UK police chief Sir Paul Stephenson is considering whether to ask the British government to ban protest marches altogether in response to last week’s student riots, a move that would place Britain under a de facto state of martial law.
“It is one of the tactics we will look at and something we will keep under review, and if we think it is the right thing to do then we will do it,” said the Metropolitan Police commissioner.
NUS president Aaron Porter responded: “Peaceful protest is an integral part of our heritage and it is the responsibility of the police to help facilitate that.”
Although the establishment media in Britain dutifully blamed the protesters for the violent scenes witnessed during the demonstrations, it later emerged that police had been behind a number of provocations that caused the running street battles, including pulling a disabled man out of a wheelchair and dragging him across the street, as well as repeatedly beating protesters on the head with batons.
The use of “kettling” to confine protesters into a tight area has also been heavily criticized for only heightening rage amongst the demonstrators.
Stephenson is considering whether to use the Public Order Act in an attempt to ban marches, despite acknowledging the fact that such a move could only exacerbate the situation. Other proposals are to use water cannons to disperse demonstrators, as well as snatch squads that would literally abduct so-called “trouble-makers” off the streets.
Given the fact that police are being ordered to conduct themselves in ways that only further anger protesters, the overall agenda seems to be aimed at creating agitation that can subsequently be exploited to justify excessive force.
Banning protest marches would extend the already existing no-protest zone which encompasses the area around the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, to the entire country.
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) bans the right of protest (unless it is cleared by a commissioner 6 days in advance) within a 1km radius of the UK’s seat of government. The area covers the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, most government ministries, St Thomas’s Hospital, part of the South Bank and Lambeth Palace.