Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2149

Police tactics were first trialled on football fans

The tactics being used by the Metropolitan Police on protesters were perfected on and around football terraces. Officers, minus the body armour and with numbers displayed, treated the majority of spectators with contempt.

“Kettling”, or containing people in a police cordon, was a ploy developed to marginalise specific groups of fans – usually young, vocal males.

Supporters travelling to away games by public transport were herded like cattle between the train station and football ground. Individuals who tried to leave this cattle train were rounded up.

I have vivid memories of a small group of Portsmouth supporters, consisting mainly of men with their young sons, being charged by mounted police for doing nothing other than waiting outside a railway station.

So this is not a new phenomenon, we just have better evidence of it now. If only mobile phones with cameras had existed then.

Kathryn Rimmington, Portsmouth

The 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster (» The state cover up continues, 18 April) highlighted the debate about seating or standing at football stadiums. The media said that the anniversary marked an event where 96 fans were crushed to death.

This only serves to continue to blame the fans for the disaster and to explain the tragedy as an unavoidable accident.

The reality is that the 96 fans were killed as the result of negligence, incompetence and the casual brutality of a police force that refused ambulances access to the pitch to help the injured and dying.

To see the same casual police brutality used against demonstrators in London recently only shows that little if anything has been learned from Hillsborough. The same appalling tragedy could happen again.

It was important that socialists marked the anniversary of Hillsborough and added their voices to the fight for justice. This fight is not only for those who died and those who survived, but for all those who have experienced the casual brutality of the armed defenders of the state.

For many of the bereaved and those who survived, without justice there’s little peace.

B Hennessy, Wigan

It’s not just the police who are to blame for the Hillsborough Disaster. The Football Association shares a large responsibility for what happened.

Tottenham Hotspur fans complained of overcrowding after their 1981 semi-final match at Hillsborough. Leeds United fans made the same complaints in 1987.

In those days fans were herded into stadiums like cattle. It took the death of 96 people, not to mention the trauma that thousands have suffered since, to make the FA rip down the fences that caged in fan like animals and introduce all-seater stadiums.

John Appleyard, Liversedge, West Yorkshire

I had rude awakening in 1968

In 1968 my band, The Wild Angels, was booked to play at the Albert Hall in London. It was a strange gig – organised by dress designers Ossie Clark and Alice Pollock as a party. The audience was by invite only.

Also on the bill were Julie Driscoll, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Yes. A mate of ours had brought his motorcycle to drive on stage when we were doing our set.

He and I went around to the backstage area to check his machine was OK. We were confronted by two figures who stepped out of the shadows.

They were plain-clothes police.

They asked who we were, and when I told them I was in a band playing at the gig and proved who I was they became very disgruntled.

One said to me, “If you want a fight, I’ll take you round the back now and give you a fucking good hiding.”

Up until this time I had thought of that the police were like the benign Dixon of Dock Green on TV. This was a rude awakening.

The march on the fascist BNP bunker in Welling and the police riot at the Criminal Justice Bill protest in the 1990s show that little has changed over the years, despite weasel words from home secretary Jacqui Smith and senior heads of the police.

One thing my confrontation in 1968 did do though was to convince me that I was a revolutionary socialist and that the police are never a friend of the working class.

Mitch Mitchell, March, Cambridgeshire

They can’t stop us all

We need to take back the streets, just like in the film V for Vendetta.

What can 1,000 policemen do against 20,000 committed protesters?

Collet Kurprac, by email

Demand truth about Blair Peach’s death

With the calls to make the Metropolitan Police accountable for the events leading up to Ian Tomlinson’s death we should also renew our demands for the publication of the Cass Report.

This was the Met’s internal inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Blair Peach’s death 30 years ago (» Killed by police, 25 April).

Commander Cass was banging down the door of a comrade’s flat at 1am on 24 April 1979, an hour after we had learned of Blair’s death at Ealing hospital.

We eventually learned the names of the six Unit One Special Patrol Group members who were in Orchard Avenue, where I found Blair after his fatal head injury. But the official coroner’s verdict was death by misadventure. No action was taken against any officer.

