girls. He doesn’t seem to realise the pain we’re going through.”

She added: “We feel like there was a cover-up from day one, and we didn’t see it because we were nervous about the police. Now a year on it still feels like all of that is still going on. If it had been someone on the street, a civilian, who had pushed and hit Ian just before he died, and it was all caught on video, surely something would have happened by now. The officer needs to go before a jury. Let them decide what should happen to him.”

She’s right of course. It’s cut and dried what actually happened, so why are they still waiting? On the other hand I would also suggest that the TSG officer who attacked Tomlinson wasn’t the only one who deserves to face justice for causing his death that day. Putting just that officer on trial would entirely miss the point that the Met’s behaviour that day was entirely normal, and the smears against the protesters and lies about Tomlinson himself a familiar refrain when the Met’s policing has caused death or serious injury. I’m still disgusted at how long Jean Charles de Menezes was blamed for his own murder, and how effectively the system closed ranks ultimately to justify it; the same result is likely here. De Menezes’ shooter has never been charged with a crime, despite committing perjury and murder, whilst his commanding officer was promoted. Julia Tomlinson really ought not to expect much better.

Mar 23

The Met Just Can’t Stop Breaking the Law

Posted on Tuesday, March 23, 2010 in civil liberties, human rights, Politics, protest, surveillance society

It was obvious to those of us who saw the video of this horrible confrontation between the Met and G20 protesters:

but it’s finally been ruled unlawful and the Metropolitan Police are going to pay a heavy price:

The Metropolitan Police are facing a compensation bill of £250,000, after admitting a raid on a climate change group the day after the G20 protests in London last April was illegal.

Police burst into the Convergence Centre in east London carrying taser guns, and handcuffed protesters face down.The Met Commissioner admitted it was unlawful to arrest, search them, and force them to be recorded on film, but he refused to apologise to the protestors.

They were non-violent and there were no reasonable grounds for suspicion, but the Met didn’t care last spring. They’d decided, without any evidence whatsoever that there was going to be violent trouble, and went as far as indicating their preparedness to be violent in turn. Look at the story of Delroy Smellie:

The sergeant at the centre of allegations of striking a female protester with a baton during a heated exchange at last year’s G20 protest said he was acting in “self defence” after mistaking a carton of juice and camera for weapons, a court heard.

Sergeant Delroy Smellie, 47, said he struck Nicola Fisher, 36, in a “pre-emptive strike” after seeing both items in her hands. The confrontation outside the Bank of England, on April 2 last year occurred during a vigil for the death of Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper seller who died after inadvertently getting caught up in a demonstration the previous day. Mr Smellie, an officer in the Met’s elite Territorial Support Group, is accused of common assault by beating. He denies the charge, and his lawyers insisted they would argue he was acting in self-defence.

A highly trained riot police officer mistook a carton of juice and a camera for weapons eh? Check the video out and decide for yourself if he’d decided on his course of action in defiance of the evidence in front of him. Now then, why aren’t we still talking about Ian Tomlinson, whose death was directly caused by Met brutality?

Dec 11

Poor Poor TSG

Posted on Friday, December 11, 2009 in civil liberties, Editorial

It beggars belief but the Metropolitan Police’s Territorial Support Group (TSG) are acting the wounded party in the face of attacks on them for their ultra violent behaviour at the G20 protests in April:


“They want to be seen as the best and they want to be the best – and of course when anybody challenges them about it, they feel it very personally,” he [Head of the Metropolitan Police Territorial Support Group, Commissioner Chris Allison] said.

They want to be seen as what they are… the overwhelming majority are highly professional cops who go out on the streets to protect communities.”

Pardon me for finding it absurd then that if they want to be seen to be ‘the best’ then they shouldn’t go around either wantonly beating unarmed, non-violent protesters or killing innocent passers-by. If the overwhelming majority of the TSG really are highly professional it seems rather odd that the reports of extreme violence from within their ranks should be coming out with such regularity, with so little then done to change the behaviour of the unit.

Nov 11

Met’s Riot Police Get Away With It (Almost) Every Time

Posted on Wednesday, November 11, 2009 in civil liberties, News

A request made under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed some appalling figures detailing complaints made about the Metropolitan Police’s Territorial Support Group (TSG):

The TSG has been the subject of 5,241 allegations since August 2005. They include 376 allegations of discrimination and 977 complaints of “incivility”. More than 1,100 of the allegations concerned what members of the public said were “failures in duty”. However by far the largest number of complaints – 2,280 – were categorised as “oppressive behaviour”.

Just over 2,000 (38%) were “unsubstantiated” by the Met’s department for professional standards, while the rest were resolved at the police station, dismissed, discontinued or dealt with in other ways.

It left just nine complaints ‘substantiated’ by the Met. The Met responded to the figures:angry_copper_bild_300

Senior Met officers say the TSG’s work, involving drug raids and demonstrations, means they are more likely to face complaints than other officers.

Of course this is a ludicrous defence, which would suggest a thoroughly implausible situation whereby thousands of people regularly make unfounded allegations against the TSG – the unit’s attack on Babar Ahmad was only the tip of the iceberg. And Ahmad’s lawyer Fiona Murphy points out why:

The reasons are clear: the commission continues to rely upon poor-quality local police investigations and adopts a decidedly “arm’s length” approach to its supervisory and management responsibilities. In consequence, it has failed to identify the inadequacies in those investigations at a sufficiently early stage to have any prospect of remedying the evidential deficiencies. This formal system is permeated by a lack of will, and the outcomes stand in marked contrast to the redress achieved by individual victims on their own account in the civil courts.

Compensation claims are a flawed and inadequate response and have proven wholly ineffective in the face of oppressive and discriminatory abuse of powers by the TSG. Officers continue to enjoy an effective immunity from criminal and disciplinary sanction.

Babar Ahmad’s attacker continues to get away with it, and Ian Tomlinson’s attacker has still not faced justice for his actions. For all the Met’s mealy mouthed words about changes in policing after the G20 fiasco, they’re still quite literally getting away with murder.

Sep 29

First G20 Policeman to Get Prosecuted

Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2009 in human rights, News

It’s somewhat strange that another policeman should still not face charges, when his actions clearly led to the death of Ian Tomlinson, but another TSG officer is being prosecuted for violence against a protester:


A police officer who allegedly struck a woman during the G20 protests in London a woman is to be charged with assault, the Crown Prosecution Service said today.

A CPS spokeswoman said Sergeant Delroy Smellie would be charged with assault of Nicola Fisher and he will appear at Westminster magistrates court on 16 November. He faces up to six months in prison if found guilty.

Smellie, a member of the Metropolitan police’s territorial support group, was suspended from duty two months ago after footage emerged of him near the Bank of England, apparently hitting Fisher, 35, with the back of his arm.

He was also shown appearing to strike her on her legs with a baton as she attended a vigil for the newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson, who had died the previous day. She said the incident left her with severe bruising.

Of course he’ll get off, or he’ll become the scapegoat that his renowned colleague has long been expected to become. What must be remembered is that both officers, although behaving in an unacceptably (and unnecessarily) violent manner, were operating under the presumption that this was acceptable behaviour. Don’t forget how the force trailed its intention to be violent that day. The CPS can’t be allowed to get away with making this their only notable prosecution against the Metropolitan Police after their calamatous handling of the G20 protest.