More information about CS spray and UK Uncut

We now have some more information on what happened during the UK Uncut protest on Saturday so this is an update post to gather more of it together. I will save the commentary for now in favour of presenting the data I have gathered.

Accounts from people that were actually there:

We have some comments about the previous behaviour of Officer CW2440 on the 15th of January, from @johnnylil

Officers CW2440 and CW2444 specifically are the ones trying to provoke violence from us. We shall remain peaceful. #ukuncut
On jan 15 at last #ukuncut, I tweeted that officer cw2440 was trying to provoke violence. Now I hear he's hospitalised people with CS spray

i will stress, however, that at the jan 15 #ukuncut police were on the whole polite, respectful and peaceful. just cw2440 spoiling things.

Then some longer comments from @johnnylil, so I have strung them together for clarity.

“re CW2440 on jan 15th. Two protesters were trying to peacefully obstruct the entrance to topshop and police asked them to move as it was private property. Protesters requested to see deeds proving this, explaining that otherwise police could not accuse them of trespassing. CW2440 then pushed one of them violently so he fell into group of passerbys. Him or 2442 then later aggressively manhandled another protester for speaking up about his right. ALL VIOLENCE CAME FROM POLICE.”

Pic of CW2440 outside topshop on jan 15th. Taken moments after he assaulted protestor. #ukuncut http://twitpic.com/3v7ggm

Pic of CW2440 outside topshop on jan 15th. Taken moments afte... on Twitpic

I stress that the above was on the 15th of January, and was the same officer that used CS spray on the 30th. Thanks to @Double_Karma for sending the above tweets to me.

We also have some clarification from the lady whose arrest may have sparked this CS spray incident, left as a comment on F for Philistine.

“This is me this is about. This is not an accurate account of what happened. I was physically pulled up by one or more protesters trying to pull me away from the police, which hurt me. I don’t blame the police. Boots made up a ridiculous charge: I pushed leaflets through an open gap in the door! The police then had to do their job. Why did someone try to pull me away from the police? A ridiculous thing to do, which caused the trouble. I am sorry that anyone was injured trying to defend me, but I was not resisting arrest, and was treated fine by the police, so it was unneccessary and damaging. It was brilliant protest and I’m glad we got loads of coverage though :-)”

She later added:

“However, having now seen that video, I can confirm that the incident of the person being sprayed in that video is after I was pulled by the protester, when I had already been taken to the side alley by the police, and so that incident is not related to me attempted to be taken away from the police.”

For the sake of convenience I have gathered several videos here.

Video from @dawnhfoster

Video from The Guardian

Video from @dawnhfoster

Video from @RoTreg It was sideways, so I have temporarily made a copy in the correct orientation until RoTreg gets a corrected copy online. Here’s the original.

Video from Londoner56789

And a picture showing a delivery of milk by @seb_sears to Ben’s Cookies to replace that given for washing out the CS spray.
Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

— UPDATE —

I have been sent a link to more photographs showing officer CW2440 being quite violent earlier in the demonstration.

More attacks on the right to protest: CS spray

A protester hit with incapacitant spray
A protester hit with incapacitant spray

In yet another attack on our right to protest, police yesterday used incapacitant spray on peaceful protesters at Boots in Oxford Street, London. For an eyewitness account head over to F for Philistine where @dawnhfoster has written up what she saw, and includes some video.  You can also read about events from @bc_tmh‘s point of view at Beyond Clicktivism. Since those two blogs have covered things much better than I could, I though that I would show you how events looked to those of us following them at home via Twitter. Reports for the first hour or two were of a successful protest, of people enjoying themselves, talking to people on the street and the police and shop staff being friendly but things went wrong just before 3pm.

