DEATH OF DEMOCRACY IN THE UK: Coalition Government Passes Gagging Act
The Criminalisation Of Dissent:
UK Police Misuse Covert Powers To Attack Press Freedom
Free speech clampdown’: New Australian law sees journalists facing 10yrs in prison for exercising press freedom
The criminalization of political dissent in America
The criminalization of dissent: Human Rights . . . Here & There
US Government Invention The Conspiracy Theorist Smear To Discredit Dissenters
Criminalisation Of Protest And Dissent In Britain
Militarisation of the Police to the Criminalisation of Dissent
by Arthur Foxake
A very dangerous and worrying trend, which has been gathering momentum for some time, has entered a new dimension in recent weeks. Political and business leaders around the world are blatantly calling for the censorship on reporting and discussing news in terms that are 'unhelpful' to their aims and ambitions along with further restrictions on free speech.
In the allegedly democratic nations of the developed world, such moves have to be announced in subtle and nuanced terms, otherwise enough punters might become aware of what is going on to trigger unrest and civil disobedience. Obama, cameron, Hollande and Merkel cannot simply announce that they hate the internet because it is ful of people who disagree with their policies. We saw the tactic of dressing restrictions on freedom as moves to protect the population from imaginary evil dooers at the (UK) Conservative Party last week when a conference speech called for “non-violent” extremism to be banned from public discourse.
To their eternal shame, the serried ranks of mainstream media press release regurgitators could not find one single voice to ask, "And how do you define "non violent extremism"? Anyone who disagrees with government policy? Anyone who says, and backs up their claim with solid scientific reasoning, that climate change is just a scam to justify raising taxes? People who argue against globalism or pooint out correctly that the demands of gays and lesbians to be granted orivileged status are nothing to do with human rights? People who take to the streets to protest against our spinless government's following another corrupt and amoral U S President into another pointless and unwinnable middle eastern war?
We reported this frightening move in a recent post: "DEATH OF DEMOCRACY IN THE UK: Coalition Government Passes Gagging Act".
That may be how British politicians (and make no mistake, Labour and The Liberal Democrats are singing off the same totalitarian, globalist songsheet) sell the idea of authoritarianism. In Turkey, which hopes to join the E U in the next enlargement which will take the Union into Asia and Africa, political leaders have no qualms about admitting their disdain for the proliferation of free speech that the internet allows. We learn from The Independent:
The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has defended his government’s efforts to control online speech, telling a press freedom conference: “I am increasingly against the Internet every day.”
Mr Erdogan’s comments came during an “unprecedented” meeting with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI).
Local newspapers and major publications such as The New York Times and CNN International were among those slammed by officials, according to the CPJ.“Media should never have been given the liberty to insult,” Mr Erdo?an was quoted as saying during the 90-minute meeting. He also expressed concern that criminal and terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State go online to recruit followers, saying he is “increasingly against” the internet.
His remarks come after he approved a law tightening control of the internet and increasing the powers held by telecoms authorities earlier in September.
In Egypt, another non European nation being seduced into the EU with promises that European lifestyles for its 90 million mostly poor, Muslim citizens can be frunded by the munificence of EU taxpayers, they fear that civil society, only recently freed from the oppression of the Murbarack regimes will be silenced again as opposition grows to the new military dictatorship. Associated Press reports:
Civil society groups in Egypt long had a tenuous position under the rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, but they were able to operate. Now those groups, ranging from human rights defenders to advocates of economic justice, fear even that margin of freedom is disappearing and that they are on the way to being silenced.
The government of newly elected President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has ordered non-governmental organizations to submit to regulations that gives the state sweeping authority over their activities and financing — and dangles over them the threat of prosecution if they violate vague guidelines against "hurting national security" or "affecting public morals."
Further adding to the worries, el-Sissi last month revised the penal code to impose a life prison sentence against anyone who requests or receives funding from abroad with the aim of "harming national interests." Human rights groups and other non-governmental organizations — many of which receive international funding — warn that the broad phrasing could be used against them.
Egypt's civil society groups had once hoped that the country's 2011 revolution that ousted Mubarak would give them greater freedom to operate. However, el-Sissi has repeatedly said that while he would like to bring greater democracy, rights and liberties cannot be allowed to undermine his goal of bringing stability to a country in turmoil. El-Sissi, as Egypt's military chief at the time, removed the elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last year and launched a crackdown against Islamists that has expanded to other critics of the government.
