Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/574/7139
G20 Summit protests: Democratic rights trampled on
YET AGAIN the right to protest is under attack. Last week's anti-G20 demonstrations were greeted with a violent and heavy handed response by the police. Protesters were hit with truncheons and contained for hours inside police cordons, or 'kettled', as it has now become known.
One man died on the protest outside the Bank of England. It's not clear as yet exactly what happened, but there are rumours that he was injured by the police before he died and was possibly held inside a police cordon. Campaigners and lawyers are currently trying to get to the truth. But one thing is clear, the police launched unprovoked attacks on peaceful protesters last week and kettling is a very dangerous tactic. It causes crushing and panic and no matter what is happening inside the containment, protesters are not allowed to leave.
Even the avowedly non-violent climate camp was encircled by police for hours. The police defence for containing protesters for long periods has been that it is necessary to prevent violent protesters attacking police and property. But this was clearly not the case when it came to the climate camp last week.
The reason for using the tactic of containment or kettling is obvious; it's about frightening and intimidating protesters to stop them from demonstrating.
The May Day 2001 detainees, who took the police to court for false imprisonment, did so because they were contained for up to nine hours with no warning. There had no water, food or toilet facilities; unfortunately they lost their case in the high court and on appeal.
The judges preferred to believe police reports of hundreds of violent protests, despite evidence and police logs that described the May Day protesters as overwhelmingly peaceful. The May Day detainees are now going to the European Court to fight again to get the use of containment by police on demonstrations ruled illegal.
Anyone who was held during the protests last week should contact the Justice for May Day Detainees campaign (via the Socialist Party). We need as many people as possible to come forward if we are to challenge and stop the use of kettling on demonstrations and defend the right to protest.
A 'Justice for May Day Detainees' campaigner
SOCIALIST PARTY member Toby Harris describes the police attack on the peaceful climate change camp protest during the G20 Summit.
"We were siting down at the front of the crowd of demonstrators surrounding the Climate Camp at Bishopsgate around 10pm. After telling us to move and warning us they had a right to use force the line of police attacked, wearing visors and carrying shields and batons.
"They began by pushing and battering us with their shields. When this failed to move protestors who were packed up against the crowd, they began arresting those sitting down at random. When we were forced to move to rescue each other the police moved forward with increasing violence.
"Soon there was a small space between the line of demonstrators and police and any movement or provocation in this area was dealt with by the police kicking, punching or striking with a shield. Instead of resisting, we talked to them about what they were doing and asked who they were serving.
"My friend was hit in the face with the edge of a shield and punched simply for talking, and another friend was kicked after complaining about the unprovoked violence! Faced with arrest and blows, the demonstators began to retreat and the police chased us down the street, using their batons to beat anyone who came within range."
In The Socialist 7 April 2009:
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news
Socialist Party workplace news