Posts Tagged ‘Private Security Firms’

Short Film on the Police Targeting Anti-Fracking Protesters, Particularly the Disabled

December 26, 2018

Yesterday, Christmas Day 2018, Mike also put up a piece and a short film, about ten minutes long, Targeting Protesters, produced by Gathering Place. The film-makers have been working on a long form documentary about fracking in the UK, during which time they have observed some features of this issue they found ‘surprising’.

They contacted Mike after he put up a piece last week about how the rozzers were reporting disabled people at anti-fracking protests in Lancashire to the DWP. The assumption seems to be that any disabled person out on protest is committing benefit fraud, as if their condition was genuine, they would be in no condition to attend. The DWP’s response to any allegation of fraud is to suspend benefits during the investigation, so that disabled people are automatically denied the money they need to live on before the Department has made a decision on whether or not they are guilty. Opponents of the police’s actions have called it ‘ableist’, and stated that it’s based on a very simplistic view of disability. Not all conditions, that mean someone is unable to work, are obvious, and the severity of many of them can vary from day to day. They have also argued very persuasively that the police seem to be doing this to intimidate disabled people as a deliberate strategy to prevent them going on these demonstrations.

Mike quotes the film’s publicity, which states

β€œThe police have identified and targeted prominent anti-fracking campaigners, key protest organisers and invariably protesters with disabilities – in order to undermine or neutralise their effectiveness in challenging the interests of the shale oil and gas industry.”

The film has been posted on social media by Netpol, the Network for Police Monitoring, and features their coordinator, Kevin Blowe. Blowe explains that the police have a deliberate strategy of targeting particular individuals for arrest. These are people, who are respected by the other protesters. They are either in a position of leadership, or can make critical decisions and actions when the moment comes. They also stop people travelling to the protests. The film shows an example of this, in which a carload of people are stopped by the cops at the side of the road. A woman, one of the crew, asks why they have done this. The policeman states that they are stopping them because they have information that their car contains a tripod. It’s a trumped up charge, and the woman asks them if they really think a tripod can fit in her car. The cop doesn’t respond and simply walks away. Later in the video Raj Chada, a member of a firm of solicitors, states that the cops’ charge that a woman was using a car illegally was complete ridiculous. The police haven’t charged her, or applied to the courts about it. Their arrest is simply a way of stopping free speech, which is unacceptable. It’s against the culture the police should have, which should be about facilitating those, who want to protest. The video also shows Labour’s John McDonnell talking to a group of protesters about the way they’ve been harassed. The film shows another woman, who has been grabbed by the rozzers, just as they release her. She says that it’s the second time that day the police have grabbed her.

Blowe states that the police target particularly influential people. This may sometimes involve arresting them, and pushing that arrest right up to taking them to court, even though the accused person would normally get off in other circumstances. If the targeted individual is local, the cops may continually go round to their homes or disrupt their business, deliberately making it very clear to them that they are under scrutiny.

While many fracking protesters are local, some do come from outside the area. They are also deliberately targeted by the police, who will visit their camps and make it clear that they are being targeted for arrest. They will also claim that any public order offences are due to people from outside the area. One protester from elsewhere in the country states that not only do the police target them, they also target anyone who associates with them, and that they can’t go anywhere without having a police escort. McDonnell also states that he’s concerned about the level of physical force used by the police, and particularly the incident where the police tip a disabled man out of his wheelchair. The film shows this happening, and the man says that it has happened to him three times already. McDonnell explains that the people on these protests are locals concerned about fracking in their area, and that most of them have had no interaction with the police before. The cops’ actions have shocked them, just as they’ve shocked him. The video shows another disabled man, in an orange T-shirt, being seized by the police, who then appear to strap him down physically into his chair. Blowe explains that the police will target someone, who appears vulnerable, in order to show that they will do absolutely anything possible to stop this person being as effective as they could be. Another disabled man tells the camera how the police told him that they had informed Motability that he was using his car for illegal purposes. The same man appears a few minutes later telling John McDonnell that the police have tried to stop his benefits, and passed on to the DWP a years worth of footage of him and other protesters. McDonnel states that this is unacceptable, and that this person should take it up with their MP, so that it can be discussed in the House of Commons. It appears to be done to prevent disabled people protesting, when they should have the same rights and ability in society to protest as everyone else.

