Culpability VII: Bootnote

Liberal Democrat [ MP. –Ed ] Tom Brake says he saw what he believed to be two plain-clothes police officers go through a police cordon after presenting their ID cards.

Brake, who along with hundreds of others was corralled behind police lines near Bank tube station in the City of London on the day of the protests, says he was informed by people in the crowd that the men had been seen to throw bottles at the police and had encouraged others to do the same shortly before they passed through the cordon.
                                                — The Guardian

You know, I’m beginning to wonder about this journalistic integrity thing. It’s a bit odd for me anyway, since I’m an historian. As a discipline we’re inclined to the long view; we’re inclined to use a lot of caveats about data and provenance thereof, and we’re inclined to be very careful to leave room for new data to change our interpretation. It was in this spirit that I wrote the Feast of Fools and Culpability series; I kept seeing things in eye-witness reports which I either cited very carefully, noting that eye-witness reports were unsubstantiated, or left out altogether because there wasn’t enough data and I genuinely hoped they weren’t true.

I really hoped that the assault on Tomlinson had been an accident. It wasn’t. I really hoped that the police medics had not been engaged in violent assaults: they had. I really hoped that the police medical teams had been provided to care for the injured; in fact protesters were explicitly refused help, by medics, while bleeding. I really hoped that the police had not been targeting legal observers and arresting them, harassing them, stealing their recording equipment, defacing their notebooks. All of these things were happening. Every time I held back from making a claim and waited for more evidence, the evidence has appeared. I was really hoping that at least some of my illusions regarding the British respect for law (as well as order) might remain intact; that at least some of the things people said about Operation Glencoe might, in fact, have been mistakes or smears.

But no. One of the things I didn’t say because I only had one, unconfirmed eye-witness report, was that police agents provocateur had been spotted in the crowd; that the crowd, having identified them trying to stir up trouble and cause the protesters to confront police violently, had turned on them, and that the officers in question had escaped by flashing ID at the cordons and being let through without query.

I have already argued, based purely on witness statements, video and admissions from the police themselves, that there was an intent behind Operation Glencoe. I have illustrated that the police prepared themselves for systematic lawbreaking by concealing IDs. That they had a clear agenda, indicated by their lies during and after the protests, by the pattern and scheduling of their actions, by their throwing badly beaten women back into cordons which, in theory, they were supposed to be trying to disperse. That the agenda in question was to punish dissent. All of this is by evidentiary analysis only, but now I have my second source; an MP no less. I can now safely say that the policing of the G20 protests was politicised with the intent to incite rioting among their enemies, so as to provide an excuse to break heads. The “who started it” debate is now over; it’s not analysis or speculation now. It’s a Parliamentary inquiry and I bloody well hope it’s a criminal investigation within the month. If it isn’t then we will know for sure that the agenda of using paramilitary officers to punish dissent does not start with Sir Paul Stephenson, but with his political masters in Whitehall and Downing Street.

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