“Trafalgar Square hosted a peaceful and pleasant party this evening. Police took a ‘soft touch’ approach and everything seemed to be taking its course. People sat around Nelson’s column listening to music, police allowed them to build bonfires to keep warm and protesters repeatedly commented on how impressed they were by the police’s handling of the situation.
Then a group of protesters were seen on the Olympic clock. It is unclear what they were doing on the clock but it certainly wasn’t deemed acceptable by the police who stormed in, rapidly carving a path through the protesters and forming a wall around the clock. Protesters reacted by running over to the scene from every corner of the square, throwing missiles such as traffic cones and burning wood. Many glass bottles were also thrown.” (How it Happened, Joe Rennison, 27 March 2011)
Joe, your description of what happened tonight in Trafalgar Square is sorely biased and incomplete. To label a traffic cone, a bottle, or even a burning stick from a placard (as those are the only pieces of wood that were being used in the bonfires) as a “missile” is deliberately misleading, while a credible eyewitness spoke to us of riot vans running down protesters, and protestors being dragged across the square to their arrests, facts that you fail to mention in the above.
Consistently, the role of the police in a protest situation is to act as the violent enforcing arm of the state, and in this case it was no different. You speak of them “allowing” protesters to make fires to warm themselves, but it should be remembered that police officers, particularly in protest situations, do not/are not permitted to think for themselves and are therefore not able to “allow” anyone to do anything. A police officer today told a colleague of ours that they follow to the letter the orders they are given, and in fact, when they take their positions, that they sign an oath stating the same. This policy is scarily similar to the Nuremberg Defense, or the claims by the Nazi SS that they were “just following orders” when committing the heinous crimes of the Holocaust.
With more than a million people taking over the streets of London and occupying key locations, police anger and tension against protesters had been building up all day. “People climbing the clock” is undoubtedly no more than a very thin pretext for which they were waiting to justify a brutal attack on people exercising their civil right to express dissent. In this case, the order to attack was not given until cover of darkness came and news media deadlines for the day had passed, protecting them from media scrutiny and the public eye.
It should be remembered that context is a critical aspect of journalism. Thus, any discussion of action/reaction at a protest must be considered in the context of the history of police protection of society’s elite and the status quo, and consequently, its violent suppression of dissent and revolutionary movements. A failure to recognise this has revealed itself to be, in our estimation, an inherent flaw in your journalistic approach to this article.