Police demo shows that opposition to cuts is growing

35,000 off-duty police demonstrate against privatisation and cuts 10 May 2012, photo Paul Mattsson

Click for gallery. 35,000 off-duty police demonstrate against privatisation and cuts 10 May 2012, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

On the same day as the public sector workers’ pensions strike, 10 May, the Police Federation called a demonstration in London to protest at attacks to the police service.

Their issues included 20% cuts to the police service, which is leading to redundancies, opposition to the Winsor Report on the Police Service, which includes cuts to pay levels and conditions on top of a two-year pay freeze and increased pension contributions, and opposition to privatisation of core police functions.

Socialists who went to intervene in the police demo were wondering what the response would be. The answer surprised us.

An estimated 35,000 off-duty officers marched, fuming with the government over the above issues. So much so that they snatched all the leaflets from the handful of Socialist Party members there – we underestimated the response we would get! – and over 50 copies of the Socialist were sold.

Many officers politely declined to take leaflets or buy our paper. Some said they were non-political and were surprised to learn how many of their colleagues had bought a copy.

But there were very few hostile responses. And we made it clear to those who wanted to talk that we have strong criticisms of the policing of demos, picket lines and communities [see articles: Grim toll for hidden police racism and After the Riots)

But we welcomed any action that brought the Police Federation and ordinary police officers closer to the trade union movement if they are going into conflict with their employers, the government and police authorities.

We supported their right to strike, which they may ballot for soon and will have to fight for if they win the ballot.

But this is truly the sign of a government and capitalist society on the rocks when sections of its state feel the need to demonstrate against it! The police are used by the government to frighten people off from demonstrating, as brutally experienced by students in 2010, but developments like this could help to weaken their use against strikers and demonstrators in the future.

Kevin Parlsow

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 11 May 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.