Monday, 20 December 2010

Rioting and Accountability

The above is a picture of Jody McIntyre. Jody was recently taking part in student demonstrations against the rise in tuition fees before he was reportedly pulled out of his chair by a policeman in order to drag him away from the protests. I haven't researched the specifics of the incident but I will assume that the story is completely true for the sake of this post.

The only point I intend to make in this post is about who is responsible when such things go wrong. It goes without saying that were Jody walking lawfully down a high street with nothing out of the ordinary going on, and a policeman had behaved in this way, there is no grey area or uncertainty over who is responsible. But that is not the circumstances within which this happened. An out of control riot was taking place amongst protesters that were attacking the police who were not responsible for the legislation the students opposed, but merely maintaining law and order. When a criminal gets away untouched the public scream that there are not enough police doing the job, and when the police seem to be heavy handed they scream we live in a dictatorship. Very few members of the public seem to realise that it is everyday people like them that have to fill the ranks of the police who are just as capable of fear and fallibility as anyone else. In a recent summer I remember speaking to a policewoman who had worked in Birmingham who told our group about some of the riots she had taken part in resisting and described it as one of the most terrifying events of her life. In a violent protest like many of the student demonstrations against tuition fees are turning into, despite claims of police brutality most of the pictures clearly show literally thousands of protesters against often just a single line of police. It is very rarely reported with the same sense of condemnation nor disgust when the many police men and women, walk away from these student protests with bleeding heads from bricks and punches that have been thrown their way, yet when a single protester in the midst of the chaos that the protesters themselves have created is not treated as if they are in a first class hotel, then we are expected to be up in arms. The point is that the rough handling has been coerced by the circumstances that the rioters brought about themselves, not the other way around. You cannot take part in a violent demonstration that attacks the police and then claim the moral high ground if you or someone else gets hurt in the process.

I'd like to repeat I have not researched the particulars of this case, I am merely commenting on the recurring theme in the responses to it. I would put forward though, that had a non-disabled protester broken the law and breached the restricted barrier then they would rightly have to be removed and were Jody doing the same then exactly the same is true and it should be noted that he wasn't actually injured or hurt in any way by the proceeding.

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