On 31 August, thousands of people took to the streets to protest against Boris Johnson’s proroguing of parliament. Protesters gathered in many major cities across the UK and shared updates and images on social media using the hashtag #stopthecoup.
However, the police presence was a cause for concern. Some tried to convince protesters in London to ‘clear the streets’:
The police have been sent in to persuade the protesters to clear the streets. But it’s cat & mouse.
— Dr Lindsay Stop-the-Coup 🔶 Maxwell (@ParisDaguerre) August 31, 2019
Kettling and arrests
The police also ‘kettled’ protesters by surrounding and confining them to a small area:
— Walter Menteth (@WalterMenteth) August 31, 2019
Police have now formed a line, backed by advancing riot vans, to kettle and herd peaceful protesters.
— 🔶 Jared “Could be dangerous” Jeyaretnam 🇪🇺🇬🇧 (@jaredjeya) August 31, 2019
Many protesters in London have since been arrested. Among them is London Assembly Member and Councillor, Caroline Russell:
— Benjamin Pearce (@ChaBennyG) August 31, 2019
— Steve Locke-Wheaton (@stevelwTeacher) August 31, 2019
Support for those arrested
A protest to support arrestees took place at Charing Cross Station later in the evening on 31 August:
— Another Europe (@Another_Europe) August 31, 2019
Protecting the far right
While the kettling and arrests are concerning in their own right, they are made worse by the fact that police actively protected counter-protesters. In other words, the police arrested people protesting against the government, while protecting those who support it:
— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) August 31, 2019
Far right muppets stagger out of pub and when they are sure they have the protection of the police, share their racist dribblings. Brave boys! #StopTheCoup #BrexitBritain #Racists #thickcunts pic.twitter.com/f5Ds9BmZ7s
— Arn Stiles (@Arn__Stiles) August 31, 2019
Less than 30 pro-Brexit agitators on the street corner outside a pub, with almost as many police keeping watch
Pick a side 🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/dA2oWQBmB3
— 🌱 Jane ✌️ 🇬🇧 #Revo 🇪🇺 (@localnotail) August 31, 2019
Among the counter-protesters was convicted far-right leader James Goddard:
Turns out convicted fascist bedwetter [email protected] [email protected] has a police escort so he can wander around the Manchester #StopTheCoup protest with his phone, winding people up & begging online for money https://t.co/IkwutddZxY
— Mike Hind (@MikeH_PR) August 31, 2019
Many people have expressed concerns over the arrests, highlighting the implications for democracy:
People are being arrested for protesting the suspension of parliament.
This isn’t meant to happen in democracies.
— Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) August 31, 2019
Police have just arrested Green Party London Assembly member @CarolineRussell.
This is an elected member of the Assembly sitting down in the street defending our democracy against Johnson & Cummings coup.
— Zack Polanski 💚 (@ZackPolanski) August 31, 2019
First the queen then the Chancellor now the police-democracy is being slowly strangled Cummings is tainting everything the normal establishment stands for #StopTheCoup
— Aaron (@Logical1966) August 31, 2019
However, as some pointed out, the police working with the state to protect its interests is nothing new:
Greater Manchester Police has admitted that it has a written agreement to share information about disabled people and other activists who take part in protests with the DWP. And yet we're supposed to be scared of communism under #Labour#DefendOurDemocracy https://t.co/4xeVIgzZck
— Helen 🌹 ✊🏼 (@willhel) August 31, 2019
Not only has arresting people for protesting have a long history in our democracy. But the very same democracy has been progressively making it harder to assemble and protest. Today’s arrests are a feature of our democracy not a bug. https://t.co/rdm9zyx0xq
— The Trashies (@TheTrashiesUK) August 31, 2019
Despite this apparent criminalisation of dissent, the people have made their will abundantly clear through widespread protests. And if Boris Johnson’s government truly wishes to uphold democracy, it must now listen to the will of the people, and act accordingly.
Featured image via Twitter/ PoliticsJOE
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