Tag Archives: police state

Who Let the Dogs Police Us?

by Tom Whipple
Full Article: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6060244.ece?Submitted=true 

As dusk fell on the City of London last Wednesday, an elderly woman remonstrated with a policewoman. “Why won’t you let us out?” she asked, slumped against the Bank of England between two puddles of urine.

The policewoman responded that she was only following orders. Even as the Metropolitan Police press office was telling newspapers that protesters were being released, it was clear that no one was being allowed to leave.

If, as yesterday’s footage seems to imply, just half an hour later a policeman struck Ian Tomlinson from behind, the police have an obvious response. The policeman involved was a bad apple who has let everybody down. It was an isolated incident. He was disobeying orders.

Last week, after spending seven hours as a journalist locked into an increasingly small cordon, after watching police officers charge with truncheons and shields and after watching peaceful protesters retreat bloodied, I wrote about my experience.

After the article was published, Sara McAlpine – who said that she had happened to pass a demonstration the following day to mark Mr Tomlinson’s death – sent me an e-mail. There is no way to corroborate her account, except that it tallies with so many others. “This is what I witnessed myself in 15 minutes standing near the Bank of England,” she said. “The police split the protest into two groups on two cornering streets, not letting anyone leave. Suddenly, a policeman threw a punch at the face of a male, who raised his right arm to try and block the punch (no retaliation, merely a block). Immediately, three officers threw him up against the scaffolding, knocked him to the ground and beat him with their batons. They then carried him horizontally away.

“A photographer on the spectator side of the cordon tried to capture it. An officer ran over and grabbed him, trying to force him into the cordon. He escaped but the officer came after him and squared up to him (who was right next to me at this point) shouting, ‘Do you want a piece of this, huh, do you want to come and get some?’ He was then called back by another officer.

“A few minutes later, a girl no more than 10 metres away from me, who was on the front line of the cordon, was suddenly shoved up against a wall and kicked repeatedly by a policeman. He left her as she stayed cowering.”

“At that point, five police surrounded us (as quite a crowd had amassed in horror by now) and told us that we would be arrested if we didn’t move along. One guy said he had a right to stand there and watch and the policeman threatened him in no uncertain terms that he would either be arrested or thrown in the cordon if he didn’t move. He did. I left.”

Hers was not the only e-mail. Steven McManus, who says he is a barrister and a former special constable, was in Threadneedle Street on Wednesday. “At around 6pm I was outside the Royal Exchange chatting with some officers. I was between the officers and the protesers. The atmosphere was calm and non-confrontational. I shared a few jokes with one officer and was just generally chatting.

“A short while later the line began to move forward. The officers began to shout that we should all move back. I turned towards the crowd and began to move off in that direction. As I was walking away I was struck from behind by a baton and pushed forward towards the steps of Bank Underground.

“I was more than a little shocked at having been hit. The officer who had struck me was one I had been chatting to moments earlier, who knew about my City Police connection, and to whom I had my back turned. I remonstrated with the officer as to why he had hit me – his reply being: “F*** off, move back”. He said he could not help but be reminded of the manner of the attack on Tomlinson.

Elsewhere in the city, other groups were reporting similar incidents. Richard Howlett was at Climate Camp, a separate demonstration in Bishopsgate that – after 12 hours of non-violent protest – was cleared by riot police in the early hours of Thursday, April 2. “They moved in and blocked us in from both ends. Utterly unprovoked, the police then pushed forward in full riot gear using their truncheons and shields to beat people indiscriminately. Friends of mine were beaten and there were several injuries,” he said.

“Climate Camp responded in a totally peaceful manner. We sat down and chanted, ‘This is a peaceful protest, this is not a riot’. It was incredibly saddening to see the police resort to totally disproportionate tactics in dealing with totally peaceful protesters.”

Any inquiry into policing at the G20 protests must look beyond the circumstances surrounding Mr Tomlinson’s death. Because if the rest of the operation – both the tactics employed and the officers deployed – is ignored, then there is a good chance an individual tragedy will have been compounded by a wider travesty.

A nation of traffic wardens (The Times)

Every new agency, every new initiative that is set up increases the distrust that we feel for the State

Camilla Cavendish, The Times page 27, 12th June 2008

Why don’t we lock up the Cabinet for 42 days? That would stop them spending our money. I was talking to an education spokeswoman last week about the decline in the rigour of GCSEs. She replied, as if it answered the question, that Ofqual had just been set up to monitor exams. What’s happened to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, I asked. It used to do that. The QCA’s still there, she said. I felt like handing myself in to Oftrolley.

