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Social media and policing

March 29, 2011

Protestors in Trafalgar Square on March 26

Here’s a follow up to last week’s article on Sukey, the social media tool used by protestors to avoid kettling and facilitate communication.
Last Saturday’s protest, March for the Alternative, was generally considered a success, with only a handful of the 250,000 people who attended it getting arrested. Considering the turnout, the violence and damage which happened towards the end of the day was minimal – unfortunately the media have been criticised for blowing these isolated incidents out of proportion.
This is a different reaction to the previous anti-cuts protests – and other protests in general – where the Met police have been criticised for their more aggressive policing tactics. Most notably, in the unlawful killing of of Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper seller who collapsed and died during the G20 protests in 2009, when PC Simon Harwood, a Territorial Support Group Officer trained in dealing with social disorder, struck him in the abdomen with a baton. The Met is now facing five weeks of intense scrutiny as the inquest concerning Tomlinson’s death begins this week, two years after his death.
However, at last Saturday’s protests, the Met apparently used less violent policing tactics by using social media – just as the protestors did with Sukey. At 7.57 pm, Scotland Yard tweeted: “The Met police thank those outside Fortnum & Mason for their patience. They will not be held any longer than necessary.” They also informed protestors that “the last trains will be leaving central London shortly” and asked protestors to complete online surveys of the police’s performances the following day. This kind of communication gets the message across much more easily than batons and kettling does, because people are actually aware of whats going on.
Although the protestors kettled at Fortnum and Mason might disagree with their temporary incarceration, few can deny that the Met’s tactics were more internet-savvy and therefore less aggressive, resulting in a better protest for everybody.

(Photo: via Guardian)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lee Cooper permalink
    March 30, 2011 2:40 pm

    Good to see the police actually progressing to the 21st century! I don’t completely agree with their anti-riot tactics but I feel safe knowing there are capable police around. Good article 🙂

  2. March 30, 2011 3:29 pm

    I remember seeing a while ago police officers in Essex who were trialing a system of wearing miniature cameras on a bluetooth headset. Essentially the officers became walking CCTV, if they start tweeting and the like will we see screenshots and vids of wanted people in realtime I wonder?

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