Well done to Panorama for taking up the issue of police violence — their illegal tactics against legitimate protest when the majority of the mainstream media is currently still ignoring it (except the Guardian).
Although most of the information wasn’t new to those of us who are used to police intimidation on even the most peaceful of rallies, the programme had some interesting information about police “forward intelligence teams” (the guys with the camcorders recording your every move), the information they gather and where it is stored (it is indefinitely stored even if there is no reason to suspect the person in the recording of a crime).
The programme also went beyond Guardian coverage in linking the behaviour of the police at the G20 (including the raid on a squat using taser guns) to the constant surveillance of protest at events such as climate camp and the protests at E-on in Nottingham.
However, in attempting to appeal to its audience this programme made unnecessary concessions (to the police side) and ended up missing some crucial points.
Apart from the G20, the programme largely focused on environmental protest, seemingly as a way to appeal to a fairly mild mannered audience. Climate change is something a big range of people see as a problem and seen as a legitimate reason to protest.
Interviewees were in the main “upstanding members of society” — Tory MPs, a Lib Dem Justice spokesperson, lawyers, one elderly middle England fellow trying to preserve his local lakes — people you would not expect to be “hoodlums”, on the wrong side of the police for any reason.
Although this content was used to give the impression that an extreme of police control, violence and surveillance could affect anyone who dares protest, it misses the point. It is not “most people” but the working class and serious anti-capitalists fighting for jobs, homes and a future, or black people and youth who have been most often at the blunt end of police violence. The police are partial, prejudiced and particular about who they attack.
The programme also strongly suggested that the police are a necessary law and peace keeping force, that they have just gone too far and should be kept under control a little — one interviewee even said “at least the police are accountable”.
The police are certainly not accountable to the vast majority of society! We know that they have not just “gone too far” this time, but that their very existence as a hierarchical, walled-off instrument of control is a threat to our class organising and protesting.