Yesterday afternoon, myself and many others- 3000 if you believe the BBC; 12,000+ if you take account of the viewpoints of those without concerted agendas- took to the streets of London to protest against the Con-Dem government’s ideological destruction of the public sector. Manchester also saw protests, but I am going to talk about those in London, considering that I have first hand experience of what happened. The most important occurrence- or rather non-occurrence was that, at no point in the day did we get kettled. And guess what, there was NO VIOLENCE WHATSOEVER! Those two facts are not coincidental- at previous demos the police have deliberately incited violent reactions, using illegal tactics that intentionally violate the basic human rights of all the people there. This time, they didn’t kettle and none of the protesters smashed anything up, because the police didn’t change the mood of the demonstration from the original joviality to one of fury and frustration.
I, for one, have a mixed response to this. I have said on many occasions that walking around in the streets shouting will simply be ignored by the fascists we have in power; look at the anti-war demonstrations for a prime example of that. Direct action (as seen recently in Egypt) is the only way to bring down a government, and I personally worry that if the demonstrations in March are as peaceful as the one that took place on Saturday, we won’t be able to stop the cuts and the lives of an entire generation- students and otherwise- will be ruined. However, what I would like to point out is the media reporting of yesterday’s events- or rather the lack of, therein. The news merely pointed out that there had been demonstrations and said that there was violence at the one in Manchester (where there HAD been police kettling protesters- surprise surprise!). It was like the protest in London didn’t happen. The reason for this lack of reporting is obvious; they had no sensationalised story to feed the brainwashed public that reflected upon the students in the way the state wants them to be viewed- as mindless vandals. The government (and state media) do all they can to present the information in this light and, yesterday, we gave them no opportunity to.
This brings me on to another question- why did the police not kettle Saturday’s demonstrators? Have they seen the error of their ways? Do they realise that collective punishment and illegal arrest violates both the EU and UN’s conventions on human rights? Somehow I severely doubt it. We already know that kettling is not a response to violence but an attempt to incite it from previously peaceful demonstrators. It is my opinion that, contrastingly, the police didn’t kettle protesters today in order to do exactly the same thing. Hoping that the people on the demo would take heed of events in Egypt, smash up property and give the police, media and government an opportunity to say to the public “See? ‘Containment’ is necessary- look what happens when we don’t do it!”. This would give them the opportunity, at the massive demonstrations in March, to repress the population to previously unseen extents, using all the tactics that Theresa May imagines in her wildest dreams: police dogs, water cannons, rubber bullets, even full ammunition. They might even get the opportunity to ban the future demos and general strike, with public support- something the Tories are immensely eager to do (after all, why should the PEASENTS have any power to ensure the quality of their own lives? They should just remain obedient to their betters and their false Gods!) The one immensely positive thing about the peaceful nature of yesterday was that it didn’t give the media this opportunity; not that the police will be as fair-minded in March in any case, especially as the state broadcaster that is the BBC completely ignored how Saturday went.
Some may say that the police are in a no-win situation- if they kettle us, people criticise them and now they haven’t done so, I’m doing the same. But considering that such ‘containment’ has the aim of going against the police’s job of keeping public order, do they really deserve the benefit of the doubt?