Water bottles and portable toilets – a new police duty?

2pm Thursday 2nd April and the Metropolitan Police Authority’s Strategic and Operational Policing Committee is given an oral update on the policing of the G20 demonstrations.  Jenny Jones AM (in her guise as the “friend of protest”) has arrived with sheafs of questions, many of which she asks despite being told that this is intended to be a brief update, as the G20 event is still in progress and there will be a fuller opportunity to review in detail the police’s operations later in the month.

Her main concern seems to be that the police didn’t give out enough water bottles to the protestors corralled in various areas and that the portaloos provided were in the wrong place (obviously this would have been an even bigger issue had more water been provided). 

This raises for me the question: is it really a necessary part of policing a major event like the G20 summit for the police to be so concerned about the welfare of protestors?  The argument is that, if police tactics involve placing cordons around certain areas to prevent potential trouble-makers leaving – and inevitably peaceful, lawful protestors will get caught up in this, then the police need to ensure that the human rights of those affected are protected by providing water and toilets.  This follows on from the court proceedings following previous May Day protests, but I still find it a bit rich when the police are criticised for not providing enough …..

Where else in the world would the police provide toilets and water bottles to protestors under such circumstances? 

There are those who constantly complain that the UK is becoming a police state.  They need to consider the fact that the protests around the G20 summit and indeed the security of the summit itself were managed without (as would have happened in most other places in the world) far more people being arrested, far more people being injured, without the use of water cannons, rubber bullets, tasers etc.  Perhaps what it demonstrates is that we do genuinely have a mature democracy in the UK where the rights to protest and demonstrate peacefully are protected and safely managed by the police.

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