London Demonstrators Defy Police Intimidation

Hundreds of electricians briefly blocked the City of London this morning

Students, electricians and cab drivers are all demonstrating in London today. Above all, they are demonstrating that they will not be intimidated by police scare tactics, which are aimed at deterring those want to fight for their futures.

Yesterday, Metropolitan Police Commander Simon Pountain launched a full scale media campaign, with the transparent intention of frightening would-be protesters into staying at home. First thing in the morning, Pountain announced that he had given the authority for rubber bullets to be used against students if he decided that police were threatened.

If and when police do use baton rounds, it will be the first time they have been used on the British mainland, having been extensively used in Northern Ireland. Their use on non-violent Occupiers in Oakland, USA two weeks ago served to heighten anti-police feeling, and strongly contributed to calls for a general strike, which eventually paralysed one of the country’s largest ports.

When Pountain made his statement, he would have been aware that letters he had signed were about to be delivered to various people at “austerity related” protests over the last year. The Orwellian letters – which were sent in blatant disregard of whether or not the individual had been charged, let alone convicted – warned that:

“It is in the public and your own interest that you do not involve yourself in any type of criminal or antisocial behaviour. We have a responsibility to deliver a safe protest which protects residents, tourists, commuters, protesters and the wider community. Should you do so we will at the earliest opportunity arrest and place you before the court.”

News of the letters spread quickly on Twitter, and soon it was picked up by The Guardian – which seized on the opportunity to play up its liberal credentials. But out of context, the article served to intimidate, just as Pountain must have been expecting.

It is therefore great that so many people are reportedly demonstrating anyway, despite the best efforts of the state propaganda machine. However, if the various groups in London today must unite at a grassroots level, if any of their causes are to have a chance of success. Contrary to the deceitful statements put out by National Union of Students bureaucrat Michael Chessum, sheer numbers on the street will not make the coalition back away from introducing tuition fees of up to £9,000 per year, and starving universities of funding.

Instead, students must unite with rank-and-file workers in struggle, and put forward a class-based programme for the overthrow of capitalism. It is highly encouraging that links are being made between students and the rank-and-file ‘Sparks’ movement of electricians. These links must be extended and hugely strengthened in the months to come.

The intimidation tactics speak of an awareness in ruling class circles that their austerity measures are provoking anger which can’t be contained within the traditional framework of liberal democracy. But united, workers and students can face down all the power of the state, whatever weapons it decides to deploy.

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