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Police crackdown on women's protests

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Women Protesting Femicide Met by Police Violence
The kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, walking home in south London on March 3 and the emergence that a serving officer of the Metropolitan Police’s diplomatic protection squad had been charged for it, then cops pinning down, handcuffing and arresting women at a vigil, started a chain of events that has led to a eruption of mass protests. This is despite the covid lockdown and stiff legal penalties which empowers the police to impose £10,000 fines on organizers of any sort of public assembly.
A vigil was called by an ad hoc group, “Reclaim These Streets” involving Labour Councilors, from Lambeth and the local Labour MP Helen Hayes, They had requested the police to authorize it, offering dozens of trained stewards to ensure safe social distancing. But the Met, under the first woman to hold this post, Dame Cressida Dick, adamantly refused. Lawyers for the organisers appealed to the Court to overturn the police ban. This it declined to do so but ruled that, though the police had the right under the covid law to forbid it, this did not extinguish the right to demonstrate under the human rights act.
At this point the Reclaim these Streets, like the good reformists they are, beat a “ responsible” retreat and called for people to observe the police ban. But militant feminists from Sisters Uncut, correctly urged people to ignore this and “go for a walk” on Clapham Common, which Sarah had crossed on the night of her abduction.
In conscious defiance of the police ban - hundreds growing to a few thousand - came to the focus of the vigil, a Victorian bandstand in the centre of the Common where many flowers had been laid . The gathering was entirely peaceful until the real troublemakers turned up, the notoriously thuggish Tactical Support Unit. Dame Cressida Dick’s claim that her officers just had to intervene and make arrests because they were subjected to violence is a brazen lie as all those there can testify to, with video evidence on their mobile phones.
The TSU pushed their way through the crowd to the bandstand, from which women were speaking to the crowds. Women were assaulted by the police, thrown to the ground, handcuffed and dragged away to police vans. These actions, of course, provoked anger and loud prolonged anti-police chants. Attempts to block them dragging away by women resulted in scuffles, but the violence was entirely on the side of the police.
These actions were clearly shown on the evening news, by all TV channels and so plainly was violence by policemen against women, that even Boris Johnson and Tory MPs had to express their shock, some even even condemnation, and the right wing Home Secretary Priti Patel, promised to fully investigate it. But of course they were soon back on message trying to shift the blame onto those who had dared defy the police ban. The in-house enquiry by the Met itself and the investigation by the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) will not bring any redress and certainly not on those who ordreded the action who include Dick an Patel if not Johnson.
Meanwhile on the following day militant demonstrations drawing several thousand of women and men took place outside the Home Office and the Mets’ Victoria headquarters, New Scotland Yard, marching to Trafalgar Square and back to Parliament Square. This time without police arrests, in all probability because of the Because of the temporary confusion of the powers that be about the universally hostile public reaction.
Getting Rid of Cressida Dick
The events on Clapham Common led to may including the Liberal Democrats leader to call for the sacking of Met Chief. Who for her part robustly defended her officers and contested the right of anyone to comment on let alone criticize them; "I don't think anybody who was not in the operation can actually pass a detailed comment on the rightness and wrongness..”
Of course Dame Cressida has when it comes to defending police impunity, even when they “shoot first - asks questions later”. She was directly in charge of the operation in 2005, in which a young Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes, was shot seven times in the head on a tube train at in Stockwell underground station by Met firearms officers. They offered no credible evidence that he was a terrorist (beyond that he looked Mongolian!) issued no challenge or spoke to him before unleashing a fusillade in the train carriage. Yet at the 2008 inquest, Dick said: “If you ask me whether I think anybody did anything wrong or unreasonable on the operation, I don’t think they did.”
But figures on the Labour right who now rule the party with an iron hand have come to the Met chief’s defence. Keir Starmer too, who when he was Director of Public Prosecutions, denied the family of Jean Charles de Menezes the right to reopen the case of their murdered son, has backed Dick remaining in post. He told reporters: ““I don’t think Cressida Dick should resign, we need to see the reports that have now been called for."
Of course he knows these reports will come after the agitation has died down. A pity indeed that he should have stayed at the DPP through he is using his prosecuting expertise to railroad left wing Labour Party members in the biggest purge since the 1980s.
And Lambeth Councillor Anna Birley, spokesperson from the group Reclaim These Streets tried a faux-feminist argument for Dick keeping her post.
“We are a movement of women seeking to support and empower other women, and as one of the most senior women in British policing history, we do not want to add to the pile-on,” she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain. Hab cing just seen how and for whom Dick uses her power this is perhaps the most crass argument to date: which class you serve trumps gender every time.
Dick meanwhile is defiant as ever
“If you ask me whether I think anybody did anything wrong or unreasonable on the operation, I don’t think they did.”
A Gagging Act in the Making
On the following Monday – once again large crowds gathered in Parliament Square Trafalgar Square and other parts of the West End. Hundreds of people blocked Westminster Bridge in protest against the Polic, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill then beginning its second reading in the House of Commons. And once again people were arrested for breaching the Health Protection Regulations.
These events revealed that women’s (and men’s) basic democratic right to protest against all forms of injustice is not safe in the hands of either the police or the judiciary, not to speak of the government. The Tories are that presently using their 80+ majority in the Commons to get through Parliament a Bill to give the police even greater powers to ban demonstrations
The Bill allows the police to ban events and demonstrations, which they judge, are “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance” or threaten “serious annoyance [or] serious inconvenience,” to “the public or a section of the public.” Conviction fro defying the police on such matters can land you in prison for up to 10 years. Sections dealing with “one-person protests” leave it to the discretion of a senior police officer as to whether any noise risks causing “serious unease” in those who hear it.
The proposals include measures to prevent protest outside Parliament and increase penalties for breaches of conditions placed by the police on demonstrations, criminal penalties for protesters who cause “serious annoyance” and the expansion of powers to shut down demonstrations if they cause “serious unease.”
Responding to the PM’s comments today, feminist group Sisters Uncut said: “As the actions of police at peaceful vigils this weekend show, police abuse the powers that they already have — and yet the government plans to give them more powers in the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill.”
In short the rights of women are a litmus test for the rights of everybody and our rulers, female as well as male are out enemies
Police Harass Women