Blowe also explains how the police will try to create ‘a situation’ where they can start arresting people by picking on someone vulnerable, like someone in a wheelchair or an older person, so that the other protesters will react. This is done so that the fracking lorries can get through. Sometimes the police is reactive, such as when the police on the day arrest particularly influential people. But they will also target otherwise unlikely targets, like women. They also target the young in order to give them the message that they are vulnerable, and the police consider them to be at risk of getting sucked into extremism. But it’s also a way of letting that person know they’re on the cops’ radar, and they have identified them for harassment. Blowe’s comments are accompanied by footage of a tall, long-haired young man being seized by the police, and forced onto the ground with his head all but in the gutter, before being dragged off. The man then briefly explains in a piece clearly filmed later that he was frightened after this happened to him in the short term, but in the long term absolutely not. Blowe then continues, explaining that this is all about identifying the key people to disrupt and end the protests.

Keith Taylor, an MEP from the Green Party, appears, and makes the point that many people still remember Orgreave from the miner’s strike, and that when the police follow orders, heads get broken. This is not the future that either he nor the community groups want to see.

John McDonnell then appears in turn to say that some form of inquiry into the conduct of the police is needed, and the evidence he’s seen is deeply worrying, and he believes other people seeing it will feel the same. There’s a level of physical force that’s unacceptable, and that therefore needs to be addressed.

Blowe explains that it’s all done to reduce the level of protest in an area, to cut down their duration time of months or weeks, to cut the numbers of people on these protests down to numbers they can manage, and to stop the mass opposition to fracking.

The film ends with the young chap, who was arrested, stating that he knows it’s all done to put people off, and that knowledge itself completely overrides any fear they would try to put upon him or others.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/25/watch-this-short-film-about-the-way-the-police-target-disabled-people-at-protests/

Taylor’s right when he says that it will remind many people of the miner’s strike. It seems very similar to the way Thatcher used the police in the 1980s to break the miner’s union. This was very much a political strategy on the part of the Tories. They remembered and resented the way the miners had defeated Ted Heath’s government in the 1980s, and were determined not to let this happen again. I can remember going to a meeting of the Fabian Society in Bristol, where one of the speakers explained how the efforts of the police, the Tory government, and Tory local authorities were very carefully coordinated and planned, with the same Tory politicians and activists appearing again and again around the country to try to break the strikers and the picket lines.

As for targeting women, they tried doing it to one of the members of my family. One of my female relatives was amongst the people protesting against the poll tax in London, and the police tried to grab her and pull her away, but her friends managed to hold on to her and pull her back. And I can very well believe that this is done deliberately to provoke the crowd to violence, so that the police will have an excuse to crack heads and arrest people.

The police did very well under Margaret Thatcher. They were well paid and given a range of benefits, like cheap or subsidized housing. Since then many very senior police officers have made it plain that they regret how they were used, stating that they were used by Thatcher as her private army. Recently the police have been decimated under Cameron and May through cuts in funding, which have led to a drastic fall in the numbers of police officers. Because the Tories clearly don’t think ordinary people and their homes and property are worth protecting as much as the rich. And they still probably believe that twaddle about neighbourhoods funding their own policing through hiring private security guards.

It is clear, however, that the link between the Tory party, the police and private industry still remains strong, at least as regards the fracking industry. Such politicised policing is a threat to the environment and democracy. McDonnell is right. We need an inquiry. Now.

