The Metropolitan Police’s new commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe brought his vision of “total policing” to London’s streets last week.
Some 4,000 police accompanied the student protest, including many in riot gear. Every side street along the route was blocked by police Undercover cops infiltrated the protests and made arrests.
David Cameron’s mealy mouthed defence of a “right to protest” goes hand in hand clamping down on “unauthorised” kinds of protest.
Officers stopped the march regularly. At several points riot cops tried to split the crowds or drive a wedge into the demo.
There are two things going on here. The first is that the government is terrified of the resistance to its brutal austerity plans. It is turning to the police to crack down.
But Hogan-Howe is also fighting his own corner. He uses the threat of disorder to claim the government cannot afford to cut police numbers.
This dynamic also explains the pre‑emptive arrest of 170 English Defence League thugs on Friday of last week.