Socialist Worker

Jail corrupt cops, not protesters

Issue No. 2261

Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation as chief commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has ended his career. He was responsible for some of the worst attacks on protests for a generation.

Stephenson presided over a force that raided the houses of teenagers who protested against Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2009. He also helped ensure many of them served heavy prison sentences.

And he oversaw the brutal policing of London’s G20 protests in April 2009, where newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson was unlawfully killed.

Ian was shoved and struck with a police baton just before his death.

Stephenson later said, “The headlines should read ‘astonishing operation by the Met who did a first class job’. I say that against the tragic context of a man dying.”

This cynical, self-congratulatory attitude sums up his career. He has been a staunch defender of the most repressive police tactics.

Most recently he claimed he was proud of the police’s “professional and restrained approach to unexpected levels of violence in recent student demonstrations”.

He said that he considered using water cannons in future—or banning the protests outright.

Hundreds of students were arrested on and after the protests. Many had to answer to charges of violent disorder, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

The hypocrisy of the system is astounding. Millions were spent attacking and arresting student protesters. Ed Woollard, Francis Fernie and Charlie Gilmour were all sentenced to at least a year in prison.

This same police force spent just eight hours investigating serious phone hacking allegations.

But the police know that ordinary people can see through their thin veneer of respectability.

On Monday, police dropped charges of aggravated trespass against 109 of the protesters who occupied the luxury Fortnum & Mason shop in London on 26 March.

A petition demanding the dropping of all charges against protesters by this tainted force is winning wide support. Initial signatories include Tony Benn, Michael Mansfield, Len McCluskey, Zita Holbourne and Laurie Penny.

Petition to drop the charges against student protesters:

Defend the Right to Protest:

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Article information

Tue 19 Jul 2011, 17:25 BST
Issue No. 2261
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