It’s not surprising, or in the least unexpected, but in a report they released yesterday, Liberty have made it quite clear their sympathies lie far more with the police than with any protester engaging in civil disobedience. The policing of the demonstration on the 26th March, said Liberty, was ‘proportionate and restrained’. The black bloc, on the other hand, were nothing more than ‘violent individuals and groups’ who ‘infiltrated’ the TUC march.
Liberty has refused to comment in their report on any aspect of policing away from the TUC march. Apparently civil rights only apply to people on authorised demonstrations. Their legal observers had long gone home by the time the Met waded in ‘proportionately’ and with ‘restraint’ to terrorise, hit, kick and kettle people in Trafalgar Square. Liberty didn’t see people forced to stand in front of FIT teams while they were filmed from head to toe, or thrown in the back of police vans only to be kicked out in random locations and left to find their way home.
They were also looking the other way when 138 people arrested for aggravated trespass at Fortnum and Masons, unaccountably had mobile phones and clothes seized and kept by police. Liberty are ‘unable to comment’ on any of that.
They were a bit concerned about the Met’s fixation with kettling, but only on the basis that it fails to distinguish between the ‘innocent’ and the ‘guilty’. Liberty does not seem to mind what sort of treatment is handed out to the ‘guilty’. Although it was amusing to read their account of the ineffectiveness of trying to kettle the black bloc:
“At various points in the afternoon kettles were authorised by those in the SOR [Special Operations Room] in order to contain those responsible for damage to property, only for the authorisation to be withdrawn for practical reasons because the location was not suitable for a containment or because most of the violent group had moved off. “
They did comment on how friendly and helpful the police were, and how they refused to retaliate against groups of protesters who were ‘tormenting’ them. They noted how well the police communicated with demonstrators by the use of social media, and how efficiently they moved aside a group of people that attempted an act of civil disobedience in Westminster.
The Met, of course, have been quick to pick up the propaganda coup that Liberty have handed to them on a plate. They have officially ‘welcomed’ Liberty’s endorsement of their ‘proportionate’ policing operation. If Liberty have said the policing of protest is fine, anyone complaining about it must surely be one of those nasty extremist types.
The information Liberty have gathered could also be used directly against protesters. They have made it clear they are prepared to hand over their notes to the police wherever that is justified. Considering Liberty observers have made detailed notes of protesters ‘abusing the police verbally’, or throwing missiles, that is incredibly disturbing.
While pretending to be the protectors of civil liberties, Liberty have in fact set themselves up as apologists and stooges for the Metropolitan police. Whether they have done so deliberately, or as a result of being naively manipulated by the Met, doesn’t really matter. They cannot be trusted.