Tamil Protests: Responding to Police Comments

Following my blog and video rush of the Tamil protest on Monday 11 May I find a fellow blogger and police officer who was involved in the operation to clear the blocked streets around parliament has responded to my post.

Metcountymounty said…
“In your vast experience, how would you have got the demonstrators to move? I’d love to hear your proposal for moving a group of people without any force when they have stated that because of failed media interest at peaceful protests that they will absolutely not move.”
Removal of people should be done with four officers to each person, one holding each limb and carefully remove them to an area – kind of like this (see still below), the first person I saw grabbed that day – where they are unable to return to blocking the street, such as a “kettle, excuse me “containment area”, or – as has become popular these days, in scenes reminiscent of 1980s Northern Ireland – a caged protest area.

Some may argue this would take too long, but as you and I were there that day, we both know the TSG response of pushing people back, crushing them, hitting them, kicking them and injuring them, did not open the road any faster. I saw no traffic passing there till around 8pm.

Everyone understands the police have a job to do, and it is a very difficult job, often facing danger, abuse and violence, but this street clearing operation did nothing but cause chaos and unneccessary injury to the protestors and police officers alike. The police van crushing the officer and his arrestee in this film (2.46min in) is a clear example of the loss of control of the situation.

Metcountymounty said…

“I’m not condoning the comments of some of the officers…”

The comments made by police officers to myself and others, including the threats of arrest and removals, often forcibly, for trying to do our job only depict the deterioration of relations between the press and the police, and unfortunately shows the blatant hatred from certain officers to the press.

The deteriorating press/police relations were highlighted at the recent NUJ photographers conference with special guest Commander Bob Broadhurst, who came under fire from scores of angry journalists and photographers because of their treatment while working. And not just at public order situations, even at a wedding, or being interviewed by international magazines.Broadhurst argued that if you are press covering a blocked street, if you are in the street you are the same as the protestors and liable to the same treatment. This arguement is absolutely ridiculous. A member of the press who covers this work knows how to get in and get out with no disruption to the police operation, like we all witnessed at the recent Brighton anti-militarist demonstration, but when the police operation’s main ploy seems to be to crush everything in front of them, that is when things go awry and protestors, press and police alike get hurt.

On Monday 11 May the London Ambulance Service recorded 22 patients at the scene, six were hospitalised with minor injuries. Two police officers were reported with minor injuries by Scotland Yard press office.

On Monday 18 May there were 16 patients at the scene, eight of whom required hospital treatment. According to the BBC 25 officers were injured that night, three were hospitalised.

Metcountymounty said…“Parliament square is an arterial route, not just for normal road users but for all the emergency services especially police and ambulance given the proximity to St Thomas’ A&E. The knock on of closing it gridlocks all the other main routes and adds minutes to response times if it is unplanned and spontaneous which puts lives at risk.

In that case I take it there will be a ban on all of the 4000 events in London every year, as all cause distruption to the arterial routes. So no more war memorials, no more London Marathon, no more Formula One races around the city, or Olympic Torches that you cannot get near due to the wall of TSG officers needed to protect it from Tibetan protestors.

Yes, these events are planned for, spontaneous road blockades are in a totally different spectrum, but that is why we have emergency planning departments in the Government, isn’t it.

The simple fact of the matter that we must never forget is the UK government, the UN and the international community must bare the brunt of the London unrest, and the £8 million cost to policing, because of their failure to act rapidly on the Tamil situation. The next question to ask must be why was there no international response.

I guess that question will be answered soon enough, but by then it will be too late for the Tamils, the dead and the displaced, which has already been labelled the worst man-made humanitarian crisis this century.

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