The first phase of the G20 protests passed off peacefully on Saturday, not least because the organisers, the British Trade Unions Council (TUC), does not permit violence or anarchy in any form. In their desire to have their message heard in a manner that is respectful of others, they do not block major arterial routes, they hold their protests in very visible areas that do not interfere with the activities of others, and they actively disavow violence, tasking the police to effect arrests of groups that gather with the clear intention of violence.
In stark contrast, the protests later in the week are going to be the mirror opposite of those arranged by the TUC. Forming up at four of the most significant Tube (metro) Stations and then advancing along and across major arterial routes into the City of London, these protests will obstruct and delay traffic, commuters and pedestrians significantly. The argument has been made that the Metropolitan Police (in the UK there is only one ‘Metropolitan Police’ in the same way that there is only one ‘Royal Air Force’ – every other force has an ‘of’ somewhere) are talking up the threat. This is naïve; the only course of action that the Met can take is to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Certainly, the preparations thus far and the actively disinterest in engaging proactively to ensure a peaceful, non-invasive demonstration suggests that even if the organisers aren’t actively organising violence, they are certainly creating the conditions for ‘unrelated groups’ to do so.
For those who didn’t spot it, an interesting report came out of the UK Parliament this week suggesting that the Metropolitan Police’s conduct leant itself towards escalation, and that the rest of the UK police forces should look to Northern Ireland, where they feel the activities to keep situations as de-escalated as possible, but enabling quick reaction and escalation to defeat a growing threat, is best practice.
We are certainly in for an interesting week, and one that will give a good guide of anarchist tactical developments both at protests and against specific targets such as financial institutions. I remain firm in my belief that the threat is growing in the US, and that both law enforcement and institutions should be training and planning accordingly. Crowd control preparation and training can be resource intensive, but the intelligent deployment of resources (both manpower and finance) can help mitigate both the costs and the risks, while increasing capability; now is the time to be investigating those techniques, before it is indeed too late, and the relatively low costs of training and preparation are dwarfed in comparison to the legal suits that result from the ‘professional compensation protestors’ that plague most public order events in the US.