13:45 @stavvers: Police being brilliant. Hugh Orde would be a very sad panda #ukuncut

14:48 @UKuncut: Staff at Boots friendly & good natured – laughing and joking with protesters #Ukuncut

14:55 @stavvers: Police arresting and pepper spraying protesters #ukuncut

14:56 @MissEllieMae: Police just pepper sprayed a load of us. We’re calling an ambulance for someone #ukuncut

14:58 @MissEllieMae: People are being dragged away by the police. There is no violence. An ambulance is on its way. This is shameful #ukuncut

15:01 @chris_coltrane: FUCK. Police arrested someone. We shouted “shame”. POLICE PEPPER-SPRAYED PROTESTERS IN THE FACE. #ukuncut http://yfrog.com/h74b9hej

15:03 @chris_coltrane: The girl was arrested for “criminal damage”. Guess what she did? She put leaflets through the door of Boots. #ukuncut

15:04 @UKuncut: 1 person has been arrested in Ldn for pushing a piece paper between a door. The police then pepper sprayed those that helped her #ukuncut

15:04 @chris_coltrane: A dozen people with bright red eyes recovering on the street. The police have taken a peaceful protest, and turned it violent. #ukuncut

15:04 @dawnhfoster: Holy fuck, they just pepper-sprayed a load of people. Waiting for the ambulance. I’m shaking. #UKUncut

15:04 @MissEllieMae: Sitting next to my friend who was pepper sprayed. There was no violence. #ukuncut

15:05 @MissEllieMae: Loads of police here now, everyone is very angry with their behaviour #ukuncut

15:10 @dawnhfoster: Boots have taken victims in to treat them. Chatting to manager, who thinks it was CS gas not pepper spray. #UKUncut

15:12 @stavvers: Ben’s Cookies are providing free milk for protesters who have been hid with pepper spray. Big thanks to them #ukuncut

15:19 @UKuncut: Boots helped to treat protesters affected by pepper spray. Seems even they are disgusted by police behaviour. #ukuncut

15:24 @dawnhfoster: Seriously, where’s the ambulance? #ukuncut

15:27 @UKuncut: Ambulance has arrived to help protesters attacked by police. We <3 the NHS! #ukuncut http://twitpic.com/3uvxt0

15:27 @bengoldacre: When I went on #Ukuncut it was a really strikingly peaceful protest. Interested in justification for police pepperspraying ppl in face.

15:28 @MissEllieMae: Ambulance is here. NHS coming to the rescue… http://plixi.com/p/73581201

15:28 @dawnhfoster Medics treating three guys in ambulance now. Hope they’re ok. Policeman confirms it was CS not pepper spray #UKUncut

21:50 @UKuncut: This slightly dislodged rubber is the ‘criminal damage’ which resulted in police hospitalising 3 people. http://yfrog.com/h5oapkrj

Interestingly, I also saw this from a Boots twitter account:

@BootsMealDeal: We at Boots are disgusted by police behaviour today.

The account was deleted a short time later, along with another Boots account. There is some speculation that the accounts were either fake or were run by Boots staff without authorisation. It did cross my mind earlier that the account might be fake, and on looking back through its tweets I found what looked like a genuine but very unprofessional twitter account.

The aftermath

This video was taken in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Given that CS spray is supposed to be used just prior to restraining someone, and the victim must then be carefully monitored to ensure recovery, this video is fairly damning for the police.

More about CS spray

Officer CW2440 - who sprayed himself in the face as well as the protesters
Officer CW2440 - who sprayed himself in the face as well as the protesters

There was some confusion over what the police actually used on the protesters. Many people referred to Pepper Spray and others referred to CS Gas. What was used was actually CS Spray as confirmed in this Freedom Of Information request. [PDF] (A few police forces use PAVA spray instead.) A lot of people call it pepper spray even though it uses CS while pepper spray uses capsicum. CS spray contains the same active ingredient as CS gas, but dissolved in a solvent that can be sprayed instead of being a powder or being dispersed from a thermal grenade. CS Gas is actually banned for use in warfare according to the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. It might be illegal to us it on enemy soldiers, but it seems to be acceptable for the police to use it on civilians. When I tweeted this fact earlier, people seemed very worked up about it. As I write this, it has been retweeted 95 times!

The police document on such things is this Guidance on the Use of Incapacitant Spray [PDF] which is written by the ACPO. (Yes, them again.)

