It's the coldest day of the year, and I've just spent seven hours being kettled in Westminster. That sounds jolly, doesn't it? It sounds a bit like I went and had a lovely cup of tea with the Queen, rather than being trapped into a freezing pen of frightened teenagers and watching baton-wielding police kidney-punching children, six months into a government that ran an election campaign on a platform of fairness. So before we go any further, let's remind ourselves precisely what kettling is, and what it's for. Take a protest, one whose premise is uncomfortable for the administration - say, yesterday's protest, with thousands of teenagers from all over London walking out of lessons and marching spontaneously on Westminster to voice their anger at government cuts to education funding which will prevent thousands from attending college and university. Toss in hundreds of police officers with riot shields, batons, dogs, armoured horses and meat wagons, then block the protesters into an area of open space with no toilets, food or shelter, for hours. If anyone tries to leave, shout at them and hit them with sticks. It doesn't sound like much, but it's effective. I didn't understand quite how bad things had become in this country until I saw armoured cops being deployed against schoolchildren in the middle of Whitehall. These young people joined the protest to defend their right to learn, but in the kettle they are quickly coming to realise that their civil liberties are of less consequence to this government than they had ever imagined The term 'kettle' is rather apt, given that penning already-outraged people into a small space tends to make tempers boil and give the police an excuse to turn up the heat, and it doesn't take long for that to happen. When they understand that are being prevented from marching to parliament by three lines of cops and a wall of riot vans, the kids at the front of the protest begin to moan. "It's ridiculous that they won't let us march," says Melissa, 15, who has never been in trouble before. "We can't even vote yet, we should be allowed to have our say." The chant goes up: "what do we want? The right to protest!" At first, the cops give curt answers to the kids demanding to know why they can't get through. Then they all seem to get some sort of signal, because suddenly the polite copper in front of me is screaming in my face, shoving me hard in the back of the head, raising his baton, and the protesters around me are yelling and running back. Some of them have started to shake down a set of iron railings to get out, and the cops storm forward, pushing us right through those railings, leaving twenty of us sprawling in the rubble of road works with cracked knees. When they realised that they are trapped, the young protesters panic. The crush of bodies is suddenly painful - my scarf is ripped away from me and I can hear my friend Clare calling for her son - and as I watch the second line of police advance, with horses following behind them, as I watch a surge of teenagers carrying a rack of iron railings towards the riot guard and howling to be released, I realise they're not going to stop, and the monkey instinct kicks in. I scramble up a set of traffic lights, just in time to see a member of the Metropolitan police grab a young protester by the neck and hurl him back into the crowd. Behind me, some kids have started to smash up a conveniently empty old police van that's been abandoned in the middle of the road. "Let us out!" they chant. "Let us out!" A 13-year old girl starts to hyperventilate, tears squeezing in raw trails over her frightened face, unable to tear her face away from the fight - I put a hand on her back and hurry her away from the police line, Her name is Alice, and she is from a private school. "Just because I won't be affected by the EMA cuts doesn't mean I don't care about the government lying," she says, "but I want to go home now. I have to find my friend." As darkness falls and we realise we're not going anywhere, the protesters start to light fires to keep warm. First, they burn their placards, the words 'rich parents for all!' going up in flames, with a speed and efficiency gleaned from recent CV-boosting outdoor camping activities. Then, as the temperature drops below freezing, they start looking for anything else to burn, notebooks and snack wrappers - although one young man in an anarchist scarf steps in to stop me tossing an awful historical novel onto the pyre. "You can't burn books," he says, "we're not Nazis." As I look around at this burnt-out children's crusade, I start to wonder where the hell the student activists are. Whatever the news says, this is emphatically not a rabble led by a gang of determined troublemakers out to smash things for fun. In fact, we could do with a few more seasoned radicals here, because they tend to know what to do at demonstrations when things get out of hand. I find myself disappointed in the principled anarchists and student activists I know, who aren't here because they've decided that the best way to make their presence felt is by occupying their own lecture halls. I realise that these school pupils are the only ones who really understand what's going on: even people my age, the students and graduates who got in just before the fee hike, are still clinging to the last scraps of that dream of a better future, still a little bit afraid to make a fuss. These teenagers, on the other hand, know that it's all nonsense. They sat their school exams during the worst recession in living memory, and they aren't taken by the promise of jobs, of education, of full lives and safe places to live.They understand that those things are now reserved for the rich, and the white heat of their rage is a comfort even behind the police lines in this sub-zero chill. Smaller children and a pregnant woman huddle closer to the