Scotland Yard have announced that on tomorrow’s Student Protest some police have been allocated use of plastic bullets (also known as baton rounds) to fire at ‘extreme cases’ but with the decision being made by the officers as to when it becomes ‘extreme’. When you hear that they are plastic bullets it almost sounds like a fun toy doesn’t it? We’ve all happily shot nerf guns at friends, pets, elderly relatives, watched the foam dart bounce gleefully off their head as they try and enjoy a sandwich amidst childish giggling that you’ve just totally taken them down. But you step up from that, even to air guns, and people lose eyes, suffer severe bruising and can get quite injured. When you get to the level of baton rounds you realise they are barely different from normal bullets. If you see the official description of them they are ‘non-lethal’ weapons and yet there are hundreds of examples of people dying after being subjected by such fire. Northern Ireland is a prime case of this, from the 70s to the 80s with lots of injuries and 14 people dying including nine children. This is most definitely not ‘non-lethal’.
So once we’ve got past the fact that making the weapons sounds like toys is a distraction and con, we have to wonder why on Earth the police have been allocated such weapons to use against students? Yes there was trouble at the last mass student protest last September, with the attack on Millbank, but it was by a very select few, most of whom have been condemned by the student population and several who weren’t even students, more just trouble makers joining in to demean the entire event. These people will always be at protests, but violence isn’t helped by provocation and announcing police have such weaponry at their disposal makes those going nervous. Nervous people react badly and on the spur of the moment and if anything is going to cause aggregation and dissent its seeing a bunch of armed, over eager, cocky, violent riot police descending on a crowd of peaceful protestors as though its a war of sorts.
Protesting never has to be violent and 99%, possibly more, of the people protesting tomorrow won’t have the faintest inclination of violence or intention of trouble starting. They will be there to oppose cuts and charges that are affecting everyone except the elite. They are there to plead for the option of higher education for the masses, to question how the pretence of a national debt that is minuscule compared to the rest of the Western world – the UK still very much holding onto its triple A credit rating while even the US cannot – has allowed a right wing government to make university only for those who can afford it. These people don’t want to take on heavily armed police in fisticuffs, they want to be allowed their freedom of speech to speak about human rights. Instead they are already being warned that even attempting to do so will be greeted by oppressive figures of authority.
If you are going tomorrow – and for all students out there who read this, or people who read this that know students or are involved in education, then you should be, because its important that as many turn out as possible to show that what is happening won’t be tolerated – then please don’t be frightened by this announcement. Its more scare tactics and all we can do to stop this happening more and more is be defiant against it. Go tomorrow, fight for your rights and any police who dare fire upon people who are the future of this country will have all hell to pay. It make this country no better than many of those Cameron is so quick to condemn for its treatment of its citizens. No one deserves to be fired at with baton rounds, and I really hope Scotland Yard realises it.
No comedy today I’m afraid, but as we edge closer and closer to Orwell’s 1984 reality of thought police, there’s really very little to laugh about. If you are a student or in education and don’t know about tomorrow, then see here for information: