Police step up attacks on democratic rights

In FRFI 208 we reported that the police were, in their own words, ‘up for it and up to it’, gearing up to make their prophecy of a ‘summer of rage’ self-fulfilling, with dire warnings of ‘violent minorities’ poised to take over the streets of London. Their strategy has backfired.
On 31 March, just before the 1 April G20 protests, police raids in Plymouth, after a man was arrested for spraying anti-fascist graffiti, led to five young people being arrested under the Terrorism Act and lurid headlines about ‘imitation firearms’, ‘makeshift explosive devices’ and ‘political literature’ being found. Police and media warned that the five had been intending to join the G20 protests. All five were later released without charge, but the scene had been set for the violent police tactics on 1 April.

 

‘Purposeful foreshadowing’ by the police – the careful dissemination of propaganda via the media – had begun months before G20, as they warned that the demonstrations would be ‘very violent’, using this as justification for state expenditure of an estimated £8 million – £1,600 per protester – on ‘one of the largest, most challenging and complicated public order operations it has ever devised’. The Met called in support from 30 forces across the country to create a 5,000-strong team of officers.

In the face of a largely peaceful demonstration, riot police and SPG used dogs and batons to attack the protesters, ‘kettling’ 4,000 people by corralling them into a police pen in front of the Bank of England for hours. FRFI comrades outside the Bank of England reported that the place was ‘swamped with police’ who were ‘hyped up and looking for trouble’. The ‘kettling’ began around midday, with police linking arms and aggressively forcing protesters backwards in short, sustained bursts, with yells of ‘Forward!’ Bystanders behind police lines were ‘pushed and shoved and told to clear off’.

One RCG comrade was assaulted after protesting at an unjustified, racist arrest:
‘Two police officers ordered a young man off some street furniture and, when he complied, forced him up against a wall and demanded ID. When, reasonably, he said he didn’t have to prove anything, they arrested him on the racist basis of having a foreign accent – he was accused of “entering the country illegally”. He’d originally been stopped, it transpired, for using a mobile phone! Two of us, who verbally protested at his arrest and offered ourselves as witnesses, were shoved out of the way. After he’d been put in the police van, another young man who was Asian was grabbed from behind by police and roughly dragged backwards. When I called for a legal steward, I was punched in the face by a police officer, hard enough to send me flying across the road. There was a real sense of barely suppressed rage – you felt they really wanted to hurt people.’
Another comrade who was attempting to join the Climate Camp protest at Bishopsgate saw a protester mauled by a police dog.

In this climate of unrestrained police violence, which resulted in many injuries to protesters and 111 arrests, the police, far from defending the right to demonstrate, were risking the lives of protesters and public alike. Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper seller, was not involved in the protests but was simply trying to walk home. In an unprovoked assault, he was kicked, batoned and threatened with dogs and eventually collapsed and died from internal bleeding. Quick as ever to cover up its crimes, the police initially claimed he had died from a heart attack and that protesters had showered police with missiles as they attempted to give him medical assistance. But they can no longer get away with their lies as every demonstrator with a digital camera or even a mobile phone has now become a potential witness to the truth. Within hours, film footage had been submitted to The Guardian newspaper exposing the police violence and subsequent cover-up. The police can no longer get away with their brutal tactics and attacks on democratic rights.

Less than two weeks later, on 13 April, scores of police from Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicester swooped in a 2am police raid on a community centre where environmental activists were meeting to plan a protest at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. 114 protesters were arrested for ‘conspiracy’, handcuffed and lined up against a wall. Many of their homes were raided, ostensibly to protect the power station from what the police described as ‘a serious threat’.

What is clear is that, as capitalism sinks deeper into crisis, the state is becoming more and more frightened of popular revolt. Every environmental protester, every ‘foreigner’, anyone who organises for justice and against the interests of the ruling class is automatically designated a violent criminal, a threat to the state or ‘a terrorist’.

The police operations we have witnessed over the last two months are nothing new, but they are becoming more frequent. It is becoming increasingly clear for all to see that the police are not here to protect the people. They are here to follow the orders of an imperialist state; to attack anyone who speaks out politically and to repress the working class. Police are stepping up their efforts to repress and even to prevent political actions from taking place. However, while they ‘kettle’ protestors, conspire to stop demonstrations and arrest people for expressing anti-capitalist views, they are blatantly less and less averse to allowing fascist groups to organise on our streets and in our communities. Their actions must be challenged. We must recognise that Labour’s army of police are our enemies who are here to defend the interests of the rich. We must defend our democratic right to protest and continue to build the fightback against this imperialist state.           
Whose streets? Our streets!
Defend democratic rights!

Luke Lucas

FRFI 209 June / July 2009

 

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