I've been pottering around Ebay over the last week as an hysterical displacement activity; I find that bidding on antique Toile de Jouy fabric and patchwork quilting squares soothes my tumultuous mind. Out of idle curiosity, I typed in 'gothic doors' and found some architectural delights that would have gladdened the heart of Mary Shelley and her ilk; had they been in my price range, I would probably have thrown caution to the wind and bought them. However, I told myself sternly to be sensible. Removing the sitting room window and existent front door would not meet with my neighbours' or landlady's approval. Then there would be the inevitable spiritual crisis - can I live with a decommissioned church door? Where do I put my mezuzah? (No helpful suggestions, please.) Would I have to ask a rabbi to "de-Catholick" the doors, or is their wood permeated eternally with motes of Christian holiness? Metaphysical considerations aside, some unhelpful sphincter from the council would be bound to bang thunderously on said doors and, clipboard and diversity pamphlet in hand, tell me to remove them. Should I refuse, I have no doubt they'd send for the boys in blue. Which idea fills me with dread.
Today's ConservativeHome warns against treating the police too harshly in light of Ian Tomlinson's tragic death. It cites the case of PC Mulhall who was accused of assaulting a woman only for it to transpire that she was in fact assaulting him. Indeed, in the Mulhall case, he was in the right and the drunken harpy twisting his unmentionables deserved precisely what she got. But the tactics of the police at the G20 summit and, indeed at Kingsnorth were very, very different from those of PC Mulhall. The way in which they were deployed suggests that they had been given tacit instructions to use certain levels of force and crowd control by their superiors.
'Kettling' demonstrators and passers-by alike (the latter of which were released only on the proviso that they gave their names, addresses and submitted to having a picture taken) is in itself an act of aggression which turns a relatively harmless situation into a potentially fatal one. It constitutes a complete violation of dignity; it resembles a form of prison-camp internment. Denying people water and lavatory facilities demeans them in the worst kind of way; it should not be allowed, and the questions that should have been asked as a matter of urgency at the time - are they allowed to do this? How and why are they allowed to do this? - were not. Boris Johnson and Paul Stevenson should have been in situ and available for comment regarding said 'kettling'. That they were not, and that there has been a negligible response from their respective offices suggests that they were complicit in ordering this police action.
There are many incidents involving G20 policing that just don't ring right. How was it that only two demonstrators, surrounded by riot police, smashed the windows of RBS, and that a photographer was already inside waiting for them? How was it that those peacefully occupying squats around the corner from the action, who had already had by their own account, that of passers-by and the police interacted with the Met and posed no conceivable risk, were suddenly raided on suspicion of terrorism? Why was a woman who dropped her sunglasses and bent to pick them up struck brutally in the face by an unidentifiable police officer? And why, if not as an act of premeditated violence, did the officer who struck Ian Tomlinson remove his identifying badge number?
These acts of agression, coupled with the arrest of a hundred potential demonstrators for actions as yet uncommitted (which plainly speaking means that they were arrested for thought crimes: they were not meditating murder, but dissent legitimately permitted in a so-called democratic society) and a plethora of accounts of heavy-handedness by PCs and WPCs nationwide, should paradoxically not lead us to condemn the Police Force out of hand. We may shout that we are living in a police state: but a police state is only ever created if the guardians themselves allot the police a disproportionate amount of power in order to enforce their, the guardians', will. And giving anyone too much power is to place too much temptation in their hands: no matter how good they may be, or how honourable, or decent, unless they are the very strongest of individuals the temptation will be there to see just how far they can go. With the law on their side, the police go all the way: they're not legally doing anything wrong. In my opinion (though many would disagree with me) power is synonymous with freedom; an unequal freedom that permits the few to control the many through the ever-present threat of physical violence, coercion and incarceration. The government, using the ubiquitous blanket of 'national security', has extended their remit beyond that which is permissible in a free society. And, of course, people rebel strenuously against the curtailing of their own freedom and act in what is now deemed 'anti-social' (which begs a serious question: how can one act anti-socially when there is no longer a society?), which then seems to justify the passing of ever-more stringent laws which hand more and more power to the police force.
The true culprits are the government. Plato's Republic was designed to be used as a societal blueprint, unlike 1984: and that is what we are living. A tiny minority, the Philosopher Kings who believe that they are inviolable and their thoughts and deeds sacrosant, who take responsibility for each and every creature under their auspices from the moment of birth til that of death, rule the nation; they use the military/police class to do their bidding in order to enforce their will; and everyone else, that is everyone who is not a Philosopher King or policeman, is expected to abide by their rules. They have no freedom because the Philosopher Kings do not see them as people, merely coarse entities who perform the tasks alloted to them and are punished if they do not do so. It is our duty to ourselves, to others and to the kind of society that we would like to live in and to pass on to future generations, in order that they might also live to snatch the reins of power from the unelected minority. The only response that should ever be given to the question of 'quid custodiet ipsos custodes?' is "Us".