Friday 3 April 2009

Why hasn't the BBC shown this film?

In two recent posts (here and here) I have written about the 'kettling' tactics used by the police at the Climate Camp at Bishopsgate, April 1.

I have now also looked at the Comments thread of an excellent article on kettling by Louise Christian at The Guardian's excellent Liberty Central (pointed in this direction by Rachael Jolley). There is another very vivid account of events early on in the Comments thread by BethMcGrath. I also came across a link to this film which shows the police in action at the Climate Camp, Bishopsgate, in the early evening of April 1. My understanding - someone correct me if I'm wrong, since we are all still struggling to get the full picture (well, I am) - is that it shows the police at one end of Bishopsgate moving in to form the 'kettle' around the Camp.

Please, please take the time to download and watch the film. If you're a Labour party member, like me, please look past the opening pop at Gordon Brown.

I find the dignity of the protestors, chanting 'This is not a riot' and 'Shame on you', extremely moving.

They represent democracy at its best. A conscientious popular will affirming itself with dignity in the face of arbitrary state power.

So far as I am aware, there has been no coverage of this, or of a related kind, on the BBC over the past few days.

There was, however, a package at the end of the BBC Newsnight Review program on Friday, April 3, on the 'culture of demonstration'. (See the final ten minutes or so of the program.)

Michael Crick's introduction makes a valiant effort to situate recent protest in the history of British democracy.

I will leave it to Next Left readers, having perhaps read BethMcGrath in the Comments thread at Liberty Central, and viewed rikki's film of events at the Climate Camp, to form their own judgment about how much the panelists in the ensuing discussion know about what happened on April 1 or the nature of contemporary protest in general.

Postscript (added April 7): the link to the film at Indymedia wasn't working, so I have relinked to the film at YouTube.


DocRichard said...

Well said. And the death of ian Tomlinson is being given a complete ignoral by the corporate media. I have collected eyewitness accounts of poor Ian Tomlinson's death on the Mabinogogiblog.

In (cross party) solidarity,

Lewis Cooper said...

Your description of the events on Wednesday, and the way this has been taken up with positive suggestions as to how this might be moved on, has been excellent. I too was at the demonstrations on Wednesday, visiting both the Climate Camp and the protests around the Bank of England. My friend and I managed to avoid being kettled in around the Bank of England on two occasions (stewards did their best to warn when they saw riot police planning to block people in), although on the second occasion I was hit by a policeman in full riot gear as I ran to avoid being penned in. You can see a further example of an Al-Jazeera reporter’s experience of being hemmed in and charged at by the police here. As you say, this type of action is fairly profound, and the potential negative consequences of any use of police violence are such that it really should be limited more than it was.

There are positives to be taken from the situation, though. One is the general outrage which seems to be emerging against the police tactics. There was a discussion of the issue of kettling on 'Any Answers' on Radio 4 yesterday, in which a number of very moderate-sounding people describe their experiences at the protest, and the excessive use of force by the police (and their rudeness!). Yours and Sunder’s suggestions for avenues for taking this forward seem thus likely to be met with general public support.

The way in which the protests were recorded and this information distributed is also positive, as a further demonstration of the benefits of the internet in allowing circumvention of the mainstream media on occasions where this proves necessary (as I believe it has here, in part).

A further positive is the fact that the climate camp protestors clearly come out so well out of all of this- the image of them holding their hands in the air to demonstrate their peaceful intentions as they are hit at with batons and shields is extremely powerful, and certainly shows the power of well-organised direct action.

Protestors challenging the tactic of kettling used against them at May Day protests a few years ago have just announced their intention to take the issue to the European Court of Human Rights (having lost the case in the House of Lords), and so there is hope that the tactic could be challenged successfully there. At the very least, police should have to fully justify any use of kettling in terms of specific security risks, as would occur with hooliganism at a football match or violence in a city centre on a Friday or Saturday night after last orders. This would without question have prevented its use against the climate camp protestors on Wednesday, and at the very least severely limited its use around the Bank of England.

Lewis Cooper said...

The links didn't work- the reporter being charged at can be seen here

'Any Answers' can be heard here

Announcement to take the issue of kettling to the ECRH can be seen here

Stuart White said...

Thanks for these comments and links, Lewis. I am sorry - and, still, truth be told, amazed - to hear that you were hit by a police officer.

I agree that there are also positives - not least the emerging vindication of what we can call the 'people's media' - the various narratives and films from people on the ground that have appeared in cyberspace in the past few days, enabling us to slowly piece together what happened. Its a sort of 'counter-1984' scenario: ordinary citizens are using technology to create a practice of 'counter-surveillance' which is helping to keep the police accountable for their actions. In one comment thread I have read, someone noted that some in the police, and some 'politicians', have suggested banning the filming or photographing of police while on duty. The events of April 1 show us why, if it did happen, it would be an unmitigated disaster for our democratic liberties.

Lewis Cooper said...

The law you mention being suggested actually did come into effect in February, as part of the 2008 Counter-Terrorism Act.

The act states (in section 76) that a person commits an offence who "elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been" a member of the army, intelligence services or a constable, where this information is likely to be of use in committing or preparing terrorist acts. It is similarly an offence to publish this information.

The worry at the time was that this law could be used against anyone photographing police officers, under the auspices of a threat of terrorism- the charge would then be dropped, or laughed out of court, but by this time the act the photographer had been covering would be long gone, and any pictures taken would in all probablity have been deleted.

I was relieved- and somewhat surprised- that the new power was not to my knowledge used last week, but the existence of this power, and the serious potential for abuse that it represents, is of great concern.

Lewis Cooper said...

A Downing Street spokesperson cited in the BJP article suggests that the fact the power was not exercised last week is little cause for calm:

"Each situation will be different and it would be an operational matter for the officer concerned as to what action if any should be taken in respect of those taking photographs."

Stuart White said...

Lewis: many thanks for that information. I am ashamed I was so uninformed about the matter. Things are really a lot worse than I realised when I happily set off for the Climate Camp on lunchtime of April 1....

danismell said...

Stuart, thank you for publishing such a candid piece on the events that took place on April 1st.
I was at the Climate Camp on Bishopsgate from 3pm until approximately 7.45pm on that day and witnessed first hand the brutality that the protesters suffered at the hands of the police.
I myself was repeatedly threatened by an officer with his face covered and no visible means of identification. He repeatedly thrust his sheild into my face whilst screaming with rage and then went on, along with three fellow officers, to attack a young man with their sheilds whilst he had his hands in the air.
This action, though hugely upsetting, was not what I felt to be the worst behaviour of the day. That honour is reserved for both members of the press and for some police officers. One television news correspondent I spoke to appeared not to care what was happening at the south limit of the climate camp as the violence began to unfold. When I pointed out what was happening to this man and his cameraman, he simply rolled his eyes and told me he knew what was happening and continued to, in effect, shoo me away. Further to this I then witnessed police officers forcing members of the press away from the area and stopping them from filming or photographing the situation on Bishopsgate.
I found this blatant repression of the truth, from both the press and the police, to be utterly gut wrenching and thoroughly un-democratic.