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The 'Turn your back on Thatcher' protest at Ludgate circus, as Mrs Thatcher's coffin approached. Photo: from video by thegoldengirlk8: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDW3mXrz44M
The 'Turn your back on Thatcher' protest at Ludgate circus, as Mrs Thatcher's coffin approached. Photo: from video by thegoldengirlk8: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDW3mXrz44M
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Protestors have nothing to gain from liaising with police

Rececca Lush Blum

2nd February 2014.

The Metropolitan Police invited Rebecca Lush Blum - who organised the 'Turn your back on Thatcher' protest in 2013 - to attend a seminar to discuss police liaison with protesters. She refused in this powerful letter ...

Why on earth would anyone wish to inform the police of their protest plans, only for the police then to use this information to sabotage them?

There will always be huge problems and issues with people liaising with police about demonstrations they wish to hold or attend.

We have the right to protest in this country. We have a proud tradition of protest, which is a vital part of our democracy. It is also protected by legislation, including the Human Rights Act.

There is no requirement to liaise with police

There is absolutely no need to liaise with the police about protests. We should just simply get on and do it!

The police should have no role in protests, other than to prevent law breaking - including corporate law breaking and neglected and under resourced areas such as wildlife crime.

I have never sought permission from or liaised with the police over the many protests I have been involved with, except one.

I felt I had no option but to liaise with the police over the 'Turn your back on Thatcher' protest at Mrs Thatcher's funeral, due to the media hysteria and the inaccurate reporting of a ban on protests.

Police intolerance of peaceful protest

Also the recent history of the Met's policing of protests shows an intolerance of peaceful protest, with the police actively working to make sure that protests are disrupted and not allowed to happen, with such indiscriminate policies such as 'kettling'.

Similarly the police often seek to render protests ineffective by forcing protesters into 'designated protest areas'.

Also remember the Met's decades long infiltration of peaceful protest movements with undercover police, the resulting miscarriage of justices, the devastating impacts on individuals' lives this has had, and the Met's subsequent and continued failure to confirm the existence of these spies, and attempts to strike out resulting legal actions.

These have completely reinforced feelings that the police are not neutral, but are simply there to undermine and prevent protests - even if it involves breaking the law and causing serious harm to individuals.

Institutional lies and cover-ups

Similarly the evidence of the role of the police in colluding with the illegal blacklisting of workers by companies again reinforces the view the police are not neutral, but actively take sides.

Hillsborough also demonstrates how the police will institutionally lie and cover up their wrong-doing.

To use a current example, the violent policing of peaceful environmental protests by Greater Manchester Police at Barton Moss shows how far the police will go to protect corporate interests.

They pushed over elderly residents, beat up a disabled man and hit a woman in the mouth in the back of a police van -  just to give a few recent examples.

So, the police have understandably been seen by the public as anti-protest and anti-democratic. Why on earth would anyone wish to inform the police of their protest plans, only for the police then to use this information to sabotage them?

Thatcher funeral - my fears of 'kettling'

My circumstances with the Thatcher funeral were that I needed to seek reassurance from the police that they would not 'kettle' a peaceful, symbolic back-turning protest I wanted to publicise, as I had child care responsibilities later that day.

I felt so strongly about the State Funeral of such a loathsome figure as Thatcher, I wished to make some kind of protest, but needed to assess and mitigate the risks to myself and my children. I knew there were many others in a similar situation.

I wasn't seeking the police's 'help', but was asking directly if the police would respond aggressively to an important protest.

I resented the fact that I had to seek reassurance from the police that I would be able to do something I should have been able to do anyway.

Low expectations of police behaviour

What my experience should demonstrate to you (the police) is not that I was a 'good protester', and a model of how protests can be facilitated in the future.

Instead it shows the low expectations people have of the police's respect for the right to protest. It justifies the public's suspicions that the police are there simply to undermine any protests - and that PLO's purpose is to simply gather intelligence.

I was also worried about the possibly violent reaction of some of the supporters of Thatcher, and asked for a separate protest area.

The police were unwilling to facilitate this for reasons that were never clear, preferring instead to create a potentially volatile situation where protesters mixed with mourners.

My feeling afterwards was that the Met would not arrange a separate protest area simply because they wished to prevent those protesting from achieving a clearly visible presence for the media - yet again undermining our effectiveness and underlining the Met's lack of neutrality.

See Youtube video of protest.

Police reform - then liaison!

So, I am of the opinion that there will never be a use for 'police liaison' at protests so long as:

 

  • the police continue to undermine protests;
  • there is a complete lack of trust between those who wish to create a better world;
  • and the police are there to maintain the injustices we protest about.

 

I hope the above is helpful for you to understand why there is a complete lack of interest in cooperation between protest movements and police liaison teams.

Of course I am not speaking on behalf of anyone, and this is my own personal view, and others may feel differently.

 


 

Rebecca Lush Blum is a mother and environmental activist. She organised the 'Turn your back on Thatcher' protest at Mrs Thatcher's funeral on 17th April 2013.

 

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