Sunday, 19 December 2010

Put the kettle on, mother, it's time for tears

There's a quite shocking picture in the Observer today, accompanying a report on the aftermath of the student demonstration against tuition fees on 9 December.
[An] anaesthetist from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, who gave medical assistance to the protesters, said that officers forced demonstrators into such a tight "kettle" on Westminster Bridge that they were in danger of being seriously crushed or pushed into the freezing River Thames.

The 34-year-old doctor, who set up a field hospital in Parliament Square, said that people on the bridge suffered respiratory problems, chest pains and the symptoms of severe crushing.

"Police had us so closely packed, I couldn't move my feet or hands an inch. We were in that situation like that for hours. People in the middle were having real difficulty breathing."
Kettling is a relatively new weapon in the arsenal of the police, and they seem to be testing its limits. How far can they push it before someone dies? Obviously, someone dying would not look good for them but, then again, the police do seem to get away with killing people. It took 30 years for the truth to come out about Blair Peach - that he was killed by the police. The individual police officer responsible was never fingered.

Ian Tomlinson's family are still trying to get justice for their relative, who died after being hit with a baton and shoved over by a policeman during the G20 protests in 2009.

There is a new campaign to defend the "Right to Resist" and opposing tactics such as kettling; it has been initiated by activists around the student protests.

The local beat bobby

Before anyone protests that the local beat bobby (or the local Police Community Support Officer, for that matter) does a good job, up to a point I would agree. I have met some of the local police and liked some of them. (I was also struck in my dealings with them, how hierarchical the police force is.)

But that's the fluffy end of the police, if you like - and not always that fluffy, at that. The hard end is what we are seeing deployed around Westminster. And it could be coming soon to a borough near you, to judge by the recent mobilisation of riot police to deal with an anti-cuts protest at Lewisham Town Hall. Do we deserve that? I don't think so.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you mentioned Blair Peach.

I met him a couple of weeks before he was killed by the police.

And a lot of police officers, including high-ups, lied to "protect their own".

David Duff said...

I would suggest, gently, that the police would almot certainly give up 'kettling' if demonstrators gave up smashing windows, starting fires, breaking into people's property and attempting to murder police officers by tossing fire extinguishers off high buildings. I only did one year's Latin but I think the phrase is quid pro quo!

vickim57 said...

The easy answer to you, DD, is that 99% of the people on the demos (probably more) are not there to chuck things at anyone - shout vociferously, maybe, but not harm anyone.

Do those people deserve to be held in freezing conditions for hours, squashed together like animals, until late in the night, with nothing to eat or drink, and no way to relieve themselves if they need the loo? I would say not.

Kettling is a sort of torture and it should stop.

The bloke who chucked a fire extinguisher off the roof at Millbank will live with that for the rest of his life, and it's not going to be easy. Does he deserve to be crucified for it? I would say not.

A lot of the violence, I think, results from people having a sudden rush of blood to the head; sometimes, an angry reaction to seeing the police tooled up (they are) and ready to strike at anyone, perhaps your friend. The riot police are incredibly aggressive, I invite you to go and stand close and see for yourself.

There's no question for me but that these people do this job because they like it.

It's alarming to see the police becoming semi-militarised. You can't pretend that the 'enemy' they are confronting in these student protests deserves such rough handling. They are, for the most part, just young people angry at seeing their future if not actually blighted (for some it will be blighted) at least drastically altered without their consent.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

The question that needs to be answered about kettling is did the police think up this tactic themselves, or was it introduced by diktat from the Home Office? It is an extraordinarily blunt instrument which catches innocent protesters and bystanders as well as trouble makers. It is clear that the police would not know what to do if someone stuck in the middle was injured or taken seriously ill. It seems to me that the principle of habeas corpus should apply and I am surprised that nobody has actually challenged the process of kettling in Court.

Mrs Angry said...

Kettling is a dangerous tactic, but I believe there is political pressure on senior police chiefs to employ such measures, as, despite the risks to individuals, it appears to contain, albeit temporarily, something the present government greatly fears: the spectacle of massive public unrest. Almost any risks to the individual protestor appear to be considered acceptable rather than the government appear to be unable to control the expression of dissent on such a scale. And unfortunately, in any crowd situation, the psychological factors at work, and the anonymity of the mob, encourage violence by certain individuals on both sides. It's wrong, but predictable. I don't know what the answer is, but there must be better ways of controlling large demonstrations than such an inhumane and repressive manner.

Rog T said...

It's pretty obvious that kettling is a technique used solely to discourage people from protesting, rather than to stop trouble. I suppose if you think that discouraging protest is a good idea it's marvellous. If you think protesting is necessary in a democracy, you may take a different view.

baarnett said...

I think kettling was first used in some May Day event about ten years ago, wasn't it?

People DID try to challenge it in the courts, but failed. Even tourists simply emerging from Oxford Street tube station were kettled on that occasion.

The police say it is an alternative to snatch-squads suddenly rushing into crowds.

Today's paper said that more photos of demonstrators have been released by the police. It is now hard to find a newspaper that can be bothered to print them.

David Duff said...

Further to the remarks of our hostess, "The lady doth potest too much methinks". I would simply ask how it was that the men on the Jarrow Crusade who were suffering real hardships, not the pretend whimperings of today's spoilt 'youf', marched to London in perfect order and discipline with only a few Bobbies guiding them along?

Anyway, the 'youfs' and 'youfettes' seem to have stopped for the moment - too cold for the little dears, I expect, but fortunately we can all look forward to their, er, 'elders and betters' getting stuck in during the spring. One can always rely on the thickoes of the Trade Union movement to go too far and alienate everyone in the country and then the 'Not-the-Tory' Tory party can pass some even stricter Trade Union laws and look forward to another 5 years in office!

Moaneybat said...

David Duffy,

Wise are instructed by reason, average minds by experience, the stupid by necessity and the brute by instinct.

So where are you in the above quote.

Given that you neither like the youf nor the union or the Tory party compelling the micrship on your bin, that the thickoe who cannot make a distinction between the Jarrow Crusade IN real hardship at That time and those trying to prevent Real Hardship in the IMMEDIATE future is, "Law is merely the expression of the will of the strongest for the time being, and therefore laws have no fixity, but shift from generation to generation" in times that have changed since you were on that Jarrow March.

When the light Blue Labour party of the past 13 years were enacting the attack on civil liberties, Where were you? At a guess, The same place when the Poll Tax demonstrations were on? I suggest very very gently, showing the prudence of an 80 year old rather than the brashness of youth

David Duff said...

Not quite 80 yet, Moanybat, but, the Intelligent Designer permitting, who knows?

Where was I during the Poll Tax riots? More or less where I am today, sunk into my armchair, cheering on the 'old Bill' and cackling with glee every time I saw a baton hit the target. Damn good idea that Poll Tax. Once the police have re-mastered the art and craft of dealing with rioters, HMG can give them even more powers and perhaps they could bring the Poll Tax back again. Never say never I never say!

Moaneybat said...

"sitting in your armchair"

Exactly! neither the target nor baton holder. Know what I mean.

Thank HMG (or two) and the likes of both sides for your freedoms and liberties over the past 60 years that you still enjoy, since that gentle little Austrian with the dodgy moustache. No offence intended.