Another week and another police officer is suspended after being caught on video at the G20 demonstrations in London. This time, it is for allegedly striking a woman on the leg with his baton and hitting her in the face with his hand after she apparently swore at him.
Yesterday, the police from a different force, pre-empted a planned demonstration at a power station and arrested the demonstrators before they had even set off for the location. They had no idea whether it was to be a peaceful protest, or not, but decided to bring it to an end before it had even started. No-one was subsequently charged with any offence.
Democracy is built on the bricks made from freedom of speech; it is the right of everybody to voice their discontent and peacefully demonstrate at the site of their displeasure.
The police should attend to provide an impartial and visible deterrent to both sides in a dispute and to intervene only when a breach of the peace is likely to happen. However, since the ‘reign’ of Margaret Thatcher and the violent confrontations which took place with the miners, the police have become increasingly political; they are no longer seen as being impartial.
The assumption now, is that all demonstrators are hell bent on violent confrontation when normally, the majority are not. Of course, there has always been the minority who profess to be anarchists and try to incite violence but the police know that.
The present methods of containment used by the police are themselves confrontational. The practice of ‘kettling’, where demonstrators are held in one place, often for hours at a time, by officers wearing helmets and hidden behind riot shields, does not inspire confidence by those being ‘contained’.
The new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Stephenson, has ordered a review into the methods used by his officers at the G20 protests.
Let’s hope it is an impartial investigation and starts on the assumption that democracy is a right and not a gift from the government!