Home secretary Jacqui Smith should publish exactly what Cass told his superiors at the time.

All her predecessors have repeatedly refused a call for a public inquiry. The nearest we got to that is the unofficial inquiry by the National Council for Civil Liberties.

The Friends of Blair Peach Committee was merged into the organisation Inquest, which continues to challenge dubious deaths at police hands.

It’s a great shame that Ian Tomlinson’s friends and family now have to go through similar pain to get the truth. But we will support them all the way.

Jo Lang, Friends of Blair Peach Committee

Why did head get £130,000 bonus?

The revelation that Sir Alan Davies, the head of Copland Community School in Wembley, north west London, was paid bonuses of £130,000 over two years is a disgrace.

These bonuses came on top of a salary of around £100,000 a year.

However, even more disgraceful is schools secretary Ed Balls’s support for senior teachers being paid bonuses in the first place.

People have quite rightly been horrified by the bonuses paid out in the private sector to bankers and those in the City.

Why should the public sector be any different?

This money could have been spent on books, computers and other resources for pupils.

Instead it is wasted on giant salaries for people who don’t even teach.

Equally shocking is the suspension of Hank Roberts, the local NUT teachers’ union secretary, who blew the whistle on Sir Alan’s bonuses.

Every teacher should take up this issue and stop the greedy “bonus culture” from entering our schools.

Jeremy Taylor, Joint NUT rep, Preston Manor High School, Wembley, North West London

Deporting the innocent

When the police arrested 12 Pakistani students recently (» Raids and reports fuel Islamophobia ,

18 April) we were told they were planning a terrorist attack.

The media used the opportunity to talk up the terror threat in our midst, so increasing Islamophobia.

But then it was announced last week that nine of the men had been handed over to the UK Border Agency to be deported. One other had already gone through the same process.

No evidence has been found of a planned terror attack and none of the men have been charged. But they are still to be deported.

How many more innocent Muslims will suffer this Orwellian fate in the “war on terror”.

Katherine Branney, East London

I’ll never vote New Labour

I just wanted to thank Sylvia Elgrib and Chris West (» Letters, 25 April) for stating more eloquently than I could some of the main reasons why I will never vote for New Labour, and why we desperately need a socialist government.

Labour’s attitude to and the way they treat some of our poorest and most vulnerable people disgusts me.

New Labour, together with its friends in the right wing media, has contributed to a general hardening of attitudes to people who are the victims of circumstances.

Vote New Labour? I couldn’t live with myself.

Karen Seymour, Mansfield

Open Visteon/Ford’s books

My husband has been an employee of Belfast Ford for the past 33 years (» Dubious practices behind the closure of Visteon UK, 25 April). He paid into a pension scheme which has now been wound up.

It is about time that the truth about this was brought out into the public domain. Our government needs to open the books of Visteon/Ford and uncover all the discrepancies. Now is the time for action not words – our family is facing a bleak future.

We paid into a reputable pension fund and are now facing a future under the Pension Protection Fund.

Keep up the good work and get as much information out to the public. It could be them next.

Karen Keery, Lisburn, Northern Ireland

More days off work needed

I agree with the principle of more time off work for the same pay, which would create more jobs.

However, I think that most working people would prefer more days off work each year rather than the 35-hour week.

Most employers would probably find it easier to organise for extra workers given an increase in the statutory number of holidays.

On the basis of a five- day 40-hour week, the options for a worker could be a seven-hour working day or one half-day off a week.

Given an eight-hour day, then an extra day is earned off every ninth working day. This tallies up as nearly four extra weeks within a year.

I would not dump the 35 hour week directive though. Instead I would give this as an option for workers and employees alike.

Stuart Black, by email

Well done for your coverage

I want to register my sincere congratulations to Socialist Worker for your coverage of the appalling actions carried out by the police at the G20 summit.

You have also highlighted other examples of bad practice by the police.

We all now need to stand together in order to defend our civil liberties, as well as continuing to expose where the police are abusing their powers.

It is time that our over-powerful police force were put in their place.

David Whitaker, Morecambe

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Article information

Tue 28 Apr 2009, 19:01 BST
Issue No. 2149
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