Police

Crumbling Pillars of the British Establishment

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The phone hacking scandal has rapidly spread to engulf the police, the government and sections of the media. Estelle Cooch looks at the crisis of legitimacy spreading through the British establishment.

A succession of scandals have engulfed British public life over the last three years, each one placing under the spotlight the entrenched corruption of a different institution that governs our lives. First, there was the banking crisis and the huge bailouts that followed, and then came the parliamentary expenses scandal. Now the phone hacking scandal has raised profound disquiet not just about parts of the press but also about the cosy relationship of sections of the media with both politicians and the police.

Voices of the unheard

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Thirty years ago the Brixton riots heralded a wave of unrest in Britain's inner cities that terrified our rulers and helped forge black and white unity

"Molotov cocktails were thrown for the first time on mainland Britain. There had been no such event in England in living memory."

These words come from a police report into the Brixton riots of 1981. On 10-11 April 1981 massive riots exploded in Brixton, south London, and thousands of people fought running battles with police. Some in the popular media described the unrest as race riots. They were not. Black and white joined together to find a voice: they are part of the battles that forged multiracial Britain.

Violence and Legitimacy

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Pat Stack argues that the media frenzy about direct action at recent student protests is based on the assumption that state violence is legitimate - and that we don't have the right to win


Photo: Geoff Dexter

When Edward Woollard was sentenced to 32 months in prison for throwing a fire extinguisher from the roof of Tory HQ at a student protest, there was no doubt that the British state was making an example of him to warn off student protesters.

The police - whose side are they on?

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The brutality with which Greater Manchester Police (GMP) attacked anti-fascists in Bolton last month shocked many.



In the run-up to the 20 March Unite Against Fascism (UAF) counter-protest it could have been anticipated that the English Defence League (EDL) boot-boys would use intimidation and threats. But it wasn't just the fascists who were out to crush their opponents.

Unhappy snappers

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"Officers and community support officers are reminded that we should not be stopping and searching people for taking photos," emailed Andy Trotter of British Transport police to fellow chief constables last month.

Just one week later photographer Grant Smith was taking pictures of Christopher Wren's Christ Church when he was joined by three police cars and a riot van, and then searched by seven City of London police.

"One of them even admired my badge which said 'I am a photographer not a terrorist'," Smith told the Guardian, "But they searched my bag for terrorist-related paraphernalia and demanded to know who I was and what I was doing. I refused, saying that I didn't have to tell them, but they said if I didn't they would take me off and physically search me."

Double punishment for Calais refugees

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On the morning of 22 September French riot police razed a makeshift camp in Calais where mostly Afghan refugees were living as they waited to cross over to Britain.

Despite the presence of human rights activists, the police arrested 276 people - half of them minors.

Eric Besson, the French immigration minister, ordered the clearout of what was dubbed "the jungle" in order to "stop traffickers".

It is ironic of Besson to try to put a humanistic veneer on his action. Refugees set up the camp after French authorities decided in November 2002 to close the Red Cross camp in Sangatte that used to look after them. And the French government wasn't worried when most of the refugees found themselves on the streets at the beginning of winter.

Police: old Bill, new problems

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The front pages of the evening papers on 1 April reported a battle being waged by brave police against rampaging hordes of anarchists in the City of London. They were soon eating their words.

Alongside the death of Ian Tomlinson, last month's publication of police log entries from the day exposed the level of brutality meted out. "I punched him in the jaw and he moved backwards," wrote one officer, while another hit protesters with "shield strikes both flat and angled" and "open palm strikes...and fist strikes as well".

Policing the police

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The Territorial Support Group (TSG) - the "public order" section of the London Metropolitan police - has been accused of 159 assaults over the past year.

The 730-strong TSG has also received more than 547 complaints regarding their conduct during the same period - 29 percent of which were for assaults, including, disturbingly, sexual assault. Despite the complaints, no officer has been disciplined for their behaviour.

State violence exposed

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The death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests in London last month has reopened the debate on police accountability. Filmmaker Ken Fero remembers those who have died while in police custody and his fight to show the truth with his documentary, Injustice

Ian Tomlinson's death on 1 April during the G20 protests in the City of London was tragic and his grieving family and friends are demanding to know how and why he died. Establishing the cause of death is just one of many painful experiences that they will go through in order to find out the truth. Like the families before them who have lost loved ones after coming into police "contact" they will now have to suffer the indignity of Ian's body having three post-mortems.

Discontent and the police

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I have been on two demonstrations where protesters were killed and on a few more when I thought someone would be killed.

In every case there was a build up to the demo where the police, in particular, hyped up the threat of violence and the supposed need for aggressive policing. An atmosphere is created in which these police tactics are deemed acceptable and even reasonable, even though they rely on high levels of surveillance and violence.

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