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Vox Political: Tories Slash Police Funding until No Longer Able to Fight Crime

November 4, 2015

This is another story from Vox Political, based on a report from the Mirror. Six regional police and crime commissioners, for Devon and Cornwall, Thames Valley Forces, Merseyside, Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire, as well as Stephen Greenhalgh, London Deputy Mayor for policing, have written a letter to Tory policing minister, Mike Penning, complaining of cuts to their budget. They fear that the cuts will seriously prevent them from doing their job of solving and protecting the public from and crime. The group has stated that the cuts have meant that Lancashire will lose “almost all of its proactive crime fighting and crime prevention capacity by 2020.”

In response, Penning has come out with the usual Tory rubbish that their policies are working, and crime is falling. It’s what they always say. And I’m always sceptical, as the government is nearly always manipulating the figures when it says this. The Tories attacked New Labour when they were in power, for allegedly altering the statistics so that certain crimes weren’t counted or reported, and this practice has gone on since they got into power.

Mike also wonders if this is a ploy to cripple publicly funded policing and encourage the hiring of private security forces instead?

His article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/04/first-doctors-now-police-tories-seem-determined-to-halt-all-public-services-by-christmas/

This is a very good question. I can remember as far back as Maggie Thatcher and John Major, the Tories were looking forward to a Britain, where policing would be done by private security firms hired by individual neighbourhoods. There was an article back then in the Mail on Sunday going on about how wonderful this, and similar Tory ideas were, and how they would be put it into practice if women had the majority of seats in parliament. It’s a Libertarian/ Anarcho-Capitalist idea which ultimately goes back to Rothbard in America. Among his ideas was that justice could be improved if the courts were privatised. This would work, he believed, as even hardened criminals would accept the need for abiding by the decisions of a recognised fair and impartial court, and so the private-enterprise court with the best judge would establish itself as the most widely accepted source of justice.

It’s such a whacky idea that not even the Tories have taken it on board, despite having adopted so much else from the Libertarian New Right. But, it seems, they still support the idea of private police forces, as used in places like South Africa.

The Mail on Sunday’s article was a cynical attempt to drum up support for Tory ideology amongst women. The Daily Mail has always positioned itself as female-friendly paper, despite the fact that Conservative reforms, going back to Maggie Thatcher herself, have always hit women the hardest. Traditionally, women have always worked at the poorest paid and most insecure jobs, quite apart from the pressures of fulfilling their traditional roles as homemakers, looking after the house and bringing up children – state aid for which has persistently and continually been cut by the Tories, along with reforms and state institutions to give women a better chance at competing successfully with men in the workplace.

This is another ‘reform’ that could leave women feeling particularly vulnerable. I think if you look at the statistics, you find that men are most likely to be the victims of crime, or violent crime. However, women in particular feel especially worried about it. One explanation, I believe, for them not suffering as much as men is that they are more careful about their personal safety because of their greater concerns about attack and violence.

It wasn’t so long ago that the Tories posed as the party of law ‘n’ order, staunchly supporting the police against the forces of crime. Especially if it was left-wing crime, done by the unemployed, trade unions, Blacks, gay people and all the other groups they didn’t like, and who Maggie decided were ‘not one of us’. Like the miners. Indeed, one very senior policeman – it may even have been the Chief Constable – declared that Maggie used them as her private army during the Miners’ Strike.

Well, no more. The Tories have decided to cut the police force, just as they have forced through swingeing cuts to the armed forces and so much of the rest of the economy. All with a view to improving efficiency, which is the usual excuse.

And the dominant idea amongst the Tories is that private enterprise is always better, even when it is not. As the armed forces have been cut back, private armies have expanded, and are being used in Iraq. When I was at school we were taught that private armies had been made illegal since the victory of Henry VII at Bosforth Field back in 1485. It was Henry VII, who laid the foundations for the modern, centralised British state by outlawing the barons’ ability to form private armies composed of their personal retainers – their affinity, as their retinues were known at the time.

This unfortunately came back under Tony Bliar. And with that precedent in mind, unfortunately it does seem all too credible that the Tories do want to see the police reduced and partly replaced by private security firms.

In the meantime, despite the rubbish spouted by Penning, people will be left at greater risk of crime by these cuts. Except for the rich, who like their counterparts in South Africa, will have the money and influence to purchase protection with private security firms.