fires. Everyone is stiff and hungry, and our phones are beginning to lose signal: the scene is Dante-esque, billows of smoke and firelight making it unclear where the noises of crying and chanting and the whine of helicopters are coming from. This is the most important part of a kettle, when it's gone on for too long and you're cold and frightened and just want to go home. Trap people in the open with no water or toilets or space to sit down and it takes a shockingly short time to reduce ordinary kids to a state of primitive physical need. This is savage enough when it's done on a warm summer day to people who thought to bring blankets, food and first aid. It's unspeakably cruel when it's done on the coldest night of the year, in sub-zero temperatures, to minors, some of whom don't even have a jumper. Some of them have fainted, and need medical attention, or the loo. They won't let us out. That's the point of a kettle. They want to make you uncomfortable, and then desperate, putting your route back to warmth and safety in the gift of the agents of the state. They decide when you can get back to civilisation. They decide when the old people can get warm, when the diabetics can get their insulin, when the kid having a panic attack can go home to her mum. It's a way of making you feel small and scared and helpless, a way for the state's agents to make you feel that you are nothing without them, making you forget that a state is supposed to survive by mandate of the people, and not the other way around. Strangers draw together around the makeshift campfires in this strange new warzone right at the heart of London. A schoolgirl tosses her homework diary to feed the dying flames. "I don't even know you, but I love you," says another girl, and they hug each other for warmth. "Hands up who's getting a bollocking from their parents right now?" says a kid in a hoodie, and we all giggle. He's got a point. This morning, the parents and teachers of Britain woke up angry, in the sure and certain knowledge that the administration they barely elected is quite prepared to hurt their children if they don't do as they are told. It's not looking good for this government. This spontaneous, leaderless demonstration, this children's crusade, was only the second riot in two weeks, and now that the mums and dads of Britain are involved, the Coalition may quickly begin to lose the argument on why slashing the state down to its most profitable parts and abandoning children, young people, the disabled and the unemployed to the cruel wheel of the market is absolutely necessary. Let the government worry about the mums and dads, though - I'm worried about the kids. I'm worried about the young people I saw yesterday, sticking it out in the cold, looking after one another, brave and resolute. I'm worried about those school pupils who threw themselves in front of the police van to protect it from damage, the children who tried to stop other children from turning a peaceful protest into an angry mob - and succeeded. I'm worried that today, those children feel like they've done something wrong, when they are, in fact, the only people in the country so far who've had the guts to stand up for what's right. The point of a police kettle is to make you feel small and scared, to strike at the childish part of every person that's frightened of getting in trouble. You and I know, however, that we're already in trouble. All we get to decide is what kind of trouble we want to be in. Yesterday, the children of Britain made their decision, and we should be bloody proud of them today.
No government has any right to do this. The fuckhead(s) responsible for this needs to be punished.
Voice of joy and sunshine
26th May 2003
What do you expect? For years what has determined a policeman's employment, and his area's efficiency is the number of arrests he gets. The quickest way to get arrests is to be an arsehole to people and wait for them to stand up for themselves. The police have been becoming increasingly less moral for decades. Sad to say most of them are just jackbooted thugs these days.
I wonder who came up with that plan. It is either an incredibly dumb idea of someone who wanted to contain potential troublemakers in an area that can be controlled with few cops or a clever plan to escalate the situation.
I watched that protest live. Am I the only one who doesn't give a fuck about the kettling? Sure, it's probably not the best tactic ever - but what else would people suggest?
They contained them in an area - but it wasn't a particularly small area, there was a lot of room to move. the only stupid thing was not letting people out, yet letting more people in.
Perhaps slightly off topic, but if anyone watched it live on Sky News, did anyone notice, during the 5 o'clock report, they convieniently cut the bits of the police using their batons against the students before that one police officer was pulled away? Also, they used different shots of the same attack on the same, singular, abandoned van to portray how the idiots were acting?
Notice, I said 'idiots', not students, because there were two seperate groups of people there.
This is messed up, but I suppose the UK has been going down this road for quite some time. I wonder if people will take this totalitarian treatment much longer, or will they realize that taking to the streets in (armed) masses might be the only option left?
IcePure;5429781I watched that protest live. Am I the only one who doesn't give a fuck about the kettling? Sure, it's probably not the best tactic ever - but what else would people suggest?[/QUOTE] To keep it civil rather than using unprovoked violence to try to get good propaganda footage of the crowd when they would stop taking it without a response? Arrest any troublemakers and protect the marching route of the rest rather than make them freeze and pee themselves?
