G20 police violence- traditional policing by consent
ireland / britain |
workplace struggles |
opinion / analysis
Saturday May 02, 2009 04:14 by Sean Matthews-personal capacity - WSM
The recent G20 summit in London brought into sharp focus the level of police violence and intimidation in our society.
For weeks leading up to the event we were bombarded with the usual anarchist scare stories and threat of serious violence, emanating from the Metropolitan police and mainstream media.
On the day, apart from a few broke windows and partial ransacking of a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the police were the only mob running riot. Resulting in the death of an innocent bystander Ian Tomlinson and many more being psychologically and physically scared.
In the aftermath, we witnessed a deliberate policy of concealment and cover-up from the Met including denying Ian made any contact with the police and the availability of CCTV footage, not to mention the first post mortem examination absolving the police of any role in his death. This was followed by a second examination highlighting that contact had been made.
This policy of distortion and spin to hide the truth is entirely consistent with police forces and states across the world. Remember the murder of 15-year-old Greek teenager Alexandros Grigoropoulos last year, and the suspicious death of Terence Wheelock in 2005, while in police custody in Dublin. Unfortunately, the list goes on and on… We also need to look no further than our own backyard to find the British state and its security apparatus actively involved in collusion and shoot-to kill.
The G20 police violence is a symptom of a Labour Government, which has embarked on a strict ‘law and order’ platform since its election in 1997. Military conquests in Iraq and Afghanistan combined with an aggressive gradual erosion of civil liberties. As well as the passing of various anti-terror laws, such as the right to hold suspects for up to 42 days at home have created an atmosphere of fear and insecurity.
On the economic front, the retention of anti-labour legislation such as a ban on secondary picketing prohibiting solidarity strike action has re-armed the Labour Government. This litany of legislation and surveillance powers has armed the police to the teeth, utilised to criminalise and intimidate opposition.
Apart from ‘internment by remand’, non-jury trials in the North and the rest of Britain continue under ‘exceptional cases’. The PSNI Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, in 2007 announced the re-introduction of the ‘Supergrass system’, which was abolished in the 1985 due to the unreliability of evidence. In the 1980s, hundreds of republican and loyalist convictions were quashed after being jailed on the word of a paid informer. In return for giving state evidence, suspects received a lesser sentence. The Irish News recently reported prisons officials at Maghaberry were planning to build a separate super-grass unit.
Reformist politicians of all stripes and colours were shocked and disturbed by the images of police brutality, arguing the events undermined traditional ethos of British policing, ‘bobby on the beat’. Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman argued: "I think it's absolutely inevitable that the sort of stories that have come out are going to knock the police's reputation, and it's deeply regrettable given that they concern a small minority involved in the Territorial Support Group [the specialist unit at the heart of the G20 allegations] overwhelmingly, where there are real issues of discipline."(1) Troy frontbencher Damian Green pointed out that “if that bond is broken the best traditions of policing by consent are broken, too."(2)
Policing by consent is a myth. We only need to consider the naked and systimatic violent assault against miners (dubbed by Thatcher as the ‘enemy within’) and associated mining communites in 1984/1985 or the fact that 1,000 people have died in suspicious circumstances while police custody in England since 1969 (3).
For anarchists it has never been the case of habouring illusions in the good cop vrs bad cop sydrome. The state not only concedes rights and liberties through collective struggle, but it also suspends and removes. Police brutality and repressive laws are not the cause but a symtom of the status-quo. In a nutshell, you cannot fix a broken pipe as it will continue to cause problems, as you need to replace it completely. The police and the army are the armed wing of the state to protect and serve its interests.
As Murray Bookchin wrote some time ago:
“Minimally, the State is a professional system of social coercion -- not merely a system of social administration as it is still naively regarded by the public and by many political theorists. The word 'professional' should be emphasised as much as the word 'coercion.' . . . It is only when coercion is institutionalised into a professional, systematic and organised form of social control -- that is, when people are plucked out of their everyday lives in a community and expected not only to 'administer' it but to do so with the backing of a monopoly of violence -- which we can properly speak of a State." [Remaking Society, p. 66]
However, it is not all doom and gloom. Militant direct action taken by the Visteon workers and the ‘illegal’ wildcat strike action by oil and refinery workers earlier this year are the latest examples of what we can achieve by standing together in solidarity and by aggressively utilsing the powerful weapon of direct action. Mobilising workers unionised and not, casual or permanent, and working-class communities, is key to breaking down isolation, sectional interests and winning the class war.
We need to build resistance to state violence where it matters- in our communities and workplaces. In the short term, we should get behind any calls by the Ian Tomlinson family for full independent and public enquiry into his death and public order policing. We must demand the disbanding of the Territorial Support Group, the paramilitary unit within the Met and defend the right to protest by all means. Finally, we must build a mass movement committed to resisting police violence by providing a voice for voiceless. Our message needs to clear No Justice, No Peace!
Resources: A guide to public order situations
1 & 2: G20 protests: how the image of UK police took a beating 19.04.09 (The Guardian)
3. Film Review: Injustice, http://www.wsm.ie/internal_article/3927