‘Ello, ‘ello, ‘ello; what’s all this, then?
Police chiefs have urged ministers to criminalise flag-burning in a move to crack down on extremist protesters.
Scotland Yard has submitted the idea to the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, alongside proposals to ban demonstrators from covering their faces.
Police are also asking for greater powers to arrest protesters seeking to inflame tensions under the package drawn up by Britain’s most senior Muslim officer.
Tarique Ghaffur, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told BBC Radio Five Live that Britain was seen as soft on extremist demonstrators.
Indeed, Assistant Commissioner Ghaffur sees this as creating ‘a real image problem’ (Radio 5 interview, about 2 minutes 40 seconds in); he refers at length to the scenes back in February at the London demonstrations about the Danish cartoons. when the Met were heavily criticised for not arresting demonstrators there and then.
The Met’s explanation back then wasn’t, as I recall, that they couldn’t think of anything for which to arrest the demonstrators. Certainly not;
As the clamour for action grew, police sources said there were no arrests on Friday because of fears of a riot. A senior Scotland Yard officer said: “We have to take the overall nature of the protesters into account. If they are overheated and emotional we don’t go in.
“It’s like a risk assessment; you have to look at the crowd you are dealing with. If we went in to arrest one person with a banner the crowd would turn on us and people would get hurt.”
He said it was entirely possible that “key players” in the protests, some of whom were already known to police, could be pursued by prosecutors.
The Metropolitan Police said: “Arrests if necessary will be made at the most appropriate time. The Met has several different means of collecting the necessary evidence should it be required post-event. All complaints made to police will be passed to the Public Order Crime Unit for investigation.”
So which is it? Had they insufficient powers or did they want to avoid a riot? Maybe this is why Assistant Commissioner Ghaffur also wants some water cannons.
That’ll do the trick, all right; a peaceful demonstration is organised about Iraq or something, some loonies turn up and try — as AC Ghaffur explains in the Radio 5 interview — to hijack it by burning flags and brandishing offensive placards, and out roll the water cannon to fire, like the rain God sends to fall, on the upright and the wicked alike. Soon put an end to silly demonstrations.
Technorati tags: UK, Demonstrations, Tariq Ghaffur, Flag Burning, Civil Liberties