The guidelines are clear that CS spray is to be used only in defence to allow police to restrain someone who is a danger to others. From reading eye witness accounts it is obvious that the officer used the spray not to protect himself or others around him, but offensively when people did not do what he wanted. In 2000 the Police Complaints Authority carried out research in to how CS spray was being used by the police. They found that 38% of the time police were using the spray offensively, not defensively.  I do not have any figures to know if this has changed ten years later but I would hope that it has. The guidelines state that “Tactical training in the use of the spray should emphasise precautions in relation to self / cross contamination.” Perhaps officer CW2440 hasn’t had that training, because not only did he incapacitate ten people and cause problems for several others nearby, he also managed to spray himself in the face.

The guidelines also talk at length about caring for the incapacitated person after they have been sprayed and says this is of “utmost importance.” Details of recovery times are given and the guidelines state that particular attention must be given to monitoring breathing. They go on to say “A medical practitioner should examine those who cannot open their eyes or whose eyes are actively running beyond the normal recovery period. The expected period is 20 minutes after exposure.” In actual fact we can see from the tweets that it took nearly half an hour for an ambulance to arrive in a city where bikes and cars are used in addition to ambulances to make sure that paramedics get to the scene within 8 minutes and usually even less time. Questions should be asked about why it took so long for the ambulance to arrive. Protesters called the ambulance, did police interference cause the delay?

The ACPO guidance also has this to say about the use of CS spray in situations like this.

“2.5.13 Such action on the part of an officer may have a profound impact on crowd dynamics with obvious implications for public safety and public order. The spraying of incapacitants in these circumstances  may, particularly in the case of CS, lead to cross contamination causing panic or even hysteria. Similarly, the use of incapacitant spray, again primarily CS although PAVA in a more limited way, in crowded public areas may cause significant cross contamination and another use of force option may be more appropriate. The decision to use incapacitant spray against a person in these circumstances must be capable of subsequent justification and the closest scrutiny.”

From what witnesses and those involved have said to me I think it likely that the use of CS spray was simply the actions of one officer that acted alone, when he saw protesters trying to bar his way to prevent an arrest of someone that had merely posted a flier through a door.  Perhaps he panicked, or perhaps he was just itching for an excuse to exercise some power. Hopefully there will be an enquiry into this incident. More worryingly though, witnesses reported that police wearing a different uniform arrived on the scene shortly after the spraying, and those officers were carrying handguns. I can’t see any justification for sending armed police out to what had been a completely peaceful and friendly protest before the police got involved.

Other articles about this

Police use CS spray on tax protesters (Guardian)

Police pepper spray #ukuncut protesters (Indymedia)

Three in hospital as police use CS gas at UK Uncut protest (Liberal Conspiracy)

Police use CS gas on tax protesters (Telegraph)

CS spray used on UK uncut protest (BBC)

Facebook group calling for the prosecution of officer CW2440

Clamping down on UK Uncut (A personal account by Ellie Mae O’Hagan – New Left Project)

Police abusing our right to protest

Yesterday I wrote about section 14 of the public order act, and how it allowed the police to effectively order protesters to move or to leave. Today section 14 was used in Lewes and it was all caught on camera by @taboacid

The protesters that were arrested were drinking tea outside of Boots in Lewes. They were not preventing anyone from entering as far as I know, simply refusing to move away when ordered to. (Since writing this I have been told that people collecting prescriptions were all let through, others were discouraged but not stopped.) How the police issued their section 14 notice is not clear. The police officer in the video clearly used the line “You will be arrested in breach of conditions imposed under section 14 of the public order act. These officers will now arrest you.” Police action so far is legal, but as far as I am concerned it should not be in their power to order anyone to move in this situation.

Later in the video is a more incriminating moment. A protester is “de-arrested” by the police but only after having her details taken. Quoting the video:

“She’s been de-arrested. She’s provided her details and she’s been de-arrested. She’ll be out of the van in a couple of moments once my colleagues have got everything they need.”

De-arrest means that no central record is ever made of the arrest, only that in the notebook of the officer concerned. Requests for statistics on de-arrests have been rejected because of this. De-arrest is necessary in some situations but the context in which it is usually used now is to force people to give their name and address to the arresting officer, clearly in breach of the intent of the law. There is no legal obligation to give identifying information to the police unless arrested, so the police have established a routine of threatening to arrest people unless they give information, and if that does not work then they arrest the person, take their details, then de-arrest them. This means that the police now know the identity of the person, but have no record of the arrest. Not only that, but the information that they have unethically seized is not stored as an official police record and so is not subject to the same controls. For an example of the sort of thing that the police do with the information, see this Guardian story about spotter cards used by the police at protests, and this comment by Mark Thomas on the same.

