CommentIsLinked@LDV: Tom Brake – Five hours inside a police 'kettle' was time to reflect on our lost liberties

by Stephen Tall on April 9, 2009

Over at The Times, Lib Dem MP Tom Brake reflects on his experiences as an independent observer on behalf of Parliament at last week’s G20 protests. Here’s an excerpt:

There is a minority in some protests that does not mind causing trouble, and a smaller number that will actively seek violence, vandalism and aggression, thus stealing the headlines away from issues such as climate change, Third World debt, employment or the world economy. Anyone who has been to a protest, music festival or a football match accepts and understands that crowd control cannot be the easiest of jobs. It is a thankless task, with little praise when things pass off peacefully, but dominating headlines when tragic and appalling incidents such as that of Ian Tomlinson’s death occur.

On the day itself, I was rooted in one of the police “kettles” for five hours. I witnessed the professionalism of many police officers, as well as their final failure to tackle the situation properly and instead fan the flames. … “Kettling” is a tactic that should come under review. At the first sign of difficulty, the police present a wall of riot shields and batons around protesters — the peaceful alongside the problematic — and slowly squeeze them into a tighter space. People are allowed in, but absolutely no one is allowed to leave.

Slowly the number of inmates increases. No access to food. No water. Young trapped with the old. Journalists trapped with anarchists. People, like an elderly couple I spoke to, who simply did not want to be there at all. It is not surprising that under such conditions an otherwise overwhelmingly relaxed and peaceful crowd can become agitated, then angry, and then violent. The tactic proved misguided and counter-productive. It served to alienate a whole mass of peaceful protesters. …

There is now a different public mood to contain — one that wants to know why a man died. And the public will not be silenced this time by backing them into a corner.

You can read the article in full HERE. And you can watch Tom’s 2-minute video from inside the ‘kettle’ here: