Today saw violence in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park after people descended to the West End for an ‘unofficial party’ on the day of the Royal Wedding.
Avoiding the obviously ironic position of David Cameron publically telling people to ignore the ‘pen-pushers’ in the council and go ahead with a party to mark the day, there’s a couple of things that appear to come out of this that aren’t getting the same sort of media attention.
With regards to this ‘event’, the question must be asked: What constitutes an ‘event’? What made this any different from any other sunny, public holiday in Glasgow? Glaswegians are famed for stripping off and heading to KG at the first sign of sun, so in what respect does this differ?
Is it because it was mentioned on Facebook? Is it because there was a sound system sneaked in? As far as I can see that’s the only two factors that differ at all. If everyone had descended on the park without there being a single point of contact that suggested such a thing, would it be considered in the same light? This is important, as the distinction of whether or not this was an ‘event’ allows and facilitates a different reaction from the police.
What’s also being missed in this whole spectacle is the underlying attitude and perception of the police. Whilt I was there earlier in the day, their presence was substantial, but all round good natured, and why shouldn’t it be? The park was busy, but appeared just as busy as the hottest days of previous summers. Of course, where there are lots of people in a small area, there is bound to be some element of trouble, and this is where the reaction falls down.
Upon being attacked by a number of people, the police changed tact. This was no longer about dealing with individuals, but shoring up their full force against thousands of potential troublemakers. The mindset switched to the ‘them and us’ attitude that we have seen so often in recent months and years. The police came under fire by a number of people, and so automatically switched the classification of everyone in the park. This is what’s important. Irrespective of the specific details of today’s happenings, this perception and tactic is the important and essential part that has to be considered.
The criminal law exists to deal with those who are violent and cause trouble. There is no question that those who perpetrated violence should have been rounded up and dealt with to the full extent of the law. I’ve spent years growing up in a city where you had to look over your shoulder, so it’s nonsense to suggest that I’d be on the side of thugs; more often than not I’d be the target.
Instead of containing those intent on violence and dealing with them in a robust manner which the law is perfectly set-up to allow for, they chose to deal with the entire population of Kelvingrove Park as one. In the same way that ‘kettling’ catches the innocent in an indiscriminatory net and does nothing to diffuse a situation, the aggressive response by the police towards everyone present, and not just those warranted by law, was responsible for an escalation of violence and intimidation.
If it really is indeed a ‘minority’ at such ‘events’ that cause trouble, and the law is designed to cope with individuals, then why does the police response always end up so overwhelmingly aggressive? Why do we see such an escalation of force and change in attitude carte blanche?
Is this not a failing of the police to effectively deal with what is prescribed by law? Are we not meant to be protected from the minority of troublemakers without being designated as criminals ourselves and subject to arbitrary and illegitimate force? And that’s the crux – the minority – the criminals are being allowed to dictate the relationship between the police and the majority, with the latter being criminalised without the legitimacy of law.
This is a massive problem, as not only does this have repercussions for the immediate actions of a situation, but for the ongoing relationship between ordinary people and the police force that is meant to protect them. More thought must be given to the long-term effects rather than the immediate consequences.
In a climate where people… ordinary people… not just activists and so called ‘anarchists’ are having to fight for their livelihoods; fight for their jobs, and speak up for what they believe in… we need a method of policing that is proportionate and appropriate; a response that doesn’t treat the many as criminals on the basis of the actions of the few.
If something doesn’t change now, then I fear that when a time comes where this really counts, when something extremely important is on the line, then it’ll be more than just a few sprays of pepper gas and an injured police officer that we’ll have to deal with. Collectively. Not as individuals.