Friday, April 1, 2011

Kettling - Lies in London

In the days before the massive Trade Union Congress' anti-cuts demo, March for the Alternative in London on 26 March, the UK Parliament's Joint Human Rights Committee published a report in which the police came under heavy criticism of their "containment" strategies (popularly known as "kettling") whereby groups of demonstrators considered by the poice as "troublemakers" are surrounded by a cordon of police for hours and hours without arrest, without food and water, without access to public toilets (oh come on the government is shutting them down anyway!). And the innocent public passer-by, shopping on a Saturday morning, gets caught in the Kettle as well.

I recently wrote about the new Internet web-application Sukey which aims to frustrate the police kettling strategy by informing demonstrators on their mobile phones of everything from the location of police concentrations to the location of public toilets. It relies on live information provided by the public.

The TUC Anti-Cuts demonstration, with c. 300,000 participants or more, seems to have passed off relatively peacefully. To such an extent, that media coverage (certainly from afar) seemed to be somewhat pauce.

However, there was "trouble" under the eyes of Lord Nelson and his Lions in Trafalgar Square which was ascribed by the police and authorities and the mainstream media to around 150 troublemakers, hooligans, anarchists etc including members of the Anti Cuts Protests organisation.

To quote from boingboing (in turn quoting the New Statesman's journalist Laurie Penny):

"Up to half a million people marched peacefully on London last week to protest cuts to public services, but local media coverage dwelled almost entirely on stories of mindless violence and criminality. In a follow-up to an earlier article published at the New Statesman, Laurie Penny wonders why the press is so eager to echo official accounts — and so eager to attack critics of the police."

Link here.

Earlier it was reported ...

"Forget what you've seen on the BBC and Sky about yesterday's protest/"riot" in Trafalgar Square; the New Statesman's Laurie Penny was on the barricades (and apparently, there was a moment when the barricades were on her), and she's seen something altogether different from what the mainstream coverage depicts. If you read only one account of the protests, make it this one (and you should really read more than one!).

Laurie Penny reports "Minutes after the fights begin in Trafalgar square, so does the backlash. Radio broadcasters imply that anyone who left the pre-ordained march route is a hooligan, and police chiefs rush to assure the public that this "mindless violence" has "nothing to do with protest."

The young people being battered in Trafalgar square, however, are neither mindless nor violent. In front of the lines, a teenage girl is crying and shaking after being shoved to the ground. "I'm not moving, I'm not moving," she mutters, her face smeared with tears and makeup. "I've been on every protest, I won't let this government destroy our future without a fight. I won't stand back, I'm not moving." A police officer charges, smacking her with his baton as she flings up her hands.

The cops cram us further back into the square, pushing people off the plinths where they have tried to scramble for safety. By now there are about 150 young people left in the square, and only one trained medic, who has just been batoned in the face; his friends hold him up as he blacks out, and carry him to the police lines, but they won't let him leave. By the makeshift fire, I meet the young man whose attempted arrest started all this. "I feel responsible," he said, "I never wanted any of this. None of us did"

What really happened in Trafalgar Square?"

bonigboingl ink here, New Statesman link here.

I hope Sukey can push out an international edition as soon as possible to help the citizens of the Middle-East.

I look forward to seeing reports on the nationwide "All Together for the NHS" demos on Friday 1 April. Watch this space.

Update Monday morning: nothing on the BBC.

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