Friday, December 17, 2010

A police state

A schoolkid sees something in his society he doesn't like. So he gets together with some friends over Facebook and organises a protest against it outside the office of his local representative. When they hear about the plan, the police turn up at his school, drag him out of class, and threaten him with arrest.

It sounds like the sort of thing which happens in China. In fact, it happened in the UK, over a protest against the closure of a local youth centre. The British police, it seems, regard even protests organised by children as a seditious rebellion, which must be stopped lest it offend the sensibilities of those in power.

Its just the latest example (and by no means the worst) of how the UK has turned into a police state. Writing in the Independent, Johann Hari reports that people are now telling him they are too frightened to protest, for fear of police violence. As he notes, this suits those in power very well. But its very bad for the rest of us:

There is a cost to this chilling of protest. Every British citizen is the beneficiary of a long line of protesters stretching back through the centuries. Every woman reading this can vote and open her own bank account and choose her own husband and have a career because protesters demanded it. Every worker gets at least £5.93 an hour, and paid holidays, and paid sick leave, because protesters demanded it. Every pensioner gets enough to survive because protesters demand it. What [would] your life would be like if all those protesters through all those years had been frightened into inactivity? If you block the right to protest, you block the path to progress. You are left instead at the whim of an elite, whose priority is tax cuts for themselves, paid for with spending cuts for the poor.
This is not something UKanians should tolerate. The problem of course is that doing so requires protest - the very thing being stomped upon. I am hoping they find the courage to do so. Otherwise the UK will grow ever more authoritarian and totalitarian, and grassroots democracy will be crushed under police boots.