‘When Maoists put a grass mohican on the Churchill statue, British conservatism seemed to go mad for a few days’
From 3am Magazine:
Police are the historic enemy of the protestor and Bloom reminds us that at the Met’s formation most people were anti-cop. The idea of putting random civilians in uniform and giving them power over the rest seemed insane, a recipe for mayhem. Critics had a point. You could walk into Scotland Yard and walk out in blue. No checks, no tests, no CRBs. Bloom: ‘Even more to the point, almost half the constables of the newly formed force were dismissed for drunkenness or disorderly behaviour.’ The king was petitioned to abolish ‘the present military and grievously EXPENSIVE SYSTEM OF POLICE’ and Bloom quotes an anonymous fly-poster who warned ‘Peel’s Police, Raw Lobsters, Blue Devils’ that ‘a subscription has been entered into, to supply the PEOPLE with STAVES of superior Effect’. When a policeman was killed in a trade union demo, the judge gave a verdict of justifiable homicide and the jury was ‘treated to a torchlit procession, a pleasure cruise on the Medway and inscribed silver loving cups’.
Fast forward a hundred years or so and popular opinion was against the protestors and behind London’s finest. Anarchism was the 1990s boogeyman, Bloom says, and the fuss made about the gentle situationist demos of Reclaim the Streets had to be lived through to be believed. When Maoists put a grass mohican on the Churchill statue, British conservatism seemed to go mad for a few days. (Everyone says that Churchill had a great sense of humour: is it not conceivable that he would have taken the stunt in good spirit?) Yet much of the media ignored the policing abuses of the twentieth century, from the institutional racism that allowed Stephen Laurence’s killers to walk around under a free sky to the thousand or so suspicious custody deaths to the manslaughter of Jean Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson. Undoubtedly the police has changed and most people join it for the right reasons, but there remains a monster inside the system, and every now and again it opens one eye and flicks its tail.