Worries among non-governmental organizations were sparked when they were ordered to register by Nov. 10 under a Mubarak-era law regulating such groups. The law gives the government and security agencies sweeping authority over staffing decisions, activists and funding. It also forbids the organizations to conduct activities that affect "public morals, order or unity" — vague terms that could be used to stop many NGO operations, particularly those by human rights groups.
"Operating under the current law is impossible," said Mohammed Zaree, the Egypt program manager for the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
On one level this trend of politicians waging war on free speech is a major concern to all who believe in freedom and demcracy, from another perspective it is encouraging. The powers that be would not feel any need to remove the kid gloves and handle freethinkers roughly if they were not afraid the oiks have sussed their global totalitarian government agenda and actually speaking truth to each other.
Another Big Result For The 'Conspiracy Theorists' - US CIA Corrupts Western Journalists.
DEATH OF DEMOCRACY IN THE UK: Coalition Government Passes Gagging Act While News Focus On Scottish Indyref
In a bizarre act of contempt for democracy and a reminder of Tony Blair's "Good day to bury bad news" memo sent to a Government press officer on 9 September, 2001, just at a time when Britain’s news media lens obsessing over the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum, the Conservative led Coalition government quietly pushed through an act that went unreported in mainstream media but that critics had claimed was highly undemocratic, contemptuous of the right of free speech and a throwback to the control freakery of the Labour government. The anti-Lobbying Bill ought to have created a strom about government overreach and the erosion of constitutional rights. Instead it became another symptom of the ever-increasing democratic deficit in the UK.
The legislation seeks to impose stringent limits on the amount of money organizations can allocate towards political lobbying during electoral campaigns. There have been legitimate concers about lobbying by big business and various scandals involving 'cash-for-influence' payments made by lobbying companies working for global corporations to elected representatives. At a lower level, the effect of lavish corporate hospitality on our political representatives' ability to make objective decisions that serve the best interests of their consituents has been questioned.
But the new bill does not address these concerns. What it will do is severely restrict the amount of money charities, NGOs, trade unions, minority interest groups, business associations, single issue groups and political campaigners can spen on making their case. While we may not agree with the aims and arguments of these groups it is vital for democracy that they be able to make their case, and that all are equally at liberty to campaign in support of their causes.
We, as individuals, may find the views of certain political groups unpalatable. Tough, if we are seriously claiming to be a liberal democracy they must be free to express their views. Individuals my find the views of, say, pro abortion or anti abortion groups repugnant. Yet the moment we start to restrict their ability to argue their case, we have ceased to be a democracy.
Trade unionists and civil rights activists have condemned the bill, which considerably compromises the political leverage of think tanks, unions, professional associations and business groups. Already dubbed the Gagging Act, the bill is also set to drastically reduce the amount of money such organizations can spend on newspaper advertising, while demanding they are held accountable for every penny they spend, even requiring them to itemise petty cash expenses .
No such restrictions will be placed on political party's electioneering propaganda published in newspapers or on political parties’ election spending. In light of this fact, critics argue the Lobbying Act is pro-establishment, allowing UK political parties to continue drawing millions from corporate and financial elites in the case of the conservatives and from the Unions in the case of Labour, that tend to donate in order to buy influence that will be used to further political and economic interests.Further reading:
[Gagging act - Huff Post]
[Lobbying campaigns - Oxfam]
[The Lobbying Bill - The Guardian]
[BOND: lobbyist for transparency and accountability on the lobbying act]
UK Police Misuse Covert Powers To Attack Press Freedom
by Ed Butt
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is to ask the European Human Rights Court (EHRC) to adjudicate on whether recent UK legislation on privacy properly protects journalists’ sources and communications from the mass surveillance being conducted by agencies such as General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the NSA (United States National Security Agency). The case has been brought because of concerns among journalistic personnel about the implications of some surveillance projects revealed in material leaked by Edward Snowden.
Key documents presented to the EHRC include the full application from the bureau's legal team, which includes Gavin Millar QC of Doughty Street Chambers, Conor McCarthy of Monckton Chambers and Rosa Curling of Leigh Day.
