What have the kids learned from their encounters with the Establishment?
Peaceful demonstrations (1-2 million people marching against the Iraq invasion, 400,000 Countryside Alliance protestors) change nothing. Violent protest (Poll Tax Riots) get rid of Prime Ministers and change things.
Do the Met want to put their words about facilitating peaceful protest into action? The Anti-capitalist and G20 demos indicate not. They would rather go out and show who's boss - as the reaction to the Countryside Alliance march, G20 demonstrations (Ian Tomlinson died, remember) and student demos Part 2 (not Thursday 10 December 2010) showed. Kettling does not seem to be a tactic of last resort; it is the go-to tactic. And there are some in the police force who would like to go further - see the responses in the Inspector Gadget blog: http://inspectorgadget.wordpre.../
Hugh Orde said that there is a problem if the police are seen as enforcing the government's will, against popular (as in, of the people) protest. He knows whereof he speaks - he was formally head of the Police service in Northern Ireland. If the Met thinks dealing with a few cheesed-off kids is difficult, try the Falls Road in the 1980s/90s. Those guys had guns.
And so we get to the next stage of fear. The police have overplayed the kettling hand, the kids know how to deal wtith it - split up and leave, at maximum knots. If kettled, fight back early and hard, and strong. Those who follow Police instructions or are left behind when others scatter or confront know no better - they are the compliant ones. This time.
So - the police now talk of water cannon and heavier tactics. The demonstrators will work out their way around that. How many steps to, in effect, low-intensity, sporadic civil war? At what point does the police force stop being civilians in uniform, facilitating democratic protest and securing society, and become The Enemy, the domestic arm of the government's will, which Hugh Orde warned against?
Do the readers of the Telegraph and other papers of similar persuasion stand up for that famous female, Laura Norder? That will probably be the knee-jerk reaction but wait - our children are having their heads whacked. Our nieces and nephews are telling tales of cavalry charges out of nowhere, baton charges, kettling (containment) and friends injured, brain--damaged - and, at what point, dead?
The public support may begin to waver.
When it does, Society is in big trouble. There are those, like me, who argue for reform - an improved system, one that is genuinely responsive to popular concerns. I argue for reform of the Parliamentary system. If that argument fails, if politicians carry on regardless, ignoring protest and the will of the people - as they did with the Iraq demonstration, most notably - where do we go? If the lesson that the children take from these events, compared especially with the Poll Tax riots, which did achieve something, is that democracy doesn't work, that peaceful protest is pointless, into whose arms do they fall?
British society has been very effective at defusing militancy by sharing, by including the alienated into the benefits of stability. Ignoring, confronting or beating the living crap out of our children is not a good idea - the reality feeds back to the mainstream.
"The most dangerous moment for bad government is when it sets about reform" - Alexis de Tocqueville, 'Reflections on the French Revolution'.
Bankers get off scot-free. Young people have the cost of their university access escalated. Taxes stay high. Local services are cut. It sounds like a recipe for middle-class alientation - and if the middle classes are alienated, God help us.