Posts tagged Protests
Yesterday I read that the London Lib Dem regional conference had to be cancelled due to security fears from the school whose building was going to be used, once they heard that student protests were going to be organised outside. For those who oppose a rise in tuition fees this might seem like a victory. However, it’s a strategic blunder. Twitter was awash with Lib Dems who were angry at the cancellation. Many had planned to lobby MPs and party officals against voting for a tuition fees rise. I understand that motions were put forward to conference also opposing this policy. This opportunity has now been taken away. I found an excellent blog post on the issue on the THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF MORTIMER website.
Those who hijack student protests to cause violence are damaging the cause. The same happened in the 1980s and 1990s and is the reason why many people are wary of joining marches or protests. The fear of far-left or anarchist groups riding on the back of genuine protests intent on causing disorder is damaging to any cause. I applaud the NUS for attempting to put clear blue water between the mainstream student and thugs. However I think they should be more aware that these thugs will follow them around. This conference was taking place in a school.
The Guardian obtained footage of an apparent assault on Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests. The information in the press and media indicate that Mr Tomlinson was not involved in the protests, was not challenging the police and was assaulted in an unprovoked attack. ITN report
We all know that major events like the G20 meeting frequently attract protests in which wide-scale damage to property occurs. We also know that the police often become the target of provocation by a small minority of protesters, with bottles and other objects being thrown at them. The police have an unenviable job of keeping the peace and preventing violence in these situations.
No all the facts are known yet and a full investigation is needed. The incident appears to show a police officer unhindered by any restraints and confident that what he does will be supported by the authorities. What is known is that many people are becoming angry at a perceived pattern of abuse of power that the public is becoming less and less tolerant of.
Since the September 11th attacks, the UK government has steadily handed over more and more powers to the police in the name of fighting terrorism. Many of the laws they have created give wide discretion to the police to act as they see fit. We regularly see stories in the media of protests banned or limited under police powers, of local authorities using powers created to stop organised crime and terrorism for relatively minor offences and people arrested by the police under suspicion of terrorist offences and released without charge. Only recently the police were found to be acting incorrectly in preventing the press from taking photographs during the protests – We were wrong, says the met.
I believe that New Labour under Blair and now Brown have been steadily removing important checks and balances in the way power is restrained. They have given powers to enforcement agencies that are too indiscriminate and with inadequate limits. Little thought seems to have been given on how these powers can be monitored for abuse and New Labour’s assumption appears to be that all powers will be used wisely and in the public interest. I think that they have done this for two reasons; firstly to appear tough and decisive to the right-wing popular media in order to secure voters who might think about voting Conservative; and because their leaders have found it difficult to shake off their control-freak, authoritarian mentality. Both of these factors were born of the strong drive not to repeat the failures of the past where Labour has been portrayed as split and unable to control their own party.
For years we have seen the Government steamroller opposition and criticism to the destruction of liberties, claiming that opponents are too soft, naive or liberal. The culture they have engendered have created a fertile breeding ground for abuses of power. In every organisation there are people who go too far and take matters into their own hands, and I’m sure that most police officers generally work hard to uphold the law and protect the public. But if you keep drafting illiberal laws with inadequate restraints, you provide an excuse for those few bad apples that bring shame upon their colleagues.