Also available are expert witness statements from Christopher Hird, chair of the Bureau’s Editorial Advisory board and former managing editor and Alice Ross, as former head of the Bureau’s drones team and now a journalist at the Times. (Read a transcript of the full application HERE)
Gavin Millar acting for The Bureau says: "Police misuse covert Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) powers to get journalists’ metadata – and so identify sources – routinely now. This circumvents the rights of a journalist to protect a source and to a hearing before a judge before any order is made to disclose such information.
"The sheer volume of data being harvested by GCHQ under RIPA means that confidential journalistic material is also being covertly accessed and analysed by security and intelligence all the time. Again sources are being identified – but on a much larger scale.
"Yet there is no word in RIPA or the government’s code of practice under it about these key journalistic rights. The UK simply flouts the Convention."
Documents leaked by Snowden clearly illustrate that by using mass surveillance technology and software applications such as Tempora, security gencies can collect, store and analyze digital documents and voice calls and also filter information from metadata, the setup information that identifies where digital documents and cellphone messages originate and the subject line of those SMS text or e mail communications.
Lawyers handling the case for the Bureau believe UK authorities are routinely collecting and storing such data. Electronic analysis then enables development of a detailed audit train revealing a journalist’s or company’s contacts and sources and stories they are working on as well as involvement with issues and people of interest to the security services.
While curtailment of press freedom may seem only tenuously related to our headline topic, The Criminalisation Of Dissent, in fact is it a sibling. Without a free press and free access to information we are not in a position to oppose or even question the propaganda rountinely pumped not by governments. Therefore the criminalisation of journalism critical of government and agencies of the state is definitely an attempt to put dissent outside the law.
‘Free speech clampdown’: New Australian law sees journalists facing 10yrs in prison for exercising press freedom
by Ian R Thorpe
1 October, 2014
A highly restrictive and some say anti-democratic law was passed this week by the lower house of Australia’s parliament. The National Security Amendments Bill No 1 is first in a series of counter-terrorism amendments toughening the country’s national security law. The new legislation, which has been criticised by civil rights campaigners as undemocratic, would facilitate the imprisonment of journalists without trial for reporting on security related matters.
The Bill states that a person who discloses information relating to a special intelligence operation may face from five to 10 years behind bars. Copying, transcribing or retaining records of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is also outlawed, a measure almost certainly included in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaks of documents on the US National Security Agency's collection of data on the internet and cellphone activities of millions of citizens who are not suspected of any subversive activity.
Reporting on national security matters is being restricted in parallel with greater powers being given to the country’s surveillance agency; their power to monitor computers without having to show grounds or obtain a court order being greatly expanded.
The government justifies its new law as a necessary boost to national security due to an increased risk of terrorist activity following the rise of the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL) fundamentalist militia in the middle east.
"This is not, as has been wrongly suggested, about preventing the release of information that might simply embarrass the government of the day or expose it to criticism," Austrialia's minister for Justice said, "It is about providing a necessary and proportionate limitation on the communication of information that relates to the core business of intelligence agencies.”
One of the most ardent critics of the law is former intelligence whistleblower, now Member of Parliament Andrew Wilkie.
He commented "This is clamping down on free speech; this is clamping down on oversight of what the security agencies are up to," according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Another opponent of the law is Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt, who believes intelligence agents could go unpunished for any possible misconduct as a result.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York based civil liberties group issued a statement expressing concern about the new Australian legislation.
"This national security bill and other draft legislation raise grave concerns about the direction in which Australia is headingT. hese bills would seriously hamper reporting in the public interest and we urge lawmakers to add the necessary safeguards to protect journalists and whistleblowers." said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott earlier warned the amendments might shift "the balance between freedom and security."
In a series of prosecutions, precedents are being established for the criminalization of political dissent in America.
Last week, Massachusetts high school student Cameron D’Ambrosio was arrested and charged under “terrorism” laws merely for posting lyrics on Facebook that make reference to the Boston Marathon bombings. He faces 20 years in prison. A string of similar “terror” prosecutions around the country take aim at the First Amendment protection of free speech and political expression.
The authorities have already branded select participants in Occupy Wall Street and anti-NATO protests as “terrorists.” Last year, heavily-armed “domestic terrorism” commandos raided Occupy Wall Street protesters’ homes in Washington and Oregon, using battering rams and stun grenades. The commandos were authorized to seize all “anti-government or anarchist literature or material.”