It’s not just the cash. Every new agency, every new initiative, nudges down the ratio of normal citizens to busybodies. Britain is starting to feel like a nation of traffic wardens. The mentality of officialdom is increasingly malevolent.

A week ago a senior businessman whom I know was shocked to be treated like a criminal by British Transport Police at the Gare du Nord in Paris. Clutching a business-class Eurostar ticket but unable to find the right queue, he ducked under a barrier. The CCTV chirruped. “Sit down!” screamed a policeman. “Give me your passport!” My friend tried to explain. No one listened. “You have no right!” shouted a hatchet-faced woman, also British, in an unreadable uniform.

Five minutes later the officer returned, all smiles. My friend’s knighthood had done the trick. But, as he says, it shouldn’t have. Such people should never be so rude to any taxpayer who pays their salaries.

I agree, having recently been humiliated by a screeching official at Victoria station. Taller than me, he called for “back-up” on his walkie-talkie because I, with my two small children and our heavy bag, was “obstructing” an empty walkway. We were there because my husband had gone to buy tickets for a train that we were going to miss after Screecher Man had refused our pleas to let us pay on board.

It was his cold hatred that unnerved me, and the acute pleasure he took in making us miss our train. We weren’t trying to slip unnoticed across an international border. We were catching the 14.32 to Sutton.

We have become objects of suspicion to institutions that used to make us feel secure: banks, councils, the police. In turn, we distrust them.

A report by Harriet Sergeant for Civitas describes the recent jump in complaints by law-abiding people against the police. A 19″year old student was arrested and detained for five hours for holding a Tube lift door open with his foot A man was nicked for pulling over to answer a phone call. Each example sounds silly, tabloid. But there are too many -to ignore. Surrey Police’s recent decision to abandon box-ticking is a measure of their concern about the corrosion of their relationship with the public.

A year ago a respected group of midwives, obstetricians and researchers called the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services wrote to the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson. Their letter said that “there is now no health professional, or official help line that parents feel they can safely ask for help”: They described people who avoid health visitors, because they see them as “health police”. They told of mothers with postnatal depression who will not go to the doctor for fear of alerting social services. They said that an incr~asing number of children are taught at home because “the educational system is now seen as part of the surveillance process”. Their letter made 15 points, many devastating.

Did Sir Liam question such alarming evidence? Did he ask for more detail? Did he launch an inquiry into whether the joining up of childrens’ services is breaking trust between parents and professionals?

No. He thanked them for the letter -two months later. He said that he shared many of their concerns. And he said how lucky they were that the Department for Children. Schools and Families had been set up.

That was Standard Reply I: “Not my responsibility.” Standard Reply 2 is: “Thanks for your letter, but things are getting better: let me tell you about them at length, even though they don’t relate to your concern.” I don’t know if there is an SR3, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to get any sense out of Whitehall.

Many of us hav~ complained about the lack of “joined-up government”. Now we are seeing the disadvantages of read-across. The Children’s Database, which will contain the personal details of every child. is justified on the grounds that it will make children safer. An absurd claim, given the number of people who will be able to use it at will. Who will be responsible for inputting information on “difficulties in the parents’ relationship”, and “ways in which the family’s income is used”?

The latest proposal by Home Office officials, to hold every telephone call and e-mail in the UK,described as a “crucial tool” for protecting national security and preventing crime, is wholly disproportionate.

Each new measure is justified in the same way -you have nothing to fear if you have done nothing wrong, But that is no longer true. We have everything to fear from a State that has lost all sense of proportion. In a free society, rights and laws protect people from the government. In a tyranny, rights and laws protect government from the people. Often, the first thing I’ve seen when visiting tyrannies are unpleasant and swaggering officials trying to impound my passport. I don’t want to see them at the Eurostar.

What irks me most is that “they” don’t know us, only our data. Getting to see my GP requires tenacious redialling and extended grovelling. An appointment lasts seven minutes. But the practice regularly writes to query my children’s vaccinations. They seem unable to accept that these are done by my father-in-law. That doesn’t fit their box.

One day, I fear, they11 compare notes with Victoria station Screecher Man: “Subversive … wild-eyed … suspiciously large handbag.” If “incitement to hatred by officials” becomes an offence, I’ll be first to go down. Let’s not get that far.
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