Naturally, I never expected to see anything like it in action in Britain, and I still don't, but I saw something disturbingly reminiscent of it on the streets of Brighton on Saturday, when a peaceful protest was brought to a violent conclusion by police tactics.
The Reclaim the Streets protest there (Significant Shorts, 26 August) started in a carnival-like atmosphere, heightened by balloons and giant puppets, with people of all ages, including children, taking part. Even the police on duty, who almost outnumbered the demonstrators, appeared to be enjoying themselves.
Although the protesters blocked one of the town's main thoroughfares, and indeed were allowed to do so, the demonstration, and the police response, remained essentially good-humoured until someone in the police hierarchy apparently gave the order to send in the heavy boys. The result was not only a ludicrously high number of arrests and a shockingly high number of injuries, but also a diversion of the media coverage from the traffic issue to the law-and-order issue.
In Britain, fortunately, the police are not above the law. Whoever ordered the blood-letting in Brighton could be identified and held responsible for his actions, whether they resulted from conspiracy or from a mere balls-up. Such action, however unlikely, would restore the reputation of our police force as well as reinforce our right to demonstrate peacefully in our streets.
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