Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Alan Johnson's contempt for protest

The Guardian have done some sterling work in digging into the use, or rather misuse, of surveillance and intelligence gathering by the police into the activities of protesters and dissenting voices domestic extremists this week. This being work that is overseen by a body neither democratically accountable or bound by Freedom of Information law.

The comments from those in power seem to have been glossed over somewhat, but reveal the kind of contempt they hold for protest, something which - need I really say this? - is a fundamental human right.

First of all, Anton Setchell, national co-ordinator of domestic extremism operations for ACPO, said of innocent people having their data stored: "Everyone who has got a criminal record did not have one once."

So we're all potential criminals now, are we? Or potential domestic extremists? (A ludicrous moniker were it not such a horrible issue)

Then Alan Johnson, the home secretary, said: "The police know what they are doing, they know how to tackle these demonstrations, they do it very effectively."

As the Next Left blog has pointed out, the Inspectorate of Constabulary said in July "that the police did not have a correct understanding of the law in planning and carrying out their operations at the G20 protests", which kinds of contradicts the Home Secretary's belief in them doing a good job.

Secondly, Johnson says: "If the police want to use that [domestic extremism] as a term, I certainly wouldn't fall to the floor clutching my box of Kleenex."

So he thinks demonstrations are something to be "tackled", does he? Is that how much regard he holds for protesters and demonstrators? He also thinks they are tackled "effectively", does he? Has he actually paid any attention to any of the coverage of protests over the years? Did he not see thousands of people detained without access to food, water or toilets for hours on end at the G20 protests in April? Is this his idea of "effective" protest management? Because the only part of the current style of protest management that's effective is in minimising disruption to the lives of those not taking part. Sod the right to protest.

Furthermore, he then makes an offensive (to me at least) remark about falling to the floor clutching a box of Kleenex. Well listen up Alan. Have you ever been kettled for hours on end? Have you ever been denied access to food, water and toilets whilst taking part in a protest? Have you ever had your number plate scanned, simply for being present at a protest? Have you ever been stopped and searched, then forced to comply with having your photo taken by the pigs and threatened with arrest if you don't do so? Have you ever been baton charged by the police, or threatened with or suffered from physical violence by the brutes in blue, simply for making a statement of a cause you believe in?

Because many people have. I've personally suffered some of that behaviour and wouldn't be surprised if the mugshot taken of me outside a squat near Liverpool St Station has been added to the "domestic extremist" database, despite having done no more than obstruct a public highway.

Is it any wonder people take to the roof of Parliament or the chimneys of power stations when our politicians treat us with such sneering contempt as this prat Johnson, whenever we dare to diverge from the government's point of view from climate change to the arms trade, to hold our own opinion, express our dismay with and stand up to the big business love in of the New Labour regime?

It's no laughing matter fit for ridicule or mollification by scrotes like the Home Secretary effectively laugh away an attack on our civil liberties, an attack that is symbolic of their erosion under the New Labour state.

I'll leave you with two questions posed by the Next Left in their same post about Alan Johnson, which I'd love to see the smug arse answer too:

First question: Do you, Alan Johnson, agree with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary that the first duty of the police in engaging with demonstrators is to facilitate peaceful protest?

Second question: Do you, Alan Johnson, think it is compatible with this first duty for the police/ACPO to make it its business to collect data indiscriminately on people who choose to engage in peaceful protest?

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