Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Violence against protesters

In the eighties I used to go to quite a few political protests. I lived in London, and I didn't have children. I saw a lot of police violence against protesters. Actually, the CND marches were very middle class, and the police tended to hang back, but protests with more working class protesters, such as the miners' strike demos, were quite an eye-opener.

I remember being stuck down a side road in Whitehall, with a bunch of families - mothers and fathers with children. I'd met up with a friend, by chance, and the two of us had withdrawn from Trafalgar Square where the speeches were going on, and we were wandering away from the rally to go and have a coffee.

The police sealed off the back and front of the road, and drove those big white vans (the long ones without windows) directly at the people. I couldn't believe my eyes. The parents put their children over the railings - you know those railings in front of the civil service buildings along whitehall - onto the little paved areas in front of the windows - to protect them from being crushed. The adults themselves were pushed up against the spiked railings, and chased up and down the street by these big vans. To be fair nobody was actually run over, the intent just seemed to be to harass and scare them. I suppose the point was to frighten people so much that they wouldn't go on more protests. It may be that these individual people - the middle aged family people - were frightened, and didn't go on any more protests. I'm not sure that was a positive thing.*

An important issue was that people in general didn't know that this was being done. I think at the time I thought the general public did know that the police behaved like this, and supported it. Now I am wondering whether it was that people didn't realise in detail what was happening. It may be that mobile phone recording will bring about change.

*ETA - I mean, obviously it wasn't positive, but I mean even from a narrow establishment viewpoint. I think this tactic meant that as the eighties progressed street demos got more aggressive, as the moderating influence of older demonstrators was taken away - culminating in the Poll Tax riots, by which time all who could be frightened away had gone, and all who were left were those who had nothing to lose.
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