Following the student demos on the 24th November, when my sister was kettled for eight hours, I made a complaint to the Metropolitan Police about their tactics and I’ve now received a reply (pdf, below). Superintendent Roger Gomm defends the use of ‘containment’ (he says: “‘Kettling’, as it is referred to in the media, is not a term used by the police”) on the following grounds:
On [the 24th], two marches met up in Trafalgar Square and about 3,000 demonstrators proceeded down Whitehall. Limited police intelligence* suggested that some of the protestors were intent on getting to the Liberal Democrat headquarters in Cowley Street. Police cordons were in place to prevent that and to prevent the march from getting in to Parliament Square. Skirmishes broke out with demonstrators attacking police line and destroying hoarding around road works. This resulted in a containment being authorised. During the period of containment, a police carrier within the crowd area was attacked and amaged. damage was also caused to telephone boxes, bus stops, the Old War Office and the Treasury. Attempted incursions into premises in Whitehall by protestors were prevented. During the day a number of police officers and members of the public were injured and a large number of arrests were made for public order offences and criminal damage, both on the day and subsequently.
You can see the full letters here. The second one is an explanation of why my complaint is being treated as a concern and not a complaint against a police officer.
This is a fairly standard defence of kettling; the Met were saying the same sort of thing the day after the protests. But by their own account most incidents of public disorder and vandalism happened after containment began. I also question the ‘large number’ of arrests – in actual fact the Guardian reported that only 32 people had been arrested, and 17 injured, with 13 needing hospital treatment. One of the arrests was for stroking a horse.
The assertion that water and toilet facilities were provided “where possible” is, of course, simply untrue. The statement that “the consideration of a release plan to allow vulnerable persons […] a means to leave the containment was treated as a top priority” is either a lie, or was not apparent to sick friends who asked to be treated by police medics when they became ill inside the kettle.
Yopu can also read my other sister’s report of Saturday’s demonstration in Manchester here – well worth a read.
* Ha ha ha.