An extensive report by an independent government watchdog has ruled that police are overindulging demonstrators for groups like Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Extinction Rebellion (XR), and risk damaging their neutrality by engaging in politically-charged gestures such as “taking the knee”.
“We found that the police too often do not find the balance between protecting the rights of the protesters and preventing excessive disruption to daily life, which even peaceful protest can sometimes cause,” said Matt Parr, of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
“One of the things that has caused it to get out of kilter is that police don’t always do enough to assess the impact that peaceful protests have on the lives of local residents and businesses. So this has sometimes caused enormous disruption and it’s tipped the balance in favour of the protesters,” he said.
To support his view, Mr Parr cited polling which shows that members of the public who believe significant disruption by protesters have a five-to-one majority among the general public, with those who support a so-called “zero-tolerance” approach enjoying a majority of four-to-one, according to the Telegraph.
“For some members of the public, it is difficult to understand why the police might not intervene in situations where protesters appear to be breaking the law,” Parr said, noting that while public opinion does not always have a direct bearing on whether or not a protest in lawful, it should be taken into account given the fact that “the British policing model is based on consent”.
Parr may have had in mind such incidents as police allowing Black Lives Matter demonstrators to destroy a historic statue in Bristol, with the senior police officer in charge at the time insisting that “it was the right thing to do for the safety of everyone.”
“No-one got hurt and we had no arrests in the whole protest. That is 10,000 passionate people. Bristol should be proud of itself,” asserted Superintendent Andy Bennett, heedless of the fact that the reason there were no arrests or clashes is that his officers simply allowed lawbreaking to take place unimpeded.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) December 31, 2020
The Inspectorate also cautioned police officers about being too quick to “take the knee” at Black Lives Matter protests, given the fact that the gesture has become synonymous with an activist movement.
Such actions, when police leaders fail to require a uniform approach, can put individual officers under unacceptable pressure — the report recalled one case in which “some officers chose to take the knee at a protest while another chose not to. This officer was then subjected to sustained abuse by the protesters until he followed suit.”
“It is really important that [police] activities are seen as neutral. Officers are not there to protest themselves. They should be careful of any actions that could be interpreted as supporting or being against one side in a protest. That would rarely be appropriate for them to do,” warned Parr.
His report also cited “incidents in 2019 when police officers were filmed dancing with Extinction Rebellion protesters and using skateboards on a cordoned-off bridge” during a series of climate change demonstrations which caused massive disruption and often broke the law.
WATCH as London police struggle to haul overweight Extinction Rebellion protester under arrest
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 4, 2020
Law enforcement and the judiciary have often seemed reticent to punish so-called protesters for left-leaning movements such as Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion, despite widespread public anger at their actions.
A BLM supporter who clambered onto the Cenotaph, the iconic national memorial to ‘The Glorious Dead’, and tried to set fire to the British flag adorning it was only brought to trial after many months, for example, was let off with a conditional discharge, as was another criminal who vandalised a statue of Admiral Nelson in Norfolk.
Even actual violence against police officers by BLM supporters has attracted soft, non-custodial sentences on occasion, with a man who hurled sections of metal fencing at fleeing officers recently being allowed to walk out of court with a suspended term.
It is possible that double standards can be explained in part by fear rather than only bias, as Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick has previously admitted that the reason clearly unlawful Black Lives Matter protests have not been interfered with is that she was afraid that applying the law to them would result in “serious disorder”.
No Prison for BLM Protester Who Hurled Metal Fences at Fleeing Police Officers https://t.co/3w7LSDrQ32
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 5, 2021