Wow, the last few weeks have been mad in the UK. Protests, sit ins... and of course the police violence and unprecedented video and photographic evidence of the violence they've inflicted on, for the most part, peaceful (if a little raucous) protesters.
YouTube is littered with videos, Facebook galleries abound and Twitter has been abuzz with the #PoliceAggression tag. Yet people are denying that acts of police brutality and the main media news channels and shows are practically ignoring the events to focus on reports of protester violence, which are few and far between compared to the recorded acts of the Met. Oh, and don't forget the snow! The fact it's been snowing heavily across the country is far more newsworthy than the actions of our police officers against the people they are employed to protect.
The very act of kettling is a dubious tactic, especially in the current conditions outside. Nick Clegg himself said kettling had to be addressed after the G20 protests in 2009. Tom Brake, Lib-Dem MP, was kettled during those protests and wrote a column for The Times on his experiences.
Essentially, kettling is a) the false imprisonment of innocent people and b) allows for abuses that would be illegal inside our prisons; the withholding of food, water, heat, medical attention and (most devastating for me) toilet facilities... What? I drink a lot of tea.
And who were the people being kettled at the student 2010 protests? Children. Some as young as 13 years old (though some officers were allowing those who could prove their young age out, not many were). Children, falsely imprisoned in freezing temperatures for hours and hours. Some of the reports that came out of the kettles talk of children having to burn their school books to keep warm.
But this almost passive form of abuse is nothing compared to what happened to one young girl while inside a kettle in Whitehall on 24th November. She was trying to get out of the kettle (who wouldn't?) by climbing over a fence. A police officer pushed her off the fence, back into the kettle. Fair enough, right? He was doing his (ethically questionable) job up to that point. Then he showed his true colours and, while she was lying on the floor, hit her foot with a baton with enough force to break the bones!
To compound this behaviour the teenager was not allowed to seek medical attention for two hours as she was kept, obviously in great pain and probably crying, in the kettle. Seriously, what kind of monsters keep a crying child locked outside in the freezing cold for two hours after witnessing a brutal attack on her? Not just the police officer that hit her, but every officer who was there and did not intervene on her behalf should be held culpable.
Unfortunately, no video footage was taken or has not surfaced yet. Apparently a complaint has been lodged, though we don't know if the officer's number was taken. For a little extra info go to; Transpontine (The South London Press website is currently down).
More Unlawful Imprisonment
Not only did police kettle peaceful protesters and not let them leave, they have been throwing people into kettles. Seriously guys, how is that even remotely legal?
For a bit of a laugh; video filmed by Luke Denne of kids held in the Bristol kettle doing the conga.
I Punched Someone
For some protesters children and adults alike, being kettled is the least of their worries as completely unprovoked attacks have been happening all over the place.
This one's like something out of a sit-com. As a protester is lead past him, by another officer, PC VG 2180 clearly sticks his leg out to trip the young man. What the hell was going through the officer's mind?
Another officer, with is number clearly visible, took shots at protesters in London on 30th November. Watching from the start, officers appear to move aside after requests from protesters to let others pass and climb onto a raised area of the street. I cannot make out what the man already on the raised area said, so he may have tricked the officer with a cunning request to move aside so he could get back to ground level. More fool them, really.
After this a lot of people start stepping up onto the raised area, at which point a large, bulldog of a riot officer, U1202, starts lashing out at the protesters. He pushes one person away from the wall and swings a punch at them that misses as they cover their face. Another protester steps in to stop him, only to get punched, very hard, in the head. U1202 then takes a third swing which gets blocked.
If you watch from 1:27 on, you can see U1202 in the background shaking his right hand and taking his glove off. That single punch hurt HIM that much. My sympathies to the person he punched. I hope you have him prosecuted.
Now, there's always the cry of "in the heat of the moment" and indeed, it did get rather hairy (after U1202 decided to pummel someone's face, I might add). At 1:50 a very young and clearly scared, not at all angry looking officer is seen in the second police line. However, the attitude of the police is clearly to provoke the protesters not to calm them, as seen by the hand gesture of one officer at 1:10, on the right hand side. I believe that's referred to as a 'come n ave a go' gesture. I can't be sure, as I don't have the tech to clear up the stilled images but I THINK his number is U1641, but I could very easily be mistaken. Anyone else better at that stuff than me out there, can you make out the number?
