Second only to the lack of concrete reason for the senseless violence, what was most striking about the riots in Britain was the extreme restraint the police used with the rioters and looters. Even myself, a strong believer in civil liberties and a hardliner against police brutality felt like screaming “what the hell are you doing, protect the people, they’re burning everything down and all you do is just watch

 

The lack of action by the police has also lead to the formation of vigilante groups of people trying to protect their areas. Once again, I’m generally against vigilantism, but how could I not approve otherwise peaceful people protecting their locality from burning?

This is all very strange, since the British police aren’t usually known for their softness. The most notorious tactic used by Britain’s police is known as kettling, used for the first time against people with a disability fighting for their rights in 1995.

Kettling involves a large number of police officers forming a cordon among the protesters and then tightening them up, many times for long hours without access for food, water, and fresh air.

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This tactic, which has become closely associated with Britain’s police is a serious violation of Human Rights for many reasons. It is a type of collective punishment because if only a small section of the protesters are turning rowdy, all the rest have to suffer being in the cordon. There have also been many cases of passer bys being caught inside the kettle.

 

It has also been criticized for the fact that it is sometimes used pre-emptively with peaceful protesters and that rather than contain violence, the intention is mainly to deter people from going out to protest in the first place.

 

Some high profile cases where this was used in the UK, include the Mayday protests of 2001, the G8 summit of 2005, G20 of 2009 as well as last March during the anti-austerity protests.

 

While none of these protests was a full blown riot – at times there was no violence at all – by the time of writing (5th day of the London riots) not only kettling has not been used, but as everyone can see the rioters and looters are many times being allowed to do what they want.

 

Why have Britain’s police moved from excessive brutality practiced for the last 15 years, to this soft handedness in a matter of months? I don’t want to get into some conspiracy theory, but in face of such contradictions one starts thinking the absurd.

 

Is it possible that kettling and brutality have been used because all the other occasions, involved organized people demanding rights, while in this case this is just senseless violence? Since kettling usually provokes a backlash, is it possible that the police were instructed to turn non-violent people violent deliberately so that people justifiably demanding their rights come to be seen as violent thugs in front of the media?

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