Thursday, April 02, 2009

Anarchy in the U.K.?

Watching the news yesterday, it was easy to believe that London was just one big riot, with blood-covered police and protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks, crowds of people under signs that say "ABOLISH MONEY" and people smashing things just for the sake of smashing them.

This radio report paints a slightly different picture:

Protesters Converge On London's G-20 Summit : NPR (Morning Edition, April 2, 2009)

From this report, it sounds like police took what was a somewhat peaceful protest and turned it into a riot scene by forming a cordon around the protesters, refusing to let anyone out, and then tightening the cordon.

It's nothing new. I traveled to Ireland as the invasion of Iraq began in 2003, and when I came back I received first-hand accounts of how Washington, D.C. police had done the same thing - took a peaceful, properly-permitted protest and forced it into a no-escape situation, and then escalated tensions by drumming their clubs on their shields in a syncopated, aggressive, and threatening manner. Protesters were detained in this manner for hours, in violation of their previously-secured permits. Business as usual. Standard operating procedure.

Not to say that there weren't dangerous or potentially violent elements there - though protests in the U.S. don't attract violent anarchists the way protests in Europe do. I believe Jean-Paul Sartre in the play Dirty Hands said something along the lines that any damn fool can throw a grenade, but it takes some skill to build or create. Too often European anarchists, it seems to me, are doing what they do not out of any sort of conviction, but just because they are in love with chaos and violence and want to smash things up.

Soon the G-20 summit will end. The London police will pack away their riot gear, at least until the next soccer match. And the anarchists will go back to whatever comfortable lives they have whenever they're not making everybody else's lives miserable. Until next time.


MaryRuth said...

Torrance is the proud host of the longest-running Armed Forces Day Parade--50th Anniv this year in fact. It is actually a pretty cool parade and had more "stuff" in it in the years before all the tanks and stuff got shipped off to Iraq, etc.
Anyway...such events draw a certain amount of protesters and I was appalled to see how they are treated: A fenced-off area quite a distance from the parade route (and handily close to the PD) with a sign that says "free speech area".

D.B. Echo said...

I first became aware of "Free Speech Zones" - fenced-off encampments far out of sight and hearing of anyone who you want to actually see or hear what you have to say - during the 2004 DNC and RNC conventions, but it turns out this novel concept in restricting free speech has been around for a while.

If you want to get angry, rent (or buy, it might be cheaper) the DVD of "This Revolution". It's a pseudo-documentary about activists during the 2004 RNC, shot during the RNC. Look for the "Rosario Dawson Arrest" bonus piece. While they were filming, police arrived in the area of New York City where they were being permitted to film and arrested actress Rosario Dawson (who was playing a protester) for having her face covered and refusal to disperse - claiming she was ignoring orders they had given her previously, apparently before they were even there! They either didn't notice or didn't care that everything they were doing, and everything that had been going on before they roared up, was being filmed, and also arrested the director for interfering with an arrest when he presented them with their film permits. Charges were not dropped until several weeks later. Dawson may or may not still be on terrorist "no fly" lists as a result of this incident.

MaryRuth said...

Wow I never knew this was a real thing...I'll have to check out these links. I thought it was just the over-zealous TPD. I guess it used to be really bad in the 70's when napalm was being manufactured in Torrance.
I marched in the 2003 anti-war protest here in better believe I covered my face! But it was pretty peaceful and nobody went nuts.