Guy Aitchison and Andy May: The Metropolitan Police Authority met yesterday for the first time since the policing of the g20 protests. Defend Peaceful Protest put its questions directly to MPA chief executive Catherine Crawford. The Met were represented by acting deputy commissioner Tim Godwin (standing in for Sir Paul Stephenson) and temporary assistant commissioner Chris Allison.
The good news is that the MPA, which is made up of 11 independent members and 12 London Assembly members, were largely supportive of the protestors' rights and had critical things to say about the G20 policing (see Anna Bragga's post for a full report).
The bad news is that we were not satisfied with the Met's response which, when not actively misleading, amounted to "we're conducting an enquiry, so we're not going to answer any of your questions yet."
Probably the most disturbing thing is that the senior police officers are still attempting to spin their way out of trouble. Chris Allison defended the tactics of "containment and controlled dispersal" (the police's preferred term for "kettling") which he said was the least violent option.
We believe there were at least 3 police defences for the containment tactics used which are extremely misleading if not totally untrue.
The police claim flares were thrown and they were "pelted with bottles" at the bank of England BEFORE introducing the cordons. We have seen no video or witness statements to corroborate this. The violence, including the smashing of RBS, came AFTER the police cordon was imposed around 12.20.
The police claim they clearly told Climate Camp protestors with a loudhailer that they would clear the camp. We were there at 7.10pm when this began and heard no warning from police. Nor did many other protestors who have submitted witness statements. Either there was no warning or the warning wasn't communicated to the whole camp.
The police claim a semi-permeable cordon was in operation around the Bank of England and Climate Camp, allowing people to leave wherever possible. All the evidence, and our own experience, suggests this was not the case and that protesters and passers-by were indiscriminately detained with only a lucky few (mainly press) allowed to leave.
Other misleading statements by the police include the claim that Climate Camp blocked a "four lane highway" at Bishopsgate (it was two lane) and that camp representatives "refused to divulge their plans" at a meeting with senior officers (outside observeres say they were extremely co-operative).
This is in addition to their spinning of Ian Tomlinson's death in their initial press releases and their repeated claim that there were "violent" elements at climate camp when many observers have clearly stated that there were none and not one camper was arrested for violence.
This blatant spinning must stop, the police must admit they got the tactics wrong or they'll further damage their reputation amongst protestors and the general public alike.
The MPA unanimously agreed to examine kettling and other public-order police tactics in its civil liberties panel. We will keep on lobbying the MPA and work with them to ensure that the HMIC review into public order policing includes the concerns of protesters, protest groups and the general public, without which it can hardly be expected to restore public trust in protest policing.