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The Media Victims – Some Rambling Thoughts

16/12/2010

So it seems that police have come under scrutiny from both sides. Left side of the observer and guardian, and online there have been justified criticisms of brutality, and on the Right, they have been told they have not been hard enough, given the damage. One commenter asked “What are they supposed to do? Let them run around the streets like last time?” I have a simple answer to that commenter. Yes. X2, a day when students and supporters evaded kettling, outwitted the police, and marched all over London. X2, a day when a splinter group of between 500-1000 broke off from the main group followed by no police whatsoever and only a couple of journalists, without any damage or intimidation or violence. X2, a day where police’s preemptive riot gear on the main independent march triggered snowballs at the worst, apart from when a car tried to drive through us, and responses to the odd police attack. X2, a day where after spending hours running in the cold, nothing kicked off until we were surrounded at Trafalgar and the paint cans came out, and later a little violence. I could write a whole new post on that day. How could reclaiming the streets, walking through riot van blockades, and jumping over walls with the imperial march booming from the sound system not stick in your head? This day showed some of the most disruptive dissent and civil disobedience of anything in the modern history of our protests, and yet hurting next to nobody, gaining honks from nearly every car. Somehow, this lack of state control is worse to some people than kettling and police brutality leading to ten times the property damage and about 5 times the protestor injuries, and a couple more for police who don’t pay enough attention to how their horse is.

The first Day X had parents and teachers up in arms as they watched school children, some dragged from McDonalds with no interest in protesting, into a kettle and kept in the cold without sustenance for 7 hours. As they watched college and university students being violently hit over the head by armored officers whilst kept in the same conditions. Whilst they watched police horses charge into the crowd outside of the police lines, made up of parents waiting for their kids, protestors who came too late, and passers-by, one of the above including at least one pregnant woman. The kids learnt fast, through first hand experience of the state, through really educational occupations, and over the internet. On Day X2 they applied what peaceful activists have dreamt of achieving for years. X3 didn’t quite work out that way. There was no clear beginning, and people were in no way aware of whether they were deviating from the original route or not. When dissent means having to really push against the police, the willing participants drastically drop.

43 hospitalised protestors, 6 hospitalised officers. 6 more officers with minor injuries. Fuck knows how many protestors with minor injuries. Is this really better? So if the demonstrators brought it upon themselves then what happened? 12 protestors had a fight with the police and 31 protestors hit themselves? I am pretty sure any real infighting would be right there on Sky News. Then they might be able to legitimately label it as a real riot, where we live in fear of mindless attack at all times for no reason. Instead they have made attacks on the government at Millbank, tax evading companies all over the country, George Osbournes treasury,the monarchy, and the police holding them in and beating them. If that is mindless then there are very few people with a brain in the world. Does it scare those in power that the public might see people taking their own power and applying it in ways they did not know were possible till now, and so they must be dangerous, perhaps willing to break into your small businesses you worked hard for, or even your homes? Stupid and unthoughtful great unwashed attack civilisation because they cannot think up an intelligent way of getting their point across? Posh middle class university students have a paddy? Anything to suggest that this is not something to be part of, even if you agree with the cause. It IS dangerous. It’s dangerous to the state and corporations. It’s dangerous to the status quo. And, yes, being a non-partisan and happily leaderless group, its achievements could become dangerous given the conflict in what different protestors might actually WANT given free choice. But then, this is where occupations and the internet come in as serious forums for discussion, and learning to work together with those with different aims on a consensus.

Of the 43 protestors injured on the 9th, 2 have been thrust into the public eye. The most obvious is Alfie Meadows. He came to the demo from Sussex with his mother as well as other students, unionists, lecturers and activists. He left with a severe brain injury. He was lucky to escape death. Despite numerous accounts of his good nature, many are still blinded by trust in news coverage and the police.

“(…)The only way you will get hurt, as all the tv footage shows, is by being aggressive and on the front line. Whatever his mother thinks, he was part of a baying mob out for blood, and when the mob takes over good sense departs.”

claims the first comment on the Daily Mail.

“Sadly it has proven yet again that the police were ill prepared and one wonders if they will ever get correct procedures in place. The police should not be concerned with the feral trouble makers who get injured, it is their own fault.
Time for more drastic action with water cannon, tear gas and pepper spray against the students next time. For those charged and proven guilty hopefully a prison sentence and removed from whatever college they were studying at.”

“Any injury to students or the police is wholly regrettable. However, the fact remains if this had been a peaceful protest no one would have been hurt. Please don’t blame the police. No rioting students – no injuries.”

And so it continues. Despite being online people are more than capable of ignoring all contrary video footage. It seems that there is nothing that can really explain these things, no left wing blog, no photos, apart from experience of having been in the midst of these demonstrations. Fat chance of that, with many of the comments still apathetic and hateful against anyone who complains or protests from anywhere other than at their computer. ‘Why don’t we just get on with it?’ Well, our generation has been saying that since it was born. It never saw the point. Only now does it awaken. Whilst many will vehemently disagree with property damage, I believe that Millbank had a huge part to play in inspiring the following demonstrations. We saw that these things were achievable and that there were enough people willing to support and engage in them.

Alfie Meadows ended up having 3 hours of brain surgery after initially being denied to leave, his friends to leave with him, and once at the hospital he would have been turned away as a protestor, were it not for a dedicated ambulance driver. It is very likely if you were to take out just one link in the chain of events that he would have died. Considering the scrutiny (well earned) of the police when someone actually DOES die, this case has been given little attention. The media has, even whilst disagreeing with police heavy-handedness portrayed the criticisms as protestors moaning in general about their treatment, sparking reactionary comments about the violence of the protestors. Now lets look at those figures again? 6-43? Police are armed and armored. I couldn’t say for sure whether in the same situation without helmets and batons would result in more or less injuries to the police from the ‘baying mob’, but my experience would suggest less. Now with police strategies being what they are, I wouldn’t deny them non-harmful protection. I also do not deny protestors non-harmful protection. Many commenters have suggested that any demonstrators who come to protests in helmets must want to riot. In that case, please also look towards the police.

There have been in the past few days looks to and from the idea of using water cannons. Now these, like batons, are largely not defensive. On top of that, they are very difficult to defend oneself from by peaceful means and so I predict that eventually attack would be used as the only defense. Other countries have already defected to molotovs, and with such a quickly excellerating movement, it is possible that far more drastic measures will be taken in the heat of the moment for better or for worse in the long run, but with many more casualties, which I take no pleasure in personally. In our current state, shields are used by the authorities as offensive weapons, and there are online articles about how to twist them to your advantage, or break out of kettles, or repel horses. The police will use tactics which harm people, and the activists either to defend, or to agitate people, but attack property, yet it is the activists who are the terrorists and the police who are protectors.

There was a demo planned the other day. Well, 2 actually. One was about EMA, and the other was in support of Meadows. Both had sadly low turn outs after all the tiring recent actions. The protestors wore helmets and head bandages in solidarity. I assume people wont assume the same stance this time? Talking of other small demos, today there was a brilliant one from disabled activists highlighting the way that the cuts will savagely affect them. Haven’t heard much about that on the news. Of course I have been hearing plenty about Jody McIntyre. One would think that dragging a disabled person with cerebral palsy out of their chair to beat them, twice, would be a pretty open and shut case really. But apparently not according to the BBC. Being a revolutionary, or a verbal threat, or indeed if he was able to throw things with a reasonable weight behind him at a helmet and body armor it would be a reasonable response. I’m not pissed off they hit a disabled guy. I’m pissed off they hit anyone, and I’m pissed off he was taken out of his chair. As he says, he does not wish his case to be seen as much different to anyone else’s, and he is no more of a victim than anyone. The power imbalance is heightened a lot when bodily autonomy is taken from someone. Not having control of how to move your body can be incredibly frightening and humiliating. When to do that you take extra advantage of physical problems to do this, it is contemptible. Truth is, as disgraceful as the police acts have been against protestors, I wish to look at the way the media have treated him. The Daily Mail’s Littlejohn, once again excels himself by saying that it was his own fault for being there, that he was mentally deficient (whether that would be okay for a ‘news’ paper to joke about if he was is a whole other issue) and comparing him to the characters of Little Britain, whilst implying that because he is capable of using his legs somewhat that he is faking or exaggerating his disability.

McIntyre is, luckily, extremely proficient at answering in interviews and at writing his piece. In fact, I am not sure that a person could address these issues better. He made sense, took no shit, was confident, but still sympathetic. He had all the answers, yet people seem to avoid them to note the attention he is getting, and whether or not he is deserving of it. They choose to focus on the semantics of whether if he wants to be treated the same he should be able to complain about his treatment, when he clearly states there are far bigger victims than himself. This kinda means that a lot of ‘liberals’ in failing to recognise what privilege is, have basically accepted that protestors should expect to be beaten up. By asserting that if he complains he is trying to get special treatment, they imply that he is in no way condemning the behaviour of police on everybody else, which simply is not true. Most of McIntyre’s references to his disability have been in response to people implying he may have been a threat. Many people without obvious evidence of everything they did at a demo would only have their word for it, whereas Jody can make a fair claim as to how unlikely it is that police should feel physically threatened by him, using medical evidence. He did not say he was more vulnerable for it, but simply stated that he posed little physical threat to an able-bodied man in armor, which should be central to an officer’s right to physically attack someone. Similarly, is a regular 12 year old with a piece of stick shouting “kill pigs” such a threat that would warrant a hard attack as a defense from someone with helmets and padding and a much bigger stick? Or in fact, most grown men and women?

So we have someone that would be typically sympathetic being ridiculed and questioned for being attacked, and another shown largely good press (next to coverage of police apparently reacting to violent protestors) who had t be within an inch of his life to get it. Where are the other 41-42? What is their story? Do the press care? Whilst a very small part of me feels minor regret for Camilla Parker-Boules getting upset, is it really anything in comparison to the real stories of police brutality? Does Alfie Meadows need to actually die like Ian Tomlinson or Blair Peach to get the real press it deserves? Or perhaps if police brutality is so badly needed or unavoidable then perhaps the other cases got too much attention? But if being killed for committing a human right is not a story then I really despair for what is. It is rarely the famine, genocide and mass oppression that we all know occurs.

LOLCⒶT

★ ~ Ⓐ ♀ ~ ♡☮✿♡ ~ ☭Ⓥ ~ ★

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From → Diary, LOLCⒶT, Opinion

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