How I Learned to Want to Smash the State
Three things have depressed me over the last week or so. That’s three more than would normally get to me. The first is this…
We All Live in a Fascist Regime
Strictly this is not my view. Not least of all because fascism requires a number of conditions that simply do not exist in this country. However, we do sadly live in a Police State – something which until last week I would probably have denied quite strongly.
Arrests last Thursday and Friday have proven that the police, operating under political instructions from the government, will quite happily use arrest (and a maximum detention of 24 hours without charge) in order to “remove” persons from society whom the establishment would like to silence. The arrests of Chris Knight, Camilla Power and Charlie Veitch on Thursday to prevent them from participating in pro-Republic street theatre (a good mile away from the royal wedding) are a perfect example of the way in which people are being casually removed from society (if only briefly) in order to bring about specific political goals.
Similarly, arrests on Friday (including one man who was apparently arrested on suspicion of possessing a stolen credit card – his own, as it turns out) were designed to take momentum out of any attempts at lawful protest. People were arrested for arriving at Charing Cross station with placards and banners, tools of legitimate political expression, ostensibly to prevent a breach of the peace. A person was arrested for singing “We all live in a fascist regime” – if this guy can actually create things just by singing them, I can’t wait for his album! When two groups might hold opposing views, to arrest one group in order that the other is not offended is to pick a side, and to become a tool of a political agenda – upholding the law and protecting the people is no longer your goal.
More generally, in recent months there has definitely been a sense that the police are charging people in order to bail them under specific conditions banning them from the City of Westminster for a period covering the Royal Wedding. The charging of the UK Uncut members who occupied Fortnum & Mason, the charging of Alfie Meadows, among others, all with the goal of criminalising participation in protest in Westminster.
Personally, I’m inclined to blame the Met’s Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens. It seems rather apparent that operational decisions are being made in such a way as to keep up appearances in front of parliamentary committees. She virtually admitted in front of one such committee that the members of UK Uncut arrested on March 26th were arrested in order to improve police intelligence gathering. Ideally, somebody in government would let her know that while she might need to be able to justify operational decisions to the government, the Met shouldn’t be designing its entire strategy around what will make the Tories happy. Sadly, being Tories, the thought of giving up that control over the policing agenda probably hasn’t occurred. This is the party of law and order, after all…
My feeling is that this will backfire. Before the Tomlinson trial, I found myself defending the police to fellow activists an awful lot. After the evidence given at that trial, it became impossible to argue that there aren’t serious systemic problems within the force, not least of all their aversion to accountability that seems to train officers to deny wrongdoing at every opportunity, even when faced with videotape evidence of their own dishonesty. That in itself makes the police force quite a dangerous body. That the government is enforcing its political agenda through that body, in my opinion, endangers freedom of political expression. And that is something that must be stopped. If the state insists on suppressing dissent and stifling political opposition, then it deserves to be smashed. Simple as.