In a previous situation similar to this, the police denied that there was even any database involved. I think it is clear that they are abusing the definition of database in order to avoid regulation of their data tracking. Extract from their reply to a complaint:

“The information obtained under section 50 is subsequently recorded electronically and weeded after seven years. The fact that your details have been recorded in such a way does not constitute any form of formal police record, and would not be disclosed externally.

This video footage and your personal details are not cross-referenced, and the database which you allude to does not exist.”

The police may be working within the law, but it is clear to me that that in the case of coercing protesters to give identity information and “de-arresting” they are abusing the intent of the law to keep records on people guilty of nothing except exercising their essential democratic right to protest, and in creating section 14 of the public order act MPs have given dangerous powers to the police that threaten our democracy.

Invisible illness, invisible benefits

This post is dedicated to One month before heartbreak.

Hi, I’m Steve and I have an invisible illness. I have M.E.

I have had ME for just over 10 years now. My ME is somewhat variable. I have had cycles of months of being quite well, with perhaps 80% of my health, and months of being so ill that I barely left my bed. As you can imagine, this has made it quite difficult for me to hold down a job and so I have often had to rely on Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance.

Unfortunately, those two benefits are even less reliable than my health. The first time I needed incapacity benefit was while I had been working part time in a mobile phone shop. I went off sick again and became so ill that I spent 95% of my time in bed. I immediately received Statutory Sick Pay. (SSP) All well and good so far. Then I reached six months of being ill and SSP ran out. I had to apply for incapacity benefit.

The biggest problem that I had at that time was the application form. I recall it being large, somewhere around fifty pages. I remember trying to write on it but experiencing immense pain when I did so. I enlisted my wife to do the actual writing which solved that problem.  Then I waited. And waited. My wife was working at the time, but we both had student loans, overdrafts and credit cards. Already under severe financial strain from my loss of income, the delay in receiving incapacity benefit was the final straw. I was forced to file for bankruptcy, and I took my wife with me. I still feel horrible guilt about that today. After the bankruptcy we moved in to a flat that we shared with a friend I knew from university. Unable to leave the flat most of the time, I spent all of my good hours in chasing my benefit. Phone calls, letters, advisors that knew nothing, that could give me no reason, that promised to chase it up but never called back.  Eventually after months I was told that my incapacity benefit had been approved. I received a backdated payment, months worth of income! Of course it was too late to be any help in buying food or paying rent while we were struggling to pay and going bankrupt.

After the struggle for incapacity benefit, my basic living income, was complete, I turned my sights on Disability Living Allowance. (DLA) I knew this one was going to be difficult. The criteria for receiving DLA were not set with variable and invisible illnesses like mine. Although my daily life, care needs  and mobility were as severely affected as people with visible physical problems, the problem lay in convincing the decision makers of that fact.

And so I commenced on applying for DLA. The form made the previous incapacity benefit form look like a walk in the park.  It was HUGE. It was terrifying. It asked questions about everything, and I mean everything, about my illness. The minutest details of how I get myself food, take medicine and go to the toilet were all needed. Doctors reports were needed. It took me two months to summon the energy to get through it all. The form was just the beginning though. After I submitted it there was silence. After a little chasing up they eventually informed me that I must have a medical assessment. (Why, I don’t know. Obviously the GPs that write reports for them are not to be trusted.) The date of the medical examination was set for a few weeks away, at 8:30 in the morning which was just about the time that I would have managed to fall asleep after a night of insomnia.

The day of the examination came and the doctor arrived. He immediately took a condescending tone and a harsh manner with me, even as I was struggling to open the door and let him in. A bad start. Then it got worse. The questions came thick and fast. Everything covered in the application form was asked again. Already tired, this was bewildering and literally painful to go through. It couldn’t get any worse than this, could it? Yes. Yes it could. Questioning over and with me barely able to move after the onslaught, I was ordered to stand. “Raise your arms” I was told. I struggled to comply, pain washing through my body. “Lift your left leg.” I collapsed, dizzy, in pain, no energy, but the impossible orders continued. After some time, an amount that I cannot remember because of the extreme exhaustion, he told me he was finished and he left.

