Sunday, 12 June 2011

Kettling & A Generation We Can Be Proud Of

In November last year there was, in among all of the other protests that have become increasingly frequent in the last year, a protest against the increase in university tuition fees and the scrapping of the EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance), among other educational issues.

At that demonstration a large number of people including many school children were kettled by police for up to eight hours; this despite the High Court ruling in April this year that police have previously used the tactic when there was  “no reasonable” justification for doing so.

Photo credit: bobaliciouslondon
The regular kettling of protestors at demonstrations and the apparently unjustified detention of individuals in London on the day of the royal wedding appear to be just a couple of indications that the Metropolitan Police are increasingly protective of government policies and the image of senior figures, rather than the security and interests of the general public.

There is good news however. While some would deride the students that chose to protest for their right to an education (probably a tosser at the Daily Mail or Conservative Cllr Andrew Mennear, who described the day of action as “organised truancy”) I congratulate them on standing up for their beliefs and values. It is deeply regrettable that they were kettled as a punishment for doing so.

Last week though, a few of the students kettled at that protest announced that they will be dragging the Metropolitan Police back to the High Court to account for their actions. Good for them.

I’m sending them a letter (and my very best wishes):

Will Gilmour
* ██████████
Adam Castle, Rosie Castle and Sam Eaton
c/o Acland Burghley School
93 Burghley Road
12 June 2011

Dear Mr Castle, Miss Castle and Mr Eaton,

I wanted to write and commend you for your commitment and chutzpah in seeking a judicial review of the kettling tactics employed against children by the Metropolitan Police at the education protest in November last year.

It was important that the BBC reproduced your statement on their website that, "As children we can't vote, so one of the best ways for us to voice our opinion is through protest and if that's stopped or inhibited by kettling then where are we left?" It is essential that the freedom to protest is recognised and protected.

I think your observation that, “It seemed like a punishment [for attending a] protest” is very accurate and is one which is both fully understood and fully intended by those that sanction such measures. Clearly this is unacceptable.

There appears recently to be a trend against lawful protest. Actions taken at the anti-cuts and the education protests, and the arbitrary arrests (detention and subsequent release without charge) on the day of the royal wedding are damaging to a developed and democratic society.

It disturbs me, as it evidently does you, that the police seem to be willing to misapply certain powers, intended to protect the public, to an extent that they are used as a punishment. Such actions are carried out without a determination as to if they are just. It could easily appear to some that the police are acting to quell the intent of the public to protest (and to punish those that peacefully do so) in the interests of certain political interests rather than the protection of the general public.

It is high time that the police should be held to account for such actions and I am delighted that we have a generation who is prepared to voice its opinions and act on those beliefs in order to ensure that those responsible for unjust actions are answerable.

I read in your school’s newsletter your statement that you, “will not sit back and do nothing. We will defend our freedom to protest. We will defend our human rights.”

Good work! I hope that July goes very well for you. Good luck also, Adam and Sam, for your GCSEs.

Yours sincerely,

Will Gilmour
The case is due before the High Court for a two-day hearing starting on Tuesday 5th July.

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