John McDonnell: Taking to the streets may get the Government to listen

The dictat to the police after the attack on Milbank was clearly to do whatever is necessary to prevent this from happening again

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I have received reports of raids across London, ranging from the odd to the distressing.The most bizarre was the arrest of Chris Knight, a 67-year-old professor of anthropology, who was detained for a "pre-crime". He uses street theatre to get his political messages across and had constructed a guillotine to perform the execution of papier-mâché models of the royal family. He was detained as as he walked out his door.

This is just the latest example of a new climate of suppression of dissent that has emerged since the Government faced demonstrations against its policies last November. Expressions of dissent are now met with heavy-handed policing tactics and example-making by the courts. It doesn't matter what the peaceful intent of your protest is, as members of UK Uncut discovered when they were sprayed with mace and arrested after a peaceful occupation of a shop in London.

The Government's new fear is that street demonstrations are about to be joined by large-scale co-ordinated industrial action. That is why further anti-union legislation is being increasingly mooted and the squatting laws are to be reviewed for fear of occupations.

It is rational for a Government forcing deep cuts in public services and creating mass unemployment to protect itself by suppressing dissent. The dictat to the police after the attack on Milbank was clearly to do whatever is necessary to prevent this from happening again.

For those who believe the Government has no electoral mandate for its policies and refuses to listen, it is also perfectly rational for them to use the only mechanisms left open to them: strikes, direct action and the streets.

The writer is Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington.

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