These are not your run of the mill police officers. They are trained riot officers. As such they should be psychologically prepared for such encounters and not lose their heads and be trained to NOT goad protesters who had just witness one of their number being viscously attacked by an officer of the law who had no provocation to use such a level of force.
Here's another one. It almost looks like the officer accidentally collided into the guy, but considering other events this is doubtful... that and he protester says he got punched in the face as well. Great.
Another report is of a girl knocked unconscious by a baton charge.
Fists Not Enough; Bring In The Quadrupeds!
This is quite a long video of protest at Whitehall, 24th November. It begins with a protester explaining that an officer of the law took her hat and wallet. What exactly he hoped to gain from this I don't know... her money perhaps??
At 1:10 screams are heard and as the camera pans around we see mounted police riding through the protesters at what looks to me to be a slow trot. People keep asking why it's been deemed necessary to bring in horses and at 1:40 a man is heard telling an officer that his wife is pregnant. The cameraman runs around the horseman in front of him to catch a young couple on film, the woman clearly terrified and very upset while her partner says "give her a chance, she can't run; she's pregnant."
Throughout the video there are shots of people clearly in their 60's or more. At 2:57 there's a woman telling the camera "there's an injured child here" as she helps a young teen hobble about. 20 seconds later there's a man calling for a medic. He pushes through to talk to the police line and is clearly denied the aid he's asking for. From calls in the crowd it sounds like someone's fallen in the push and injured their ankle.
I have to say, in defence of the on-foot officers, that they did keep their cool (at least in this video). However; horses? Really? Really?! Until the mounted police road in the protesters seemed quite calm. Annoyed perhaps, as they had not been allowed to protest freely for the time allotted to them by the authorities, but they were not being violent.
Whitehall wasn't the only place it happened either. Here's another video of horses being ridden into a crowd. It's at a slow pace, but this is a densely crowd of (peaceful) people. What was the reason for riding into them? To keep them calm, as has been claimed? I er, don't think it worked that way.
In a crowd like that it is very hard to move out of the way of large oncoming animals. I'd be very surprised if no one was injured. Commenters who say they were there, in the immediate throng of people in front of the horses (one aged 65) say that the videos catch nothing of the terror and panic surrounding the moving horses.
Hippocratic Oath Anyone?
This is perhaps the most shocking event. A police medic has been caught in pictures firing an extinguisher into the faces of protesters. A medic. Someone who, by all rights, should be there to help the injured, not to injure people.
It has been claimed he was trying to put out a protester who was on fire. I think he must have been hallucinating because I don't see any flames.
With Malicious Intent
All these bits of police brutality were in the heat of the moment, eh? The cops probably regret them, eh? Let's not ignore the officers who have been deliberately covering their ID numbers before getting anywhere near the protesters. These officers are clearly going out with intention of breaking the law... laws they are SUPPOSED to be employed to uphold.
And they're enjoying it (damnit, the owner of the video took it down and I can't find out why)
If the police and their superiors think that such actions will intimidate young people into not attending protests ever again then they are sorely mistaken. Violence and provocation, unsurprisingly, will lead to only more protests and probably more and more violence. Is that the plan? To draw protesters into taking more and more drastic measures until the police can 'legitimately' pull out the big guns?
Or are these merely the actions of a few (well, a lot of) angry, stupid individuals? If so, then senior officers need to think about bringing their underlings into line and to justice. If they don't then, again, the protesters will be forced to retaliate in kind.
And that will be messy. Bad for everyone involved and probably many who are not as new laws are quickly pushed through that give these uniformed thugs more and more powers and rights above us.
I wonder how far the police will go during the protests set for 8th November, the day before the vote on tuition fees?
I'm sure any videos, pictures and reports will be quickly thrown at Twitter, so keep and eye on the #PoliceAggression hashtag.
And if you've got any other good ones for me to add to the list here, just let me know.
Image of the year.
Absolutely stunning picture from DayX, 24th November. School kids protecting the Bait Van after kettled protesters had vandalised it. Those girls deserve to be thanked, personally and in public by Sir Paul Stephenson.
Do I really have to say I condemn ANY protesters that start violence? Does it not go without saying?
Fine; any violence during these protests is not going to win anyone any favours... make of that what you will.
Barber Queue - Time was when I needed a hair cut, I'd go at noon on a weekday, when the barber's is typically empty. One of the perks of being unemployed. But these days ...