I miss going on demos. The last one I attended I suppose sent me off on a high. It was the millions strong march against Blair’s taking us into the illegal war on Iraq. I remember the sea of flags making its way past Charing Cross as we came out of the station. We were so many it became impossible to tell apart the march and London itself.
The reason I don’t go is ‘kettling’. This police tactic, holding people in a confined area for long periods of time I find very frightening as someone who is an occasional wheelchair user and full time physically enfeebled. The tactic seems designed to have a deterrent effect so I do realise in not going I am accepting a restriction on my right to free speech and free assembly.
As western governments continue their attempt to resolve the problems created by capital markets by driving down the expectations of the working and living conditions of their peoples the response to protest seems to be becoming increasingly draconian.
In Cataluna, the criminalisation of dissidence is condemned by the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture (financed by the Council of Europe) for brutal treatment of ‘indignados’ in evicting them from Plaza Cataluna on 27 may. Actions also condemned by Amnesty International. Police officers are also criticised for hiding their numbers. The report also describes the use of rubber bullets by poice that has led to at least seven people losing their sight after being hit in the eye since 2009. (7 June Zona Critica Jordi Mumbro)
In Montreal and Quebec students who are mounting effective protests against fees are subjected to draconian restrictions on the right to protest, including arrest and detention.
In Russia Putin will shortly sign off a law imposing huge fines on people who come on to the streets and exercise their right to protest. And whilst the Irish voted to accept restictive government borrowing imposed by the EU and Mrs Merkel, the poor and working class areas voted against it and the vote was carried by middle class areas better able to withstand the brutal effects of on going austerity.
Meanwhile Teresa May, our Home Secretary, in a fine piece of double think tells us that giving police and the security services huge new powers to snoop on all of us, criminal or not, will mean none of us will be snooped on unless we’ve done ‘something wrong’. The campaigning group 38 degrees have set up an on line petition to oppose these new powers. http://www.38degrees.org.uk/campaigns
In this the sixth richest country in the world, social services are told explicitly to look to charity to provide basic household equipment like cookers or beds as they have no money for crisis loans. (Deep End Scottish GPs report March 2012 http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_232766_en.pdf
….. and across the country new emergency food banks are being set up almost weekly by the Trussell Trust to feed those who the Government no longer wishes to take responsibility for. http://www.trusselltrust.org/foodbank-projects
And at the very sharp end of the driving down of ordinary people’s expectations of their lot tens of thousands of the poor are setting up make shift settlements on the edge of Athens as the favela or slums so tragically typical of the ‘developing’ world arrive in earnest in the West.
Perhaps I do need to go on that demo after all.