An estimated 20,000 police from all 43 forces in England and Wales marched through central London in protest at 20% cuts in police budget and proposed restructuring. Occupy, Right To Protest and others joined in to protest for justice in policing.
An estimated 20,000 police from all 43 forces in England & Wales marched through central London in protest at 20% cuts in police budget and proposed restructuring. Occupy, Right To Protest and others joined in to protest for justice in policing.
The Police are not allowed to strike or belong to a proper trade union, but the Police Federation is able to organise demonstrations like that today when thousands of off-duty police, some with family members made a impressively large if rather dull protest past the Home Office, the Houses of Parliament and Downing St. Most of them were wearing black caps, and there were 16,000 of these, the number of warranted officers expected to be lost over the next four years due to the cut in the police budget of 20-30%.
Like other public sector workers, police have had their pay frozen for two years, and for some at least the amount of overtime has dropped dramatically. Like others in the public sector who were on strike today the police are also seeing increases in pension contributions.
As police are not allowed to strike, there were some police who would have liked to join the protest but who had to work today, and some were involved in policing the police protest. A few police on the protest carried small posters with the names of officers who had been unable to attend due to being at work.
This was a protest in which very few people carried placards or banners and in which there was little or no chanting, just most of the time people walking along the street chatting with their neighbours. There were a number wearing shirts with messages on them, some just repeating the message of the main banner, 'Cutting Police by 20% is criminal' but others more creative. Popular was one with a picture of Home Secretary Teresa May and the text 'Get Shafted and Carry On', while there were those showing a picture of a warrant card on the front with message 'Her Majesty Gave Me This' with the back showing a knife stabbing and blood dripping with 'May and Winsor gave me this'.
As at the previous police protest in 2008, the Space Hijackers were present with a 'professional protest stall' and were prepared to offer advice on making placards and chanting. In 2008 there was considerable anger from many of the police directed at these protesters, but this time most of the marchers seemed to be amused, particularly by their chants of 'One Solution - Institution' and some of the mock placards, although there were a few jeers. One of the police on duty threatened the protesters with arrest if they continued to display one of their placards which contained the letters ACAB (as in the popular refrain "I'll sing you a song and it won't take long ... and often tattooed between the fingers of prisoners as well as the title of a punk song.)
Much of the time police stood between the stall and the marchers, watching the stall, though this seemed simply to be an attempt at intimidation of the protesters who given they were outnumbered by several thousand to one were rather unlikely to cause any trouble. Police used the same tactic in front of a group of protesters with the 'Defend the Right to Protest' banner, who were shouting slogans against police violence including 'Who kills the youth? Police kills the youth!' and 'Mark Duggan! - Never Again!' and the unfortunately large number of possible variations on the theme of deaths at the hands of police. Rather lighter in tone - and certainly I saw some of the police grinning - was there 'No Justice No Peace - Kettle the Police!'
At the start of the protest their had been a few slightly tense exchanges when a small group of people from Occupy London came to join in the protest. One carried a placard with the excessively long message (which I reproduce as written):
WHAT DO WE WANT?
"A fully, Publicly funded, democraticly accountable Police force who's aims and objectives enshrine the right to peaceful Protest in some sort of People's Charter!
When Do We Want it?
They had brought plastic police helmets which they put on and they joined in with the march, making clear that they were not against the police but that they wanted a police force that worked for the 99% and not for the 1%.
A number of others also took advantage of the march to publicise various other matters related to the police, including Ian Puddick who got intimidated, attacked and prosecuted by City of London Terrorism Police and Counter Terrorism Directorate in an operation costing millions carried out on behalf of a giant US security corporation after he discovered his wife had been having an affair with one of her bosses. Like almost all other cases involving police corruption there will probably never be a proper enquiry into the affair. Puddick who has been exonerated by the courts over the action he took marched with a prominent sign 'Police Corruption' including the address of his web site, and there was another man with an identical placard walking a few yards ahead of the police protest as it came into Parliament Square.