Yet the police themselves not only have an appalling records of not responding to women’s’ complaints of rape, domestic violence or harassment. The Observer recently revealed that over a six year period early 1,500 accusations of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, exploitation of crime victims and child abuse, have been made against police officers in England and Wales,
Of these cases, 371 were upheld, resulting in the sacking or resignation of 197 officers, special constables and PCSOs. Ten police forces did not provide data. This shows that not only is there a culture of misogyny an racism in the force but that the large scale impunity that officers receive from their commanders, judges and government ministers, and the fear of Labour politicians to criticise the police gives them a feeling of power to exercise their prejudices. Since Thatcher’s time nearly every element of local and democratic oversight has been whittled sway and a centralised police force created. Labour in office did nothing to stop this.
What women. protests and ad pickets, what black, Asian an other minorities, face shows that the police are not defenders of the public. In fact we need to defend ourselves and our communities against the police. Of course we can support immediate or partial measures to control the worst depredations of our :defenders” - to sack Cressida Dick, to reject an defy the New Policing Bill, to dissolve the Met and the national police s chiefs association, to set up a independent working class investigating body into police crimes. And we urgently need to fight to ensure that “building back better” includes rebuilding the quality and number of women’s refuges and centres.
But in the end it is the capitalist system that lies at the root of women’s oppression and inequality and that at the same time causes the insecurity and social degradation which becomes the seedbed of misogyny and racism when it is not effectively fought h back against. Taking up the battle against them also points to the need for a milntant working class party and a mass working class women’s movement , not concerned with empowering a few women servants of the ruling class.

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