G20 Protests: Riot Police, or Rioting Police?

At the G20 protests in London only one group appears to be looking for violent confrontation – and it's not the protesters

The trouble-makers are out in force
again. Dressed in black, their faces partly obscured, some of them
appear to be interested only in violent confrontation. It's almost as
if they are deliberately raising the temperature, pushing and pushing
until a fight kicks off. But this isn't some disorganised rabble: these
people were bussed in and are plainly acting in concert. There's
another dead giveaway. They are all wearing the same slogan: Police.

The police have been talking up violence at the G20 protests for weeks. They briefed journalists and companies in the City of London about the evil designs of the climate campaigners intending to demonstrate
there, but refused to let the campaigners attend the briefings and put
their own side of the story. They also rebuffed the campaigners when
they sought to explain to the police what they wanted to do.

The way officers tooled themselves up in riot gear and waded into a peaceful crowd
this afternoon makes it look almost as if they were trying to ensure
that their predictions came true. Their bosses appear to have failed
either to read or to heed the report by the parliamentary committee on
human rights last week, about the misuse of police powers
against protesters. "Whilst we recognise police officers should not be
placed at risk of serious injury," the report said, "the deployment of
riot police can unnecessarily raise the temperature at protests."

there has always been a conflict of interest inherent in policing. The
police are supposed to prevent crime and keep the streets safe. But if
they are too successful, they do themselves out of a job. They have a
powerful interest in exaggerating threats and, perhaps, an interest in
ensuring that sometimes these threats materialise. This could explain
what I've seen at one protest
after another, where peaceful demonstrations turn into ugly rucks only
when the police attack. The wildly disproportionate and unnecessary
violence I've sometimes seen the police deploy could scarcely be better
designed to provoke a reaction.

If this is so, they lose
nothing. They might get the occasional rap over the knuckles from MPs
or the police complaints commission. It doesn't seem to bother them. By
planting the idea in the public mind that the streets could erupt into
catastrophic violence at any time, were it not for the thick blue line
thrown around even the mildest protest, they establish the need for a
heavy police presence. While the public lives in fear, no government
dares to cut the policing budget.

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