Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A democracy in name only

The government pursues a policy the people do not like. The voice their discontent by organising a mass-protest in the capital city. The government responds by issuing police with plastic bullets.

A murderous third-world dictatorship? No, the modern UK, whose public order policing still seems to be stuck in the mindset of Peterloo:

Baton rounds of plastic bullets will be available to police chiefs in an attempt to prevent disorder from breaking out in the capital during the latest round of student fees protests.

Trained officers will be free to use baton rounds for "extreme" measures as 10,000 protesters march through London on Wednesday to voice their anger over tuition fees and cuts. Scotland Yard commander Simon Pountain said about 4,000 officers will be on duty to police the event amid fears the march could be hijacked by anarchists.

The message is clear: "protest, and you will be shot, certainly hurt, and perhaps maimed". The intent is to cow the public into silence. But with this move, the police have just given UK citizens a hell of a lot more to protest about - namely, the state of their democracy. When the government responds to democratic protests with open threats of physical force, then something is very, very wrong, and needs to change. Speaking out is not a crime. Protest is not insurrection. If the government and police are allowed to continue as if it is, then the UK is a "democracy" in name only.