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Stop police brutality

On 9 December thousands of students defied the law, passed by the last Labour government, to march into Parliament Square.

The police responded by “kettling” protesters for hours in the freezing cold without food, water, toilets, even denying the injured medical attention. This is a denial of our civil rights to assemble and march, and our human rights not to be detained without food, water or use of a toilet for six hours or more.

Police also used violence against protesters – both armoured cops with batons and shields and charging with horses.

Middlesex University student Alfie Meadows was hit by a baton when he peacefully tried to leave the kettle in Parliament Square and had to undergo emergency brain surgery. Journalist Jody MacIntyre was pulled from his wheelchair and dragged across the floor – twice. A Barnsley school student told the BBC that police had knocked her friends to the ground and beaten them till they coughed up blood. Others were hit, charged by horses, pushed and kettled.

The courts and the state however will not criticise the police – as we saw over the deaths of Ian Tomlinson at last year’s G20 or John Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube in 2005. Instead there are cover-ups, lies about the victim , “accidental” poor inquiries, inexplicable lost documents and a “lack” of evidence.

Meanwhile, the same courts will back the police when it comes to charging protesters. We should campaign for all charges against tuition fees protesters to be dropped.

The kettling is illegal and is designed to frustrate and annoy people so that they will lose their composure, which gives the police opportunities to arrest them and frighten others from protesting again.

Police: part of the state

The violence of the police is not random – it is planned by the state in order to frighten people away from demonstrating, punish protesters with kettling despite them not breaking any law and eventually breaking the break resistance to the government.

Marxists argue that the state is not neutral but serves the ruling class. Frederick Engels said that “bodies of armed men” – the police and army and other military services – are the basis of the capitalist state. They are there to protect capitalism’s order and property, enforcing the laws against us while (as the protests show) freely breaking it themselves, with the complicity of parliament and the courts.

In Lewisham in south London recently a Labour council called in riot police to attack demonstrators against council cuts. This will happen all over the country unless we get organised.

We need to support self-defence against state violence.

But we also need well-organised demonstrations and protests that have sufficient and effective stewards to defend against police violence and reassert our right to protest. Teams of stewards, democratically accountable to student and workers’ assemblies, can ensure protests are defended from police attack, and also restrain excesses or even provocations from police, like leaving an unattended van on Whitehall on 24 November.

Media witch-hunt

The 24-hour news channels filmed the protests. The BBC actually showed police charging protesters; attacks on students from riot cops and experienced first hand the kettling.

But they only showed it once or refused to comment. Their reporters were there to exaggerate the violence of the protesters and downplay that of the police. Sky’s Kay Burley called protesters “insurgents” at one point. Then the newspapers followed with their lurid tales of mass violence and made up quotes in order to launch a witch-hunt against students.

The media’s role is to defend the police – as it did at the G20 when Ian Tomlinson was killed. It wasn’t until footage came through by the public from phones and cameras that the police story was challenged.

The media is owned by billionaires and staffed at the top by well-paid functionaries. Occasionally, they may do an expose of wrongdoing, such as MPs’ expenses, but in the main they aid the police and government.

Self-defence is no offence!

The protests against fees have highlighted to millions that capitalism can’t go forward without stripping away our education, jobs, services and our political and social rights.

We must also build a mass anti-cuts movement and push the trade unions into a general strike to bring down the government, and a revolution to break up the capitalist state – including their police force – and take power into the hands of democratic councils of ordinary working class people.

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