In Praise Of Kettling
Toronto police have announced that they will never again use the technique known as 'kettling' to control large crowds. In case you have a memory as long as your nose, kettling is the police technique of blocking large groups of disobedient people into a small, manageable space and letting them stand there shivering and moaning for hours and hours, until they are meek and apologetic.
It's an issue in Toronto because last year at the G20 summit they kettled crowds of up to 300 in the rain for about four hours. This, Canada believes, is unconscionably cruel. Which is total bollocks. They're all pussies.
At the tail-end of last year, I saw the inside of many kettles while making the VBS documentary on London's student protests, Teenage Riot (which you should really watch). Over the course of about a month, I must have spent the combined time of nearly two whole days standing kettled in the rain and the snow while riot police chuckled; so I've got kettle experience.
The worst time was the eleven hours we spent on Whitehall in the rain after protesting students kicked the crap out of a riot van. Slowly the police squeezed hundreds of us into smaller and smaller pockets, meaning there was no escape from the tooled-up school kids, or the sanctimonious hippies chanting slogans about "pigs".
This is why I'm calling 'pussy' on the G20 protesters in Canada, who had to stand still for four whole hours. Four hours is nothing. You can probably hold a piss in for four hours. You can probably go without a cigarette for four hours. So it was raining? Well, right now somewhere in Somerset, thousands of Coldplay fans have paid hundreds of pounds to spend a weekend in the rain. Are G20 protesters really less tough than Coldplay fans? You can see why capitalism isn't quivering in its boots.
Anyway, I don't get why everyone gets so up-in-arms about kettling. When you go to a protest, get angry and start smashing government property and insulting police, it's pretty naive to assume there won't be a response. But, if the response of the battalion of trained fighters dressed in armour carrying sticks and tear gas is to force you to stand still for a few hours, tedious as it is, isn't that better than being assaulted?
The police I spoke to while researching Teenage Riot couldn't understand what the fuss was about: "Would they rather we charged them with horses, gassed them, and beat them with sticks?" was their general feeling. Of course, those police ended up attacking people AND kettling them; but that aside, their point still stands. Maybe I'm dull, but I'd rather stand around shivering than get crowned with a nightstick.
Once I stopped laughing at the idea that Canadians could get so angry about an ice hockey game that they'd try and burn down their own city, I looked at the recent riots in Vancouver and thought: what they want is a nice old fashioned kettle. The whole event was ridiculous, but once the police started throwing tear gas, any chance of the rioting mob realising what idiots they were evaporated. Instead of pricks smashing windows because the result of a fairly contested sports event displeased them, they were now righteously indignant freedom fighters refusing to bow to the po-po. A kettle would have given them time to sober up, realise what a load of prats they were and set up a makeshift euthanasia clinic for those who no-longer wanted to inflict their wank personalities upon the planet.
But Toronto has banned kettles and in April, the British High Court ruled that the kettling of protesters in London during a 2009 G20 summit was illegal. I guess this makes it less likely I'll be stuck in one of those horrible, boring traps next time I attend a protest, but it might make it more likely that I'll be retching sulphur from my lungs as police stamp on my face. And that's a shitty trade.
WORDS: ALEX MILLER
UK PHOTOS: HENRY LANGSTON
GREECE PHOTO: ACROPOLIS NOW