Then there was the chasing. As before, it took all of my “good” time to try to find out what was going on. No communications came through. Eventually, months after my application, I received the terrifying brown envelope. REFUSED. And the appeal process started. More forms. Letters explaining why I needed help. More silence. My memory of this period is hazy now, I think there was another rejection and another appeal form before my case was sent to a tribunal.

On the day of the tribunal my wife took the day off work and we were given a lift there by a friend. I remember sitting across the table from four stern looking people. They all had copies of my appeal forms, my medical notes. The sham of a medical assessment report. These people knew more about my medical history than anyone else. They asked me questions for an hour until I was visibly wilting, and then they sent us back to the waiting room. Finally I was called back in and informed that I would receive lower rate care. Success! Sort of. I had applied hoping for care and mobility allowances, but in the end I received a mere £16.05 per week. All of that HELL for sixteen quid a week. The only consolation was that they owed me that backdated for nearly two years!

All the while my attempts to claim DLA were going on, I was also still dealing with the Job Centre in relation to my incapacity benefit. Not content with simply allowing me to receive it and focus on recovery, I was required to attend an interview with a disability advisor every few weeks. Every meeting was the same. The advisor was friendly and we would have a good chat. We would bemoan the fact that I was required to attend these meetings even though the travel would set my health back and would need a week of recovery. We would look at what jobs I could do and conclude that no employer would take me with such an unpredictable ability to work. He would suggest an internet business since I had occasionally sold things on eBay. I would promise to look into it if I had the energy, and then I would return home to spend a week in bed.

I did start to recover to some extent. I managed to leave the house more often. I would have many good hours, but I remained largely unemployable because I could just not say which hours of the week I might be able to work. Then one day I received another terrifying brown envelope. I would be required to attend a medical examination to continue receiving incapacity benefit. An assessment at home was not an option, and I was told that I must visit them or lose my benefit. I won’t go into detail of the assessment here, but I will say it was not as bad as the previous one. I went in visibly wobbly and using a walking stick. The interviewer was not harsh but was not friendly either. I went home in a hopeful state. Silly me. A short time afterwards I was informed that I had been found fit to work. No account was taken of my unpredictable and variable symptoms.

I managed to find a job through pure chance. My friend that we shared a flat with had received a better job offer and he gave his boss a glowing reference for my computing abilities. I attended an interview where I was brutally honest about my illness and the possiblities. By amazing good fortune, I got on really well with the interviewer and we were good friends by the time I left the interview, and so I started a job as IT technician at a timber company.

Things didn’t go to badly at first. I managed to get there on time every day. (Well, 5 minutes late because of train timing, but that was allowed for.) I got through most working days and my boss was sympathetic when I turned the lights out to work or took rests in the office during the day. Outside of work, I was wrecked. All my energy had gone on the job and there was none left for home life. I spent much of my evenings and weekends in bed, whimpering in pain, if I even had the energy for that.

After a year my boss took a new job and I was promoted and hired my replacement technician. I liked that. My manager had had such an easy job compared to me! It wasn’t enough though. I started to get flaky, to miss work. I carried on working as much as I could. The operations director was also a good friend by that time and he worked things out so that I could do my job in the hours that suited me. Other staff and directors had noticed my flakiness and he defended me from them. He pointed out that I was good at what I did, that I achieved in 16 to 20 hours a week what other staff had sometimes not even finished. I lasted a few more months but eventually the crunch point came and I went off sick for a full two months. I still helped out where I could by answering emails and text messages. Around about that time I had to re-apply for DLA. I was sent a new form. They wanted everything from scratch! I just couldn’t face it again. I gave up, ignored the form and my DLA stopped. When I resumed work it was on the basis of 16 hours a week done from home or office. I was grateful that they didn’t fire me, but then they could not find any replacement that they would trust with their IT.

