A ban on moving (non-static) protests was recently introduced throughout five London boroughs following a request from the Metropolitan Police. The ban started on the 2nd of September and was meant to last for 30 days.
On the 3rd of September, English Defence League (EDL) held a pre-planned protest….
Is banning non-static protests really the way forward in managing violence?
Why didn’t the authorities in London just settle for a one day ban on non-static protests, like those granted for EDL protests in Bradford, Leicester and Telford?
Maybe the Police suspected that the EDL protest would disrupt the atmosphere of peace gained following the riots in London and several other UK cities in August 2011?
In the past century in London alone, riots have occurred for a wide variety of reasons in 1919, 1932, 1936, 1958, 1974, 1977, 1981, 1985, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2009, 2010. While this form of violent behaviour is always shocking and deplorable, the frequency with which it occurs would seem to suggest that they are an inevitable and possibly fixed feature of society?
This evidence emphasises the constant threat of riots and the importance of crowd control in protests.
Would allowing groups to hold only static protests still provide enough release for their frustrations and prevent an escalation in emotions? The Police seem to think that this is the case as can be observed in the increase of kettling during other protests. Following kettling, the crowd is broken down into smaller components. The controlled destruction of the crowd by slowly releasing small groups inhibits irrational or dangerous spontaneous mass behaviour. Any individual is usually calmer by themselves than as a part of a crowd.
Groups are also supposed to use up all their energy while being restrained by the Police – but kettles need to be maintained for an extraordinary amount of time for this to happen. This is often impossible and viewed as cruelty if the crowd consists of children, or if the crowd consists of very strong and aggressive adults which pose a threat to the Police (remember that they are still human under all that riot gear), or if, as in the case of the recent EDL protest – the Police are required to clear the area by a certain time and release the group anyway.
If evidence suggests that kettling isn’t a fail-safe mechanism for crowd control, then what exactly are the Police up to by introducing a ban which increases its use? Do the Police want to increase the trouble on the streets? After all, when faced with significant cuts to Police funding, an increase in trouble would certainly secure funding for Police if their demand could be proven.
Although the ban requested by the Police was granted by the government, there also seems to have been a media blackout by the government for this particular protest. If there is trouble on the streets, then a policy seems to be in place to stop people knowing about it. After all, why would the government want to encourage a case for Police funding? The Press were still in attendance at this protest – but they just didn’t seem to have anywhere for their work to be published. Is there a division between the Police and the government? Who will become the eventual conqueror?
Alternatively the media blackout could exist in the hope that if the protesting groups don’t get any attention, then maybe they will all give up and just home? If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
If the ban on this type of protesting and a media blackout fails to control trouble on the streets, would the next step be to ban protesting altogether – particularly with aggressive groups such as the EDL?
What would the EDL do if they were prevented from protesting? Maybe they would just rebrand themselves? After all – isn’t the EDL a child of the BNP, and a grandchild of the National Front? There are plenty of Uncles and Aunties within that family too. So banning these groups are pointless – because just like the steady occurrence of riots, maybe far-right groups are also a constant feature in society?
Are the Police capable and do they have sole responsibility for preventing violence within a society? What else can be done to prevent violence?
Poverty increases divisions within a society and leads to the rise of angry, frustrated groups and the rise of harmful behaviour such as racism. People are eager to protect only themselves because that’s all they can do with the meagre resources that they can secure. Even some of the speakers at the EDL counter-demonstration were speaking with rising aggression and a fear that would have normally sprung from the far-right groups.
Poverty is not something that should be encouraged. There are alternative solutions. Maybe these options would have a greater effect on reducing the frequency of riots and the occurrence of aggressive, discriminating, hate filled groups than the current policies employed by the government and the Police? Do not let the government divide and conquer with their current policies.