The media's been in a bit of tizz since the Met's head of public order, Superintendent David Hartshorn, said in the Guardian yesterday how he expected a “summer of rage” to hit the capital. He says activists are increasingly “intent on coming on to the streets to create public disorder” and that the 'middle classes' may be tempted to protest to vent their frustration as the recession bites.
Woah there. Nobody can deny protest is in the air - only today Royal Mail workers were out at Westminster over pensions. Power station workers are marching in Newark and promising to bring the demonstration to the capital. There've been protests in Greece, France and (unsurprisingly) Iceland. Even the Daily Mail's getting a bit militant. And the G20, due in London on 1 April, will clearly be a focal point.
But is there, as the Guardian suggested, just a teensy possibility that the Met are talking up the threat to justify harsh tactics? Police were criticised for being heavy handed during the Gaza demos in January and the government was forced to apologise after over-egging police injuries during the massive operation against the Kingsnorth climate camp last summer, where they arrested 100 protesters. With another climate camp setting up in Bishopsgate for the G20, are we really going to see 1,000 officers in the middle of the City, bored and waiting for something to do?
People are angry about what's happened to the economy, their jobs, their savings. We all have a democratic right to protest about that. But we're a little worried we could get a repeat of Oxford Circus May Day 2001, when zealous policing exacerbated tensions in the largely peaceful, penned in crowd. While the far left and far right always make inroads during harsh times, we don't think that's justification for hyperventilating talk about expecting riots and needing the army or confrontational policing. Let's all just keep our heads, alright?