Skip to content or view screen version

Wake up and smell the pepper spray

Constantine | 30.04.2009 13:35 | Anti-militarism | Anti-racism | Repression | World

These 3,609 new laws are here to control us, not protect us.....

I was outside the Bank of England during the G20 protest, not far from where passer-by Ian Tomlinson died after being assaulted by a police officer.

The police presence was as excessive as it was provocative.

The Metropolitan Police’s Territorial Support Group (TSG) are the aggressive offspring of the disgraced Special Patrol Group of the Eighties.

When policing events, they are issued with ‘Nato’ helmets, flame-retardant overalls, stab vests, gloves, balaclavas and boots. All carry the standard batons, pepper spray and cuffs.

Yet let’s try to remember the last full-on riot in Britain that resulted from a political rally – ah yes, the Poll Tax riots almost 20 years ago.

But the police are still authorised to use Tasers and firearm-trained TSG officers carry pistols or sub-machine guns.

My God, when did we accept that armoured cars, special snatch squads and armed police were the right level of policing for protests against Government policy?

How did we sleepwalk into a situation where our movements, all of our electronic data, even our DNA, is stored on a massive central database?

In fact, it was easy for Blairites to con us into accepting the 3,609 new offences they have created since 1997.

They tapped into our fears and prejudices so we simply ignored the repeal of our rights.

Anti-terror legislation was not too subtly sold as being aimed at evil, dastardly Jihadi-types – not ‘us’.

Presumably this legislation was intended, then, for people such as my friend Farukh. Farukh is as Brummie as Spaghetti Junction and Tony Hancock.

The only difference is that he is a Muslim. I was on the Viva Palestina convoy with him as he delivered aid directly to grieving, injured, homeless families in the Gaza Strip.

In Britain, he is a care worker who helps to rehabilitate young offenders back into society.

On his return from Palestine, Farukh was held for six hours at a UK airport.

Ever since, his work place, bank manager and other work contacts have received regular visits from Special Branch officers asking about his political beliefs and lifestyle.

Last week he told me: ‘They’re putting untold pressure on me and it just won’t stop.’

I have been shoved and filmed time and again by aggressive police officers for attending meetings such as the alternative Labour Party conference in Manchester in 2006, organised by Stop The War.

But for Muslim Britons who go on marches, raise money for Palestinian charities or dare to express political views of any kind, the consequences are far more serious.

They are monitored, put under pressure, harassed at airports and overtly threatened. I am not likely to suffer the horrors of extraordinary rendition, but Farukh is.

It’s time we all woke up and smelled the pepper spray. These new laws were not created to protect British people but to control us.

Take the case of Malcolm Sleath, chairman of his local park society in Enfield, North London, who was told by police he had breached Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.

This law, amended in February, allows police to stop and search anyone they consider a terrorist threat.

What had Mr Sleath done to warrant the threat of ten years in prison? He had filmed the officers driving their police car erratically across the park.

The 62-year-old management consultant said: ‘They are supposed to investigate things on foot, so I wanted to show the picture to their sergeant.’

Their bosses issued an immediate apology. Mr Sleath was lucky – had he been called Mr Patel he could have been subjected to a detailed, unwarranted, long-term investigation.

The question we must ask now is: are any of us ‘good’ enough to be safe from detention and harm imposed by Government bodies, out-of-control councils or bullying TSG officers?

Global Research Articles by Lauren Booth



Hide the following 5 comments

Poll Tax riot?

30.04.2009 13:53

"Yet let’s try to remember the last full-on riot in Britain that resulted from a political rally – ah yes, the Poll Tax riots almost 20 years ago".

Carnival Against Capitalism on June 18th 1999 was a riot as was Mayday 2000, to a lesser extent. Both in London.

Riot Pedant


30.04.2009 14:49

I think what they were getting at was the fact the Poll Tax was the last scare the shit out of downing Street.

There has been the Brixton Hill one shortly after (Poll Tax 2), and Welling (anti-BNP), several MayDays... but there have also been numerous riot that have erupted in various poor residential areas around the country too.

The older I get the more I conclude that most often the biggest rioters and loose cannons are the plod themselves. I certainly seem them start the trouble themselves often enough.

Riot Pendanterer

Well if Plod are Riotous

30.04.2009 16:20

One could always read them the Riot Act of 1714.

"Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God Save the King!"

Followed by a loud cry of, "Remember Peterloo!"

Yes, it was repealed in 1973. But satire sometimes takes a while to develop.

A probable pedant


01.05.2009 08:25

This article is fine but I wonder if it shouldn't be sent to a mainstream newspaper rather than on here. It states what I'm guessing everyone reading Indymedia already knows, has had bitter experience of, and already concluded years ago.
It asks how 'we' allowed our freedoms to be curtailed and how 'we' sleep-walked into the current police state. I reckon 'we' on here are the few that have NOT and that many of us have fought against it continually, some losing their freedom along the way.

With the good research and analysis you have done Constantine, by all means carry on that fight by informing the ignorant. As for me, I already have sleepless nights over the unbearable sufferings and injustices and can do without the dismal reminder that my efforts have been mainly in vain!

down but not out

June 18th

01.05.2009 11:09

The part of June 18th 1999 in London that you're referring to was actually called the Carnival Against Capital; that's what all the posters and leaflets said, and what it was referred to. The distinction seems pedantic, but is important in terms of meaning & intent, and intentional by design.

It was only in the days afterwards in the media that the term "anti-capitalist" was coined and used to refer to it and us, and since the Carnival has been misnamed here there and everywhere.

Name pedant