Last week I attended a protest outside the Indian High Commission in which hundreds of Indian people were standing up for their rights, after two innocent men were killed by police forces in India. The reason I have asked this question though isn’t just in relation to the Indian police forces, but about our very own. I write this article as someone who was quite frankly disgusted and horrified at the way the British police force acted against this entirely peaceful protest, and the sheer ignorance and lack of respect that they showed.
To any bystanders like myself at the protests, it would’ve looked like there was a full-scale violent riot in the streets of London. This is because there were 2 helicopters, a Specialist Firearms Command team (London’s SWAT unit), 5 police vans and I would say around an additional 40-50 police officers – all surrounding the space outside the Indian embassy on Aldwych. I found this highly intimidating at the very least, but more importantly – unnecessary. Some people might respond to me and say that they were unsure of how the protest would turn out and thus they needed to be prepared, but I would say that it was most definitely excessive and did more to intimidate protestors and silence them than to make people feel secure.
The protestors were peaceful – their aim was to gain media attention outside of the Indian embassy so that their government would listen and act on the policemen that killed these innocent citizens. What’s more, their fight is one against a deeper injustice – one of freedom. This is something that we are often told is a basic human right and of which we are all entitled to – but the British police, in my view, violated this last week too.
A policeman stripped a Sikh of his turban during a scuffle at the protests whilst another office broke a Sikh flag in half – both objects being important religious symbols of Sikhism. I myself witnessed police officers using shields and force to push innocent protestors out of the way and though this is of course a subjective view, I do not see the necessity of such heavy-handed tactics and what’s more, this was inevitably going to provoke a reaction. To make matters worse, the British media then chose to focus solely on the ‘violent’ protestors when in fact it was a chain reaction to such tactics and heavy police presence. Context is important and something which we often forget when reading or hearing the news.
I could go on and on about this topic but to bring it back to the topic of security -seeing this sort of response by police and the tactics employed has made me skeptical of their ability and success in bringing security. In fact, it made me think that they made matters worse and strengthened the ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ type image, which will only foster greater anger against the police. I raise the question of Western police here because I think one should consider this issue in the broader context of areas such as the current refugee crisis and how the police are possibly fuelling further problems.
Nikeeta Phagura, LSE