Socialist Worker

The police are the strong arm of the state

Issue No. 2149

Riot police confront demonstrators against the arms trade in Brighton (Pic: http://www.guysmallman.com/» Guy Smallman )

Riot police confront demonstrators against the arms trade in Brighton (Pic: » Guy Smallman)


The police have been integral in implementing New Labour’s “anti-terror” legislation – from extended stop and search, bungled house raids and the slaying of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Campaigners are now breaking the law if they hold a demonstration within a mile of parliament without permission from the police.

Terror suspects can be held for 28 days without charge by the police and be detained in British prisons without trial.

As the economic crisis has deepened over the last few months, we have seen a return of more heavy-handed policing.

On 15 July last year a demonstration against the visit of George Bush, then president of the US, was banned from protesting in Whitehall. Police batoned demonstrators as they tried to march.

Many people were bleeding from head wounds but the police continued to attack them. Despite the behaviour of the police, it was protesters who were arrested for violent disorder, and they are still fighting their cases today.

The police attacked demonstrations against Israel’s atrocities in Gaza in January.

The anger on the streets, not only against the war on Gaza but also against the police who routinely harass Muslim youth, was explosive.

Following a national demonstration on 10 January, a breakaway march left Trafalgar Square and headed for the Israeli embassy. The police initially tried to stop the marchers, but the crowd pushed them back.

The police then forced the demonstration into an underpass and trapped people there.

They marched horses down one side and panic took hold. After blocking both ends of the underpass, riot police at one end baton-charged the demonstration.

Police violence was on display once again during the G20 protests.

The protests reflected the huge level of anger that the growing recession is generating. Rising unemployment and attacks on workers’ living standards have given rise to a renewed anti-capitalist feeling.

The police response, and particularly the death of Ian Tomlinson, has created a media storm and reinvigorated a debate about the nature of the police, what their real role is and in whose interests they serve.

Whenever working class people organise to fight back – or even congregate in large numbers – they will have to face the police, whose job it is to control us.

But when our resistance is big and well-organised enough, the police cannot beat it.


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