As with freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, also guaranteed under the First Amendment, has not been officially repealed. The reality, however, is that political assembly is already a semi-criminal activity in America. Political protests are routinely met with vastly disproportionate police mobilizations, confinement to oxymoronic “free speech zones,” “kettling” (in which protesters are surrounded and forcibly moved in one direction or prevented from leaving an area), beatings, tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades or rubber bullets. The standard government response to a political protest is a massive show of force, complete with police snipers on rooftops.
The drive towards the establishment of an American police state, initiated under the Bush administration, has shifted into high gear under Obama. For nearly twelve years, the phony “war on terror” has been used as the overarching pretext for illegal imperialist war abroad and a methodical assault on democratic rights at home. The basic structure of authoritarian rule is now emerging into plain view.
Over the recent period, the government has vastly expanded its warrantless surveillance of the population. The Obama administration has constructed a massive data center in Utah big enough to store the contents of every personal computer in the country. Already at a government agent’s fingertips--without a warrant--are all of a person’s Internet browsing activity, telephone conversations, text messages, credit card transactions, mobile phone GPS location data, travel itineraries, Skype and Facebook data, medical records, criminal records, financial records and surveillance camera footage.
Tens of thousands of drones are slated to be launched over the US mainland in the coming years, with thousands already buzzing overhead. These high-tech aircraft are able to monitor meetings and demonstrations, access wireless networks and record the movements of citizens. Obama’s recent appointee for the position of CIA director, John Brennan, expressly refused at his confirmation hearings to rule out the possibility that these drones could be armed and used for carrying out assassinations within the US.
While schools are being shuttered and teachers fired supposedly for lack of money, local police departments are awash in billions of dollars of military hardware and training provided by the Department of Homeland Security. When local police are mobilized to respond to a political protest, they now do so in coordination with the federal military and intelligence agencies. It is not a rarity for armored vehicles, body armor and military equipment to be deployed.
Under the precedent set by the recent events in Boston, the authorities now have the power to subject an entire city to a military siege, with the population ordered to “shelter in place,” while businesses and transportation are shut down and heavily armed SWAT teams are deployed to conduct warrantless house-to-house searches without regard for basic rights.
The Obama administration, in concert with state and local police departments, has sent untold numbers of “anti-terror” undercover spies into domestic political parties and protest groups. In addition to gathering information, the job of these spies is to divert, disrupt and prevent the emergence of organized social opposition.
The criminalization of dissent: Human Rights . . . Here & Therefrom Canadian Lawyer Magazine
Article 1. Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.
— Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Adopted by General Assembly resolution 53/144 of Dec. 9, 1998
While freedom of speech and the right to organize politically are recognized human rights, the sphere of operation for those who do not agree with governments is shrinking both at home and abroad.
In Canada, gone are the days of being able to oppose one’s government without the fear of being silenced. Lawful demonstrations during the G-20 summit in 2010 resulted in a rash of arrests, as well as unlawful “kettling” of innocent citizens participating in the event. The Canadian International Development Agency failed to renew development contracts for NGOs that disagreed with particular policies. The Canada Revenue Agency will remove an organization’s status as a charity if it deems its work to be political.
Most recently, the criminalization of dissent has been noted in Canada’s counter-terrorism strategy unveiled by Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews in 2011. In “Building Resilience Against Terrorism,” under the main heading “The Terrorist Threat,” the strategy document lists environmentalism and anti-capitalism as examples of “domestic issue-based extremism.”
So, how did we get here? According to Roch Tassé, national co-ordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group who has been carefully tracking the change in attitude of the federal government through various reports and initiatives, it is clear there is now a greater alignment between government and corporations. The focus on economic growth is their common interest.
The federal government, in particular, has been engaged in a disciplined communications strategy whereby it constantly and consistently messages to Canadians that economic interests, meaning economic growth, are the same as national interests. The language of post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism legislation created to counter terrorist activities that threatened our national interests is now being used to allow government police agencies to spy on those who speak against corporate interests, particularly in relation to the extractive industries.
In other countries, Canadian NGOs are witnessing even more aggressive tactics being used against human rights defenders. They have heard stories of people whose governments have turned their backs on them, allowed their rivers to become polluted, allowed their children to become ill, and have no interest in their well-being. And when an individual has the temerity to complain and then organize her community to demand change, she is targeted to be silenced. It is not unusual for human rights defenders to be killed, for their families to be threatened, and for both family and community members to be in conflict with them.
