In the News – A Close Up

Student-Police Relations in UK Riots

While it looks as though the future holds budget cuts galore for numerous countries across the globe, Britain appears to be taking the lead with massive cuts to law enforcement and education.  Perhaps more interesting than the cuts -which are neither surprising nor innovative or unique -has been the public’s reaction to them and the police response it has elicited.

Evoking memories of 1960’s student movements, British youth have taken to the streets on several occasions to protest education cuts that will make university education too costly for many to attend.  Over the past three days three mass student protests have taken place in Brighton, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford and London.  Yet as students continue arguing for their right to education and peaceful protest (check out a video from the UK’s Guardian) -like student protesters of the 1960’s -they have been met with hundreds of police officers with riot shields, batons, dogs, armoured horses and meat wagons.  As Laurie Penny of the New Statesman comments in her article on the recent Whitehall police kettle, “these young people joined the protest to defend their right to learn, but in the kettle they are quickly coming to realise that their civil liberties are of less consequence to this government than they had ever imagined.”

As the student protests continue to build momentum and power, some police departments have started reaching out to protesters.  Just this morning, Bristol police have asked the protesters to speak with them before carrying out any additional actions.  Chief Inspector Mark Jackson stated that it was in the interests of protesters and police to come together and “have a clear plan of what the demonstration can achieve, and how we can work together to negotiate the safest way of doing this.”  He also insisted that “the police are not trying to stop young people from staging legitimate protests. But we must insist that those protests are peaceful, lawful and safe.”

Coincidentally, a 40th anniversary edition of The Politics of Protest has just been published, exploding onto the scene with an interesting American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting panel this past November. The author, Jerome Skolnick, as well as some of the project’s original collaborators, including Anthony Platt, were present.


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