Monday, March 23, 2009

Police heavy handed at protests

Sometimes people get it. Not often and very little is done about such obvious conclusions, but sometimes they see what everybody should see.

The British Joint Select Committee on Human Rights criticizes the police for being way too heavy handed, even during peaceful protests, and for using the anti terror laws way too often, as an excuse for acting against a given body of protesters.

Protesters’ property is unlawfully seized, police is using of Taser stun guns «way too quickly, a tool that should be used only in emergencies», and that «officers are often undue aggressive, unnecessarily raising the temperature of the crowds», to name a few things.

They are also using «legal powers» not designed to deal with protests, like anti-social behavior legislation and the Protection from Harassment Act from 1997.

At the Climate Camp protest in Kent last year there were 1500 officers, including riot police called in to deal with 1000 protesters.

Committee chairman Andrew Dismore said:

«The right to protest is a fundamental democratic right and one that the state and police have a duty to protect and facilitate.

Of course there is a balance to be struck between the rights of protesters, the police and the public, but the state must not impose restrictions unless it is necessary, and proportionate, to do so.

That is a high threshold. The presumption is in favour of protest without state interference. We believe there are changes to the law and practice that are needed to make that presumption a reality.»

Journalists are also often given undue «attention» by the police, keeping them from properly reporting from a given scene.

All this from a government body, a government that has imposed tons of new, oppressive legislation on an unsuspecting public the last decades. I guess the committee feels obliged to at least point out some «flaws».

The association of Chief police officers had, as usual little to contribute to everything, except the usual sweeping statement that «the British approach to policing of protests is recognised as among the best in the world».