Physical violence used to be the norm and is still not unusual. However, more recently, and especially because many human rights defenders are women and there is greater media documentation, the tactics have become more subtle. In a recent talk, Lolita Chavez, co-ordinator of the K’iche People’s Counsel, an indigenous human rights defender from Guatemala, spoke about how the law is used to wear people down, outside of the eye of the cameras, by creating false claims which must be answered and require money activists don’t have. It also take their time, which is then diverted from the community organizing essential to fight the corporations causing damage in their communities.
In some cases their families turn against them, and in others the rest of the community will distance themselves from the complainant. In effect, they are terrorized and suffer great psychological distress. Chavez said her people have a saying for this tactic: “taking the water away from the fish.”
US Government Invented The Conspiracy Theorist Smear To Discredit Dissenters
by Ed Butt
US Author Lance deHaven-Smith traced the origin of term "conspiracy theory" back to a CIA propaganda campaign that was designed to discredit doubters of the Warren Commission’s fake search into who assassinated President Kennedy in Dallas in his book Conspiracy Theory in America.
While it is beyond doubt that there were conspiracy theories before this and very likely people who originated, repeated or embesllished them were at times eferred to as conspiracy theorists, the pejorative usage of the term does apear to have originated in relation to the Kennedy Assasination and was obviously intended a tactic to shame and humiliate those who saw through the ulterior motives of The Warren Commission, and thus effectively censor out or even banish anyone who questions official government accounts.
I personally have no opinion on the Kennedy Assassination, yes the official narrative did seem dodgy (don't they all?) and enough sensible and rational people have blown holes in the official version of events to make anyone who believes it without question appear extremely naive. But fifty years after the event took place, failing a deathbed confession from somebody directly involved, we are never going to find out the true story of what happened in Dallas that day.
It is known however, and has been widely reported, that The Warren Commission ignored the testimony of a multitude of eye witnesses to the crime because their testimony would prove shots were fired from both behind and in front of Kennedy’s motorcade. Witnsses, none of whom were called to give their testimony, were prepared to swear they heard shots coming from the grassy knoll in front of the motorcade.
One of those eye-witnesses was an emergency room physician that attended Kennedy’s dying body. He would have testified to the commission that there was a tiny entry wound in JFK’s throat as well as a large exit wound that blew off the back of his head (depositing a chunk of his brain on the trunk of the limousine – which Jackie was shown retrieving in the famous film of the assassination by Abraham Zapruder).
Anyone with discerning eyes saw JFK’s head being violently thrown backwards from the head shot, thus proving that that shot had come from the front (as did the neck shot), thus disproving the single shooter theory and proving that the assassination of the president was indeed a conspiracy (i.e., more than one entity plotting an evil deed).
Thus the CIA’s cunning use of the pejorative "conspiracy theorist" label to discredit those who were not theorising but merely questioning the discrepancies between what they saw, eith live of on television or film, with what they were being told had happened. Usually the ones screeching "conspiracy theory" most loudly are those who label themselves Liberals. This is the starting point of their dishonesty of course, they are fans of big government and therefore the oposite of what can truly be described as Liberal. It is the duty of any liberal (with capital or small L) to be sceptical of government, to resist attempt to impose uniformity of opinion and to question anything the agents of the state are trying to pass off as an established truth.
The people who questioned the official story fabricated around the death of John F. Kennedy were right to be skeptical of what was indeed another of the lies that are presented as fact by political entities wanting our trust and votes, from advertising campaigns by corporation who want us to spend our money on their worthless products, from globalist organisations that need our complicity in order to supersede national sovereignty, and from media entities that want us to believe their agenda driven, politically spun, versions of world events.
All those groups had to be involved in the cover-up of The Warren Commission's lies and of the events surrounding the world Trade Centre atrocity on 11 Sptember, 2001 (9/11).
Both the Warren and 9/11 commissions were in effect part of an attempt to infanilize American voters (I'm not picking on American's here, the same thing is going on in Britain, Europe, Australia, Canada and the rest of the developed world) “Hey you idiots," the establishment is saying, "How many times do we have to tell you that this case is closed? There is to be no further discussion, the Pater Familiaris has decided what we all think, now just be obedient children and go back to your TV, to watching porn on the internet, playing Blast The Foreigner on your games console, texting pictures of your genitals to complete strangers, celebrity worship, and vegetating on the couch cheering for your favorite football team or whatever brain-numbing activity kills, one-by-one, the days of youir life.
