Thursday, April 22, 2010

Leaders Debate marred by bad policing of demonstration

An Anti-war/Troops Home Demonstration took place outside the Arnolfini in Bristol, the venue of Sky News Leaders' Debate. A demonstrator estimated that about 150 people gathered on the Arnolfini side of the docks. They were barriered off from the venue, and had police to the one side and water on the other, on the Centre side of the Horn bridge. They were effectively kettled. They were ordering the protesters to move, but they were physically unable to obey, even if they wanted to. There was some shouting from the crowd, but no violence, and no missiles.

Mounted Policeman No 1811 deliberately made his horse move so as to hit one demonstrator twice with its head. The policeman's attitude was, shall we say, not that of a community bobby. The demonstrator who was hit was not being violent, not shouting, and had been talking amicably to one copper about such matters as the right to demonstrate. He was told that it was becoming a disorderly assembly. In fact, the "disorder", which consisted of shouting and swearing, only started after police penned them in. The demonstrators were threatened with arrest (under some Section of the ?Public Order Act?) unless everyone moved - but there still was nowhere to move.

So while the process of democracy was being debated inside the Arnolfini, outside, police outside were contravening article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association".

They will probably deny that kettling was used. In that case, it was poor policing, to say the least. Clearly, if the police wanted to make the demo move back, the way to do it would have been to make a clear way back to the Centre, and gently and reasonably persuade those nearest to the Centre to move that way. Was this in fact being done?

A complaint will almost certainly be made against 1811 by the young man who was hit. Not to get him struck off or taken to court, but just to meet up with the victim of his ill-considered behaviour and learn about the effects of his action. It's called Restorative Justice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The demo didn't put Nick off his stride though

Go Cleggy Go!