G20 Protests

Now that the dust has settled on the G20 discussions and the protests maybe it’s time to understand what really went on.

I heard an interview on BBC World radio discussing the reporting on the events last week. In the journalist’s view (and sorry I didn’t catch his name) the violence had been almost a self-fulfilling prophecy and was largely generated by the police and the media. The police announcement that they “expected violence” signalled to more moderate protesters that they should stay away. Even so, there were many protesters there protesting on an issue basis – at the loss of their pension funds, at the loss of jobs, at the lack of effective regulation or at banker’s bonuses. There was a small group of extreme and violent protesters who led the charge into the RBS building.

The best online report I can find of the events comes from Al Jazeera – English.

It’s interesting, according to Hamish MacDonald the protesters were asking to leave the area when the police charged. The police were targetting a small group of protesters but it’s pretty hard to target a small group in a surging crowd.

But focus on the filmclip between 1.30 and 1.50, there’s an interesting ratio of protester:police:photographer

The police are holding their line against the protesters. But behind the protesters are banks of photographers. The ratio here seems to be 1:1:2
Here the protesters have broken into the RBS building, it’s a symbolic break-in – RBS has come to symbolise the worst wrongs of the crisis. But look, there are half a dozen protesters entering the building, no police visible, and many cameras. The ratio is 1:0:1

Two tenets of democracy are the right to protest and the right of free press. It looks as though those are both healthy in the UK.

One further tenet is linked to freedom of arrest or harassment by police. That’s looking a little doubtful. I wasn’t there – but seeing and reading first hand accounts it seems the police did the policing equivalent of opening a walnut with a sledgehammer.