Am I the only one who’s a little concerned at the tone the police are taking over this week’s G20 protests?
A number of participating groups have apparently received a letter warning that protests, particularly on Wednesday 1st, could turn violent, and that the police are “up for it, and up to it” if it does. If I’d read that on a blog somewhere, I’d have thought it was conspiracy theory or a rumour to make the police look bad, but both the Guardian and the Telegraph have the quote.
To me, that’s a whisker from incitement. The police might as well have said ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’.
David Howarth MP says the same: “I am increasingly worried that what the police are saying about the protests will end up in a self-fulfilling prophecy. By talking up the prospect of violence they will put off peaceful demonstrators and start to attract other sorts.”
And so does Andrew Dismore MP, who warns that the police “act in a confrontational way and use confrontation language, they will start to provoke the kind of behaviour they are seeking to prevent. There may well be a fringe element that want to incite violence. But that doesn’t mean police should criminalise every protester.”
Both sides have a duty to keep the peace. Tensions are high, and the last thing we need is a new round of violent anti-globalisation. There are groups putting up posters with messages like ‘bash a banker’ or ‘storm the banks’. Those elements of the protest mustn’t be allowed to hijack proceedings.
One thing that’s particularly important is the media response. Everyone knows that a violent protest will make great headlines. If five people smash a shop front, they’ll get the cameras, even if there are 5,000 people behind them protesting peacefully.
If you’re there, either as protestor or police, please behave! If you’re there reporting, please keep it fair and in perspective. And if you’re ‘up for it’, stay at home.