What have tuition fees, G20 and UKUncut got in common? It’s easy; they’re all the subjects of high-profile protests which were originally intended to be peaceful but got out of hand and led to criticism of policing at them.
Today, police are being urged to move with the times over peacekeeping at protests to prevent violent clashes like the ones seen in the demos mentioned above. A report released today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) acknowledges that more people are taking to the streets and times they are a-changing:
‘The character of protest is evolving in terms of: the numbers involved; spread across the country; associated sporadic violence; disruption caused; short notice or no-notice events, and swift changes in protest tactics.’
Protesters at the tuition fees demos certainly put into practice lessons learned from their experience with kettling by keeping on the move to avoid containment thanks to enterprising techies who have formed Sukey, an anti-kettling organisation which describes itself as ‘a multi-platform news, communications and logistical support system designed to ensure safety for protesters during demonstrations.’ Or more succinctly: ‘Fleeing riot police on foot? There's an app for that.’ Team Sukey’s response to the HMIC report welcomes sharing of information to ensure peaceful protests. In case you were wondering, the organisation’s name derives from the nursery rhyme ‘Polly put the kettle on, Sukey take it off again’.
The big question is how the police will adapt to the increasing use of Twitter, Facebook et al as tools to organise protests and whether or not they will use it as an opportunity to improve public order so the peaceful protests can go off, erm, peacefully, or will they go on the offensive and try to use technology to give them quicker containment capabilities?