The reason they do not want dissent of course is there are far too many simple questions they cannot answer without incriminating themselves.
Another Big Result For The 'Conspiracy Theorists' - US CIA Corrupts Western Journalists.
Criminalisation Of Protest And Dissent In Britainfrom Indymedia
The right to peacefully protest or demonstrate in support of a cause or political point of view on any issue has been a long established civil right in Britain. Thus we have seen anti - war demonstrations, marches in support of workers' rights, protests about uncontrolled immigration, cowds demonstrating in support of victims of injustice and so on.
Bit by bit however we are losing that right. Ironically it is the liberal left who are leading the way in demanding the abolition of this democratic right, by lobbying for organisations they don't like to be banned from demonstrating, to be gagged effectively because it is often the case with small political movements and single issue groups that the only way they can put their case in the public eye is by demonstrating and hoping to generate some media coverage.
Criminalisation of protest and dissent is now a common feature of neo-liberal governance in the developed world. Neo - liberals are of course anything but liberal, they have merely grafted the word 'liberal' onto an authoritarian and elitist philosophy in order to make it appear less threatening. Here is a chance for you see what is happening as dissenters from the neo=liberal message share their experiences and thereby contribute to a chapter on the situation in Britain for a book on criminalisation of dissent around the world.
CRIMINALISATION OF PROTEST AND DISSENT IN BRITAIN - Indymedia
In the course of your activism, have you witnessed, heard about, or experienced criminalisation of protest or dissent?
Do you want to share your thoughts on or observations and experiences of criminalisation of protest and dissent since 9/11?Download full article as a .pdf
Militarisation of the Police to the Criminalisation of DissentThe Platform
The use of water cannons to stymie protests paves the way for the curtailing of democratic rights in a vibrant civil society
The proposal for water cannons on the streets of London is picking up steam, with Mayor Boris Johnson writing to Home Secretary Theresa May to urge her to bring them to London. If Boris has his way we could see water cannons on the streets by this summer, and the UK taking yet another step towards the criminalisation of protest.
When the mayor announced his support for the use of water cannons by the Metropolitan Police, it was despite widespread public opposition. In fact, Johnson’s own consultation received over 2600 responses – only 59 of which were in favour of water cannons compared to 2,547 against.
The reason that so many people are concerned about the introduction of such cannons is because they are weapons. Their impact on a crowd is indiscriminate and they have been known to injure and blind those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves on the receiving end.
This was underlined by an otherwise supportive report from the Association of Chief Police Officers, which noted that “the full-pressure jet from a water cannon is capable of causing serious injury or even death” and states that there are also possible injuries from the impact on the streets including furniture or other debris. This point is backed up by Joanne McCartney, the chair of the London Assembly’s police and crime panel, who went further in saying that there is “no convincing argument” for their deployment. Moreover, the committee she chairs has accused the mayor of “preventing a full and proper national public debate” on the issue.
However, the mayor sees it differently. He has described their deployment as a ‘moral issue’, saying that politicians should not refuse the police something they needed for their operations: “How would we live with ourselves if we denied the police something that could have saved a life or prevented serious injury?”
The fact that the police are pushing for them should be neither here nor there. The police are often pushing for additional powers and equipment. Politicians are not there to merely agree to whatever the police ask for. They are there to represent the public. There are already far too many examples of police officers abusing their power and using unnecessary force to break up protests. One high profile example is the assault on student Alfie Meadows who suffered life-threatening injuries after a student protest. There is also no reason to believe that allowing them access to water cannons would make these abuses any less common.
In 2010 Boris himself was opposed to the introduction of the cannons, saying that he did not think it was right to get into an “arms race” with protesters. Similarly, Theresa May said in 2011, “The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannons. The way we police in Britain is through consent of communities.”
Of course, the big event which has happened since then is the London riots of 2011. The disruption may have stopped but the tensions that caused it are still prevalent. What is needed to avoid a repeat of the riots is not the growing militarisation of the police force, but a far-reaching cultural change and a political culture that focuses on the real issues that fuel these divisions, like economic inequality, austerity and cuts to public services.
There is also no reason to think that water cannons could have either stopped the riots, or can deter future unrest, a point already conceded by Johnson.