Letter: Is free trade fair?

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I read John O'Farrell's comments concerning a typical demo with some amusement ("The symphonic narrative of a violent demonstration", 2 December). I also have sympathy with attempts by protesters in Seattle to highlight the insidious effects of global companies and the sense of powerlessness that their supporting bodies (like the WTO) engender in private citizens.

However, I thought Mr O'Farrell seriously undermined his argument by using sweeping generalisations (eg "As a rule the genuinely ugly violence on demonstrations is started by the police") and by dismissing violence against the police as something tantamount to throwing paper darts.

No doubt the City of London and Metropolitan police forces have in their ranks some violent-minded and incendiary individuals. However, during the violent demonstrations that took place in the City this summer, my observations of events that took place along London Wall were that the police were tolerant, restrained and long-suffering.

I, for one, was glad of their presence in the face of characters whose sole aim appeared to be to provoke fighting with the police. The mob was very threatening and at one stage appeared to be close to succeeding in overturning a police van full of officers.

Television news coverage of events in Seattle does seem to show aggressive and heavy-handed police action. However, to lump together all police forces, as Mr O'Farrell does, and to suggest that violence is only ever started by policemen is patently absurd.

DAVID WILLIS

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

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