[QUOTE=IcePure;5429781]the only stupid thing was not letting people out, yet letting more people in.
It doesn't really work well as torture if you let people out...
MrFancypants;5429764I wonder who came up with that plan. It is either an incredibly dumb idea of someone who wanted to contain potential troublemakers in an area that can be controlled with few cops or a clever plan to escalate the situation.[/QUOTE]Kettling is used quite frequently by the Metropolitan Police to control large demonstrations that are seen as having the potential to turn violent. You might have heard about the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G-20 protests last year, during what was probably the most infamous example of its use. Given what occurred at the last student protest, it's understandable that they would want to keep this crowd under tight control. But in my view this is not a reasonable basis on which to essentially detain peaceful protesters under threat of physical violence. In cases such as this, there should at the very least be some level of discretion used by officers at the scene in determining whether it's really necessary for certain people to be kept within the kettle for protracted periods.[QUOTE=Huffardo;5429794]To keep it civil rather than using unprovoked violence to try to get good propaganda footage of the crowd when they would stop taking it without a response?
Any violence involved would be a result of people trying to force their way out of the kettle. This is not by way of a justification but it's not as though the police just descended on a peaceful protest with batons waving.
IcePure;5429781I watched that protest live. Am I the only one who doesn't give a fuck about the kettling? Sure, it's probably not the best tactic ever - but what else would people suggest?[/QUOTE]
No, I don't really care either.
Out of a set of options of:-
A) Let students storm the treasury building as they did the office building last time around. B) Detain groups where they can't do any damage C) Let them riot and shoot the rioters
I think "B" is probably the best, though i'd be quite happy with "C" personally. Obviously, "A" is a non starter.
[QUOTE=Huffardo;5429794]This is messed up, but I suppose the UK has been going down this road for quite some time. I wonder if people will take this totalitarian treatment much longer, or will they realize that taking to the streets in (armed) masses might be the only option left?
Uh. I'm in the UK. Totalitarian treatment was the last government. This government was the one that killed the ID card scheme etc.
I can understand the police blocking certain areas to prevent damage from protesters/rioters. I can even understand surrounding a group on 3 sides, while allowing the protesters to disperse. In both cases you are giving the casual protester, observers, and bystanders to get out of the way. From what I have read(including that obviously biased article) kettling does not disperse protesters, nor does it prevent damage. If anything kettling is similar to an Agent provocateur in that the police are antagonizing people to the point of violence.
Thankfully the US does not kettle people for hours on end. The only time I have seen anything close to kettling was during the G-20 in 2008 when they surrounded 50-75 protesters and arrested all of them. Before they surrounded the protesters, they gave them 90 minutes to disperse, and they stated 60 minutes before that force would be used to disperse the crowd.
I know there are quite a few members on here from England. If you are going to attend one of the future protests, show up on a bike and stay out of the big crowds. I have been in 3 riots on a bike. You will get a good view of everything that is going on because you can stand 3-4inches(7.5-10cm) higher, and you can cover much more ground. If things start to get bad you can get out of the way long before any gas is used, arrests happen, or kettling occurs.
Whilst I wouldn't say I agree with this, you can hardly blame the Police. Think of it as a little payback from them or something. People mention the students getting hit with batons and the like, but police officers have been injured too.
Every protest we've had this past month has generally been just that, a protest. At least, it's started out as such. It only becomes a riot later. I'm willing to bet that half the people rioting aren't even students, they're just troublemakers who have seen an opportunity to cause havoc.
What humours me; they're making these protests (and rioting) because uni fee's are going up. This is happening because the government can't afford to keep said fee's as low as they have been. So instead of reserving some cash, these protesters and criminals are going out and causing more damage, which will need repairing / replacing. Where exactly is the money for that going to come from? Yeah, you got it. You.
I'm all for protesting if the case deserves it, but the riots we've been having are hardly responsible of the actual cause. The only benefit here, is that the government may respond more to riots than they would simple protests, but even if they reduce the uni fee's, they're only going to put the money they need onto something else, probably our taxes.
Children's Crusade... that's an apt analogy.
MrFancypants;5429764I wonder who came up with that plan. It is either an incredibly dumb idea of someone who wanted to contain potential troublemakers in an area that can be controlled with few cops or a clever plan to escalate the situation.
You say that like its a bad thing. Was this plan not effective? It taught the masses to stay in their place, didn't it? These children are future voters, so its good to teach them to be sheep at an early age.