Guest post by Peter Tatchell
Many police behaved admirably. Others were out of control. Most students were peaceful. A minority were violent. Violence by a relatively small number of protesters does not justify the often indiscriminate, bully-boy methods of some officers.
TV news film showed police baton attacks on peaceful students. Some were battered while they were held on the ground, where they posed no threat. This brutality inflamed other students to violent retaliation. The over-the-top police tactics were often needlessly provocative and incendiary. They contributed to the riotous atmosphere.
The violent demonstrators were ethically wrong and counter-productive – and so too were the violent police who lashed out indiscriminately. Officers faced aggressive provocation by some demonstrators. They had a difficult, sometimes violent, protest to contain. I sympathise. There were protesters who were out for trouble and who committed violent acts. But this does not justify or exonerate police violence. See this apparent example of police brutality against a peaceful protester who was trying to leave the demo. The Independent.
Violence by some students to indiscriminate police attacks was a wrong response, but not a surprising one.
If you were a peaceful, lawful protester and got held in a police cordon for 6+ hours with no food, water or toilets, you’d be angry too. The police tactic of kettling was illegal detention and amounted to the collective punishment of many innocent, peaceful protesters. It made a bad situation worse. This heavy-handed, indiscriminate repression is not how the police should behave in a democracy.
I wonder if the harsh police tactics were designed to intimidate and discourage future protests by making people fearful of injury and arrest? Whatever the truth, police brutality will have the opposite effect. Many protesters now hate the police because of how they were abused. This is a recipe for more violence at future demos.
The Met Police Commissioner’s tactics were flawed. He erred and misjudged. Should he resign?
The student’s cause is a just cause that I support. Education is not a commodity. It should not be for sale. The fee hike and cut to education maintenance grants will discourage young people from poorer backgrounds. Meanwhile the bankers are getting their bonuses again and the government looks set to squander £76 billion on a new generation of Trident missiles. Shame on Cameron and Clegg.
See Also Jane, Cabbages And Kings Green Room and Carolines Speech to students.
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