In August 2009 I resigned from that job following signs of imminent failure of the company and a rather stupid takeover attempt by the managing directors wife. It had got rather political and I felt personally attacked when the operations director was blamed for all sorts of things. For a long time my father had jokingly been saying to me that if I started an IT company then he would work for me. I resigned, moved back to my parents home town and together with my father started a business to repair computers. With both of us being disabled, we intended to build up the company and then hire more people so that we could both do only 20 hours a week. We received minimal help from the government but together we have built that company up and today we are starting to get regular repeat customers. Unfortunately business is not yet high enough to actually take any wages out of the business but that could be close.

Unfortunately I must end this story on a low point. In November I had flu, and again in December. Combined with too much activity over Christmas that has left me in a complete relapse and more ill than I have been since 2003. Customers are coming in but I cannot deal with them and my father is struggling to cope with it all. Yesterday was a better day, so I am hopeful that I will not be completely stuck in bed for more than a couple of weeks and then can get back to work.

If that doesn’t happen, I am stuffed. I will give up. There is absolutely no point in me applying for Employment Support Allowance, the replacement for incapacity benefit, and definitely no point in applying for DLA.  I wouldn’t get it, even while unable to leave my bed at all, and the application process would hurt me. Another medical assessment would set my recovery back for months. Disabled people were treated badly enough by the previous government, the actions of this one in cutting benefits and making the criteria even stricter are despicable.

Shame the police – by supporting them

I have been very vocal in condemning the police for their actions at the series of protests against tuition fees last year. I wrote in some detail about police violence and about their alleged use of an old van as bait to incite violence and provide an excuse for harsher policing. It was obviously a popular view, since those posts on my personal blog got some 14,000 views in a few days and are still more than half of my traffic.

It may surprise you to know, then, that if and when members of the police go on strike and march in protest against budget cuts and loss of jobs, I think those of us in the anti-cuts movement should be protesting alongside them.

The police do an important job in our society. They aren’t all that effective, they aren’t without their defects, but I believe that many police joined up to help people. Yes, some police are violent thugs, some go looking for violence. Since violence is what sells the news, that gets talked about, but most police aren’t like that.

Some police procedures are unjust and illiberal. Apart from kettling and stifling the right to protest, they also have Forward Intelligence Teams taking photographs of innocent people for unofficial police records. They arrest people for the sole reason of taking their details which they would not otherwise be allowed to do, then “de-arrest” them but keep the details. They keep DNA and fingerprints of those cleared of crimes. I think it likely that those procedures are a result of orders from the top, and to counter them needs a change in the attitudes of police administration, or perhaps simply a change of those at the top.

The few nasty police, the ones that like violence, they are likely to be the ones doing things like hassling photographers when they have no right to and making up laws on the spot to support their way of thinking and intimidate. Those are the bullies. Those are the ones that we want out, but right now our fight is elsewhere.

I think what happened at the protests on the 9th of December last year is a typical escalation of violence between two sides that cannot back down. Petty little things turn in to stubborn commands and refusal to comply, which is met with increasing anger on both sides. Eventually the police are hitting people and some elements of the crowd are giving a typical reaction of a young person perceiving injustice against them or their friends, and fighting back. It’s built in to both sides. In this situation neither side can see that backing off would cool things down. It’s the typical response seen in family feuds (“He said she said”) and wars between tribes, or countries. (“They slaughtered us!” “They massacred us first!”) Ultimately I believe that apart from a few violent idiots and bullies on both sides, the rest of the police involved in violence at the protests were caught up in this self-feeding loop of stubbornness and tribal defensiveness.

I have witnessed this effect still in action even now when talking to various people that were involved. Some activists are of the opinion that police marches against job losses should be countered with protests against police violence to “shame the police” and that the police should be kettled in retaliation for what they did.

I offer the counter argument that the anti-cuts movement should march and protest in support of the police. Those police are ordinary people with families and rents and mortgages. At previous protests the crowd have shouted “Your jobs are next!” to try and gain police support. Well now their jobs are next, and it’s time to do for them what they wouldn’t do for us.

#solidarity

Serious questions for people that vote conservative

I would be very interested in what conservative voters think on these questions. I know some good people that are conservative, and I am struggling to understand the thinking.
  1. What do you think are society’s obligations to the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged?
  2. Do you think that current cuts will impact the above? If yes, is it unavoidable? If no, why not?
  3. At what point is the cut off point beyond which a person should not get any help?
  4. Do you believe that state has any role in this help, or should it all be personal generosity?
  5. What do you think should happen if personal generosity does not cover required help?

