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London Police prepared to use Rubber Bullets against Student Demonstrators

I recall years ago, during the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, an article in a Socialist Republican magazine that stated if rubber bullets were to be used in the 6 counties, then one day, they would be openly used by the police on mainland Britain.

That day has arrived, as Scotland Yard announced yesterday that baton rounds, or rubber bullets, have been authorized for a student demonstration in London tomorrow.

What the fuck? A student demonstration merits rubber bullets?

According to the Daily Mail:

Baton gun rounds have never been used on the British mainland, but they have been linked to deaths in Northern Ireland.

Commander Simon Pountain, who is in charge of the police operation, said armoured vehicles, known as Jankels, would also be on standby if the protests saw a repeat of this summer riots or the chaos last year during the student fees demonstrations.

Baton rounds were pre-authorised during August’s riots but were not used. This is the first time they have been pre-authorised for a planned protest march on the mainland.

The march, organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, is due to go from Bloomsbury in Central London to the City. It is being kept away from the St Paul’s anti-capitalism protest but activists from the cathedral camp are expected to join in.

Last year, the then Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson was criticised for only sending out 225 officers who were overwhelmed by hordes of rampaging student protesters smashing into the Conservative Party headquarters on November 10.

And on December 9, during another student protest, Prince Charles’s limousine was besieged in the worst royal security breach in a decade.

The Duchess of Cornwall’s face was a mask of terror as rioters swarmed around their Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, kicking, hitting and rocking the car. One managed to poke her with a stick through a window.

I wonder if the Duchess’s face will be a “mask of terror” should any students be shot with rubber bullets tomorrow?

Baton Rounds are made of aluminium and plastic, and are fired from a Heckler & Koch L104A1 Launcher.

6 inches in length, and weighing 5 ounce, they can travel up to 135mph and accurate to 70 yards.

Unlike rubber bullets which are fired into the ground, baton rounds are fired directly at a human target.

The blog on the Adam Smith Institute has described the police plans as:

...a worrying step towards a dangerous “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to riot control, and should be reversed.

Despite widespread public perception of them as relatively harmless method of crowd control, rubber bullets are extremely dangerous. In a study of 90 patients suffering from injuries from their use in Northern Ireland, one person died and 17 were permanently disabled or disfigured. Over 35 years of their use in Northern Ireland, they have killed 17 people. Rubber bullets can be lethal to those they are fired upon.

Perhaps such force was needed at times in Northern Ireland. But it’s obvious that student protesters won’t present the same level of danger to civilians and police officers as riots at the height of the Troubles. Previous student protests have turned ugly, but not on a wide scale. The types of clashes that took place would not have been avoided by rubber bullets.

While the Daily Telegraph notes:

The talk of baton rounds ahead of what is intended to be a peaceful protest caused some consternation.

One member of the Metropolitan Police Authority compared the tactic to one used by a “murderous dictatorship”.

Jenny Jones, the MPA Green Party members, said: “Any officer that shoots a student with a baton round will have to answer to the whole of London.

“The police have a duty to facilitate peaceful demonstrations, which is why all this talk of baton rounds is very unhelpful as it will stop ordinary people from exercising their right to protest.

“The prospect of the police shooting at unarmed demonstrators with any kind of bullet is frankly appalling, un-British and reminiscent of scenes currently being used by murderous dictatorships in the Middle East.”

10,000 students are expected to march tomorrow against Fees and Cuts, and its not just the threat of rubber bullets the police have been using to bully the students.

The Guardian reports that some demonstrators have been sent a warning letter by the police.

The single page letter, which arrived through letter boxes on Tuesday, reads: “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.”

Signed by Simon Pountain, the Met commander leading Wednesday’s operations, the letter goes on to warn of detrimental effects of conviction on their chances of employment and says that if people find themselves near disorder they should move away at the earliest opportunity.

Let’s be clear - these actions by the police are ill-conceived and dumb. By sending out what can only be described as threatening letters and by announcing they intend to use baton rounds, if required, the police are showing they are more interested in bullying the public with the threat of violence, rather than protecting them.

For details of the tomorrow’s student demonstration by National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts check here.

Posted by Paul Gallagher
05:12 pm
15-year-old Tells Establishment to Stick It
08:10 pm

“We are now the generation at the heart of the fightback.”
With thanks to Suzanne Moore

Posted by Paul Gallagher
08:10 pm
London Riots: Not Quite Anarchy in the UK as Prince Charles’ Car Attacked

The student riot is a great British tradition. From Oxford’s St Scholastica Day, on February 10 1355, when a couple of undergraduates complained about the quality of beer served in their local hostelry, leading to an all out battle that left sixty-three students and thirty locals dead.  Through to 1968, when plucky youngsters attacked the American Embassy over the Vietnam War, with eighty-six people injured and over two-hundred arrested. To the Poll Tax Riots with its famous Battle of Trafalgar in 1990, which left 113 injured, and 339 arrested.

Today in London, Britain’s great students have been protesting against the triple hike in tuition fees, leading to running battles with the police, vandalism of property and an attack on a car containing HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, as the Daily Telegraph reports:

Demonstrators kicked the Rolls-Royce as it travelled to the Royal Variety Performance in central London. White paint and bottles were thrown over the car and a window shattered.

The Prince and Duchess were “unharmed” and continued with their engagement at the London Palladium, a Clarence House spokesman said.
The attack occurred on Regent Street at the end of a day of protest that turned into a riot and left 10 police officers injured, six of them seriously.

Matthew Maclachlan, who witnessed the attack on the Prince’s car, said: “The police cars at the front of the convoy drove straight into crowds at the top of Regent Street. They got trapped in that mob and it meant that Charles and Camilla were on their own further down the road except for a Jaguar travelling behind them.

“Charles and Camilla’s car ran into such a concentration of people that it had to stop. It was stationary for a lot of the time, then would squeeze forward an inch. They had just one bodyguard in the car with them and a chauffeur.

“We couldn’t believe it. The car had really big windows so Charles was very much on display. People were trying to talk to him about tuition fees at first but when more people realised what was happening, the crowds swelled and people were throwing glass bottles and picking up litter bins and throwing them at the car. You could hear all this smashing.

“There was one protection officer in the Jaguar behind, dressed in a tuxedo, and he was opening the car doors and using them to bash people away. His car took a real pummelling.”

No, not quite anarchy in the UK, but good to see students carrying on a great tradition, which gives me an excuse to blast this olde favorite.

Footage of rioting students after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
06:45 pm
Students Demonstrate Outside Tory HQ London
11:24 am

Today in London, there have been angry scenes at Millbank Tower, home to the Conservative Party HQ, as students and lecturers demonstrate against the hike in tuition fees. As the BBC reports:

There have been clashes between demonstrators and police in London, as students and lecturers protest against plans to treble tuition fees and cut university funding in England.

Protesters have broken into the building housing the Conservative Party headquarters in Westminster.

They have set fire to placards outside.

Student leaders condemned the latest action as “despicable”. They say about 30,000 people took part in a march earlier.

A stand-off is taking place between students and the police, with protesters surging forward at Millbank Tower, chanting.

Some protesters are on a roof terrace at the top of the building.

Missiles have been thrown at the police, as thousands of demonstrators crowd the street outside.

The London Ambulance Service says nine people have been treated for minor injuries.

BBC News correspondent Mike Sergeant is at the scene. He says the protesters on the roof have been throwing liquids down and that a female police officer has been injured.

And demonstrators have been cleared from outside the Liberal Democrat headquarters, where a car window has been smashed.

The Guardian newspaper is running a live feed.


Posted by Paul Gallagher
11:24 am