On 20 October, London is going to host the biggest public demonstration against UK government plans the city has ever witnessed. My contribution here is to raise awareness of the potential problems I see together with how they might be managed on the day itself.
These potential trouble-spots are worth reflecting on beforehand because there are strengths we can all draw upon to address them.
The Central Issue
What lies at the heart of this demonstration is a major clash of both politics and public morality. The UK has a government actively dismantling a social structure that has been in existence for over 60 years. The government has no electoral mandate to make such changes and has openly acknowledged misleading the electorate in order to gain this political power. It claims that its reasons are financial but this can be demonstrated to be untrue and its policies are now being openly criticised at international levels. In addition, there is now overwhelming evidence of corruption and crony capitalism at the very top between government and the corporate private sector. Based on current behaviour, our government is planning the following for the ordinary people of the UK:-
- Slave labour
- Mass death by financial attrition
- Complete dismantling of health and welfare services
- Mass transfer of public wealth into private hands
My list is not inclusive but it does impact upon everyone who is involved with or dependent upon our public services and is why people employed in our public sector are demonstrating on Saturday.
This clash between public and private interests is not new in Britain but there are, in my opinion, some highly significant differences between the past and present. In the past, the levels of public corruption have not been so evident and Tory governments have been able to use the police and armed services to enforce their will. Our current government has undermined this connection – in general terms, our police and armed forces are now as disaffected as the protestors.
My main concerns for Saturday’s Demo
Again, this is not inclusive but these are the factors I have identified that may impact upon the demonstration.
As far as I can tell, everyone involved is likely to be extremely tired, particularly the police who have had leave and rest days cancelled over a long period, from the riots of 2011 to the Olympics of 2012. The same will be true for the public sector demonstrators. Everyone has been experiencing cutbacks in personal finances together with an inability to recover from unreasonable work pressures whilst, at the same time, ever increasing workload demands. This combination makes for short fuses and impatience. It would be foolish to think that some won’t take advantage of this. If we are aware of how this affects both police and demonstrators, it can be managed.
The present government is highly abusive towards those it regards as plebs. The normal healthy human response is anger towards the abusers. It is well within the realm of possibility that this anger could be manipulated by government supporters in order to provoke disturbance and create divide-and-rule scenarios between people who would otherwise agree with each other. If we are all aware of this, we can forward plan to manage this too.
Where are the problems likely to arise?
One of the biggest problems I see arises from senior management decisions amongst those who will be responsible for policing the event.
It is now quite obvious that the Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, is a government lackey taking his orders from a Home Secretary with a criminal conviction for contempt of court. This suggests that there is a very real possibility that some orders issued to police officers may not be lawful. It is also clear that some Met Police officers will obey these orders willingly, when we consider past corruption being identified within the Met and other police forces. Given the size of the demo, it is quite likely that the Met will be calling in officers from outside London. For those police officers on duty who might otherwise have joined the demonstration themselves, it would help if close attention were paid to issued orders as this may prove invaluable in minimising unlawful provocative police actions against a lawful protest. If there is apparent mismanagement, it would also help to know that officers would report this afterwards through their chain of command (bearing in mind that it might not be possible – it always depends upon the integrity of the senior officers involved). This could make a considerable difference to improved police/public relations. To any senior officer on the receiving ends such reports, I would make this point. If, as we are being told by government, there is no money then the public can no longer afford to employ corrupt officers and the matter needs addressing in the urgent public interest. To those attending the demo, please remember that the police won’t be able to discuss it because their rules don’t allow them to.
Equally, there is a very good chance that ‘black bloc’ agent provocateurs will be seeded amongst the demonstrators themselves. It’s been done before and there is no reason to suppose that it won’t be done again on Saturday. If union stewards and police work together, the impact of their activities ought to be contained or minimised. Additionally, the presence of citizen journalists and legal observers collecting photographic and video evidence of the demonstration will enable identification of anyone – police or public – intent on creating trouble.
At the same time, those of us monitoring the event on the social media can ensure that any necessary information is passed quickly and efficiently to where it is needed – including identifying those who are intentionally circulating misinformation.
During the past year, various members of the public have learned a great deal about how to effectively communicate during various protests and demonstrations. Provided the social media is not censored – which has been known elsewhere – we all ought to be able to support each other to ensure overall public safety. This post aims to contribute to this.
If there is anything you think I’ve missed or needs including, please post these in the comments below. Our arguments are not between different sections of the public sector – the problems are with blatantly corrupt government acting in its own personal interest together all those who support them. We empower them by fighting amongst ourselves and they are already drunk with the stuff. We disempower them by working together, overcoming personal prejudices about each other and keeping our collective eye on demanding a government answerable to the electorate and not its corporate masters.
Let’s all be safe out there on Saturday but let’s all be prepared to identify those who want us to fight each other, whoever they might be – police or demonstrators – because they won’t be acting in the public interest.