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.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.
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."
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.