By Tim Hardy
A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
Even though many individual officers express private support for UK Uncut, the police force and the Met in particular are now under heavy pressure to protect the commercial interests of high-profile tax avoiders like Philip Green.
Not only is Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Lynne Owens proud of both exploitative undercover and intrusive external surveillance of peaceful groups but she has openly admitted that the arrests on 26 March were an intelligence gathering operation.
It is why the fact that we arrested as many people as we did is so important to us because that obviously gives us some really important intelligence opportunities. I think it is interesting, and perhaps somewhat ironic, that we find ourselves in this position where we are being asked questions about intelligence pictures where less than a month ago we were being asked about whether it was proportionate to deploy undercover officers in public protests and public order situations. So I think there is something for the police service about getting the balance right. We do need to improve the intelligence picture, but our ability to arrest over 200 people at the weekend gives us a very good starting point in terms of building that picture.
These tactics bring shame on a country that prides itself on its democratic traditions.
That she is allowed to make such statements without an outcry from parliament and the press just shows the extent to which both are beholden to corporate interests.
Lynne Owens goes on to suggest that public perception of risk is enough to override human rights. That is a disingenuous statement.
During last week’s inquest, PC Simon Harwood attempted to justify his fatal, unprovoked assault on a bystander at the G20 protests on the grounds that he was scared because:
I was aware that the police view was that it would be expected that the demonstration would be substantial, unruly and potentially extremely violent.
Where did this awareness come from? This perception did not come from his official briefing. Instead, the expectation was created by “intelligence reports” given to an uncritical and compliant media in the run up to the event that was used to justify aggressive policing in advance. Public perception is created by the police in collusion with the worst elements of the press.
Harwood was not one rogue “bad apple”. The police denied existence of CCTV footage for nearly two weeks afterwards. While London’s occasional Mayor Boris Johnson ran around tooting his little horn to condemn critics for engaging in “an orgy of cop bashing” the Murdoch press queued up to run smear stories on the victim and on the protesters. The same strategies are being repeated right now.
Over the last few months we have seen how the police are being used more and more as the armed enforcers of coalition cuts with large sections of the media only too happy to abandon journalistic principles and use their influence to further the coalition agenda.
The question now, with 138 UK Uncut protesters and eleven others facing trial, is do we need more politicised arrests – or can we find new approaches that will continue to raise the profile of the issues behind the protests and perhaps make them wider?
UK Uncut is winning one particular argument and gaining support worldwide. Nobody is falling for the repeated attempts by the BBC, the police and ex-PR men like David Cameron to paint them as violent, senseless vandals. The few who do repeat these arguments have always been enemies of the movement.
But the issues go far deeper than tax avoidance and new tactics to avoid police crackdowns are not enough.
It’s time to organise for a long campaign. It’s time to build bridges between different campaign groups and work together to challenge propaganda in the media. We need to train up more legal observers with Green and Black Cross and engage in outreach to talk with the millions who aren’t touched by facebook, blogs and twitter.
UK Uncut has so far challenged some of the symptoms of a problem that is far deeper, a global politics of systemic inequality posited on unsustainable, environmentally destructive, perpetual growth.
With public faith in free-market capitalism plummeting around the world, now is time to build momentum, sidestep new police tactics with new ones of our own and push hard for radical change before a small elite of Bullingdon yobs smash up society and do a runner, leaving the rest of us to foot the bill.