Anyone that does not feel comfortable answering in a comment is welcome to contact me by email if you know my address or via the contact page shown on the top right.

The right to protest, even if it’s inconvenient

This is a quote from a conversation I had today. I hope the other participant will forgive me for reproducing it here.

“Although the right to protest is enshrined in law, the money spent policing these demos will have to be found somewhere and as there is only a finite amount of money someone somewhere will suffer…having to find money to police protests will affect the poorest.”

I had to stop to think about it. It’s true, of course, to a certain extent. Protests on the scale of those against the tuition fee increases will be attended by the police, and like most of our public services, they are extremely inefficient and will run up a horrendous bill in the process.

Whose fault is that though? That the police see it as their job to be present at every protest in vast numbers is not the fault of the protesters. Oh, they will argue that they must be present in case there is any violence but many protesters will argue back – quite convincingly – that it is the police that aggravate the situation and often directly cause problems.

What about the result of finding that money? Assuming that the police aren’t simply left to find the money from within their existing budgets, the current government will have no qualms about taking the money by cutting public services and benefits. To be honest, they’re going to do that anyway because, well, I don’t know what the thinking is there. My MP told me yesterday “Well I guess I won’t persuade you, but I see something completely different, with the vulnerable protected.” I can only conclude that conservatives see different things to what liberals and socialists see.

So will protesting cost money? Yes. But it will cost more than it should because the police seem to feel that it is their job to clamp down on protests.

Will that money come from public services that affect the poor? Absolutely. But that money would be taken away anyway.

Should this stop anyone from protesting? HELL NO! The right to protest is absolute and we cannot have a democracy without it. These protests against tuition fees, tax avoiders and government cuts are making a difference! MP’s have resigned, have changed their minds, have gone in to a panic over this. Keep protesting. Your country needs you.

Protests? What protests?

If you have been anywhere near twitter today, you can’t have failed to notice that there have been a few little protests going on.

Actually, not so little. These protests were nationwide. There was chaos in Oxford Street, the busiest shopping street in London, on a busy weekend shortly before Christmas. Protesters blocked access to some very large shops, all owned by Philip Green, who carried out a review of government spending and procurement at the request of David Cameron. Green runs Arcadia group but the shares are actually in his wifes name, and since she lives in Monaco, all £1.2 billion in dividends has been tax free. Shouts of “Pay your tax!” are quite hard to argue with.

In Brighton some people got inside the window display at Top Shop and super glued themselves to the window. Police also held a large group of people outside the shop for several hours. Protesters were eventually allowed to leave on the condition that they gave all their details to the police, something that is completely illegal for the police to demand.

The most bizarre thing about the day was the astonishing lack of coverage on television news. After a couple of hours without mention a campaign started on twitter to phone the BBC to complain. The staff on the other end of the phone were friendly and sympathetic. They had quite a few calls about the subject and knew exactly what I was talking about. There was a short report on BBC News at 13:46. And that was it. No other mention at all. Sky news has not even mentioned it once. The revolution apparently won’t be televised. But it will be tweeted.

—Edit: The BBC played the same footage at 18:16. Apparently shutting down parts of the busiest shopping street on one of the busiest shopping days of the year is not news worthy. Thank you very much to channel 4 news, who opened with this story and spent several minutes on it. —-

The BBC News TV report – all 23 seconds of it

Here are some links to find out more about the protests.

Channel 4 news

BBC News website

The Daily Mail – a strangely un-critical report!

The Guardian

UK Uncut, the organisers

Some more footage

F.I.T. keeping track of protesters

#UKUncut on Twitter

Police vs protesters Benny Hill style!

Just in case anyone hasn’t seen it yet, here is the video I made after the 30th November student fees / anti-cuts protests.  My sister and I fell of our chairs laughing after seeing this live on TV, and I just had to add Benny Hill music to it.

I was going to make a more complex video with more footage, people going the other way and more cutting between police and protesters, but I have been told that it is good that it is as simple as it is. Just as well, because I am not very good at video editing.