Who protects the Tories?


Today the right to freedom of speech and expression was met with wanton barbarity. People were herded like cattle, penned in for hours in the biting cold. Many were children. Police kettled protesters into Parliament Square for several hours and again on Westminster Bridge. The cries of the injured and the scared went unheard by the friendly neighbourhood bobbies, their yells of “get back!” used only to justify the brandishing of their batons. A young man wanders confused and afraid behind a police line, blood dripping from his face, his plight met by a blow to the back and a shove into the crowd. Later in the day, anxious calls went up on the megaphones for any students from Middlesex to report immediately: I would not be surprised if someone has been killed.

Today was not unusual. One only has to look at the history of the police force to understand where the heroic crime-solving ends (not very far from where it starts) and where the attack on the working class begins. The police were formed to counter the strikes of the Chartist movement, and only because the soldiers didn’t work effectively (a baton, cutlass and a free hand being preferable to a musket). Something that really spells out the true nature of the police is that at some points soldiers turned against the police in solidarity with the workers, such as in the 1840’s in Leeds during the anti-police riots. To the people, the soldiers were the heroes – the police, the enemies.

The new police of England were not welcomed on the streets. In 1829 posters announcing an anti-police demonstration read:


The time has at last arrived. All London meets on Tuesday. We assure you from ocular demonstration that 6,000 cutlasses have been removed from the Tower for the use of Peel’s Bloody Gang [Peel being the Tory Frankenstein of the pigs]. Remember the cursed speech from the Throne!! These damned Police are now to be armed. Englishmen, will you put up with this?

Police numbers do not correlate with crime. They correlate with the number of workers involved in strike action. That’s what they were formed for, that’s what they continue to exist for. They are strike-breakers. Property is said to be nine-tenths of the law, and that is what they protect – the interests of their masters. This is in stark contrast to their glamorous media portrayal: Hours of footage daily of coppers hard at work catching villains, high-speed chases, the works. Corruption within the force has even been portrayed in an almost charming, endearing light by modern media, for instance in the series Life On Mars. However, the force is not capable of dealing with most crime due to its very nature. Police numbers would need to be astronomically high if burglary, domestic issues, assault and other forms of social crime were to actually be deterred. Where the crime concerned is directed at the poor from the rich, action is very, very rarely taken. When it is, the sole purpose is to reinforce the facade that the police have a valid role in society. If there is to be any good in the world, their existence will one day be relegated to the museums of the former state, along with the rest of the vestiges of oppression and slavery.

Today was both glorious and terribly sad. The police and the state aren’t doing themselves any favours. They are turning the youth into the next generation of Tory haters and radicals, those who question all authority and who will not sit down or shut up. It is also heartening to see the creativity, spirit and vigour of those who are apparently not trusted to march down a street: Never in the crowd were you far from solidarity and compassion, organic organisation and quick-footed thinking in the face of danger. Oh, and the book bloc definitely needs to be repeated.

It’s difficult to feel any sympathy for coppers with paint over their faces, on stretchers, getting wailed on after being surrounded by protesters or being kettled against their own vans and having firecrackers chucked at them after seeing baton charges at any poor excuse, complete irreverence for the health of those they are supposedly duty-bound to protect and even mounted charges. It doesn’t do much for the myths around the thin blue line to see 16-17 hand high horses charging into crowds divorced of any means of self defence from these terrifying creatures. It doesn’t do much for one’s understanding of nature either: every time they came out the cry went up, “get those animals off those horses!” It’s not difficult to see where the problem lies here: Cops with animals and batons versus kids. Kids who have been told that their future has been decimated and are getting beaten for reacting quite naturally to that fact.

Westminster Bridge, where hundreds were detained from eight o’clock, was a harrowing affair. Lines upon lines of riot police swarmed to block both ends, after the protesters had been told that this was an exit. The claim was that there were riots occurring in other parts of London, and the police were there to prevent us joining in. If nothing else, the actions of the police today would have made that real. With barely enough room to sit, people were seen bopping up and down to keep warm and perhaps subdue the urge to go to the bathroom. If it wasn’t such a fine day, the howling wind down the Thames would have chilled us all to the bone. The police refused to provide water or to help the injured and ill. Spirits were clearly dwindling, but the occasional chant put a smile back on many cold faces: “too many kettles, not enough tea!” was a favourite, “what do we want? Human rights!” being a more pertinent one. Conga lines and Mexican waves keep chilly extremities warm.

Those kettled on the bridge were eventually permitted their basic human rights at a quarter to midnight, provided they walked single file in-between two rows of riot police, having their masks used as a feeble attempt of anonymity ripped from them, with FIT waiting at the end of the blue corridor, camera light glaring on the tired faces. Denial of food, water, warmth, toilet facilities and thorough intimidation: Whose side are they on?

Today was a landmark. It spells the condemnation of the youth, locked out of higher education as tuition fees treble, but also marks the start of something big. They can hit us, scare us with animals, intimidate us, pen us for hours in miserable conditions and put us on spotter cards but we will come back again and again. We will return to fight for the right of our generation to education. This is not the end of the children’s crusade.

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December 2010

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