This weekend, with Olympics organisers testing preparations for the 2012 Games, LOCOG chair Sebastian Coe has been forced yet again to promise that London will not turn into a 'Siege City'. Plans to deploy surface-to-air missiles on residential buildings in east London are just one part of the gradually emergence of a huge security operation during the Olympics, with policing having the greatest impact on local residents and anyone planning to protest against sponsors like BP or Dow.
The media is starting to wake us to the potential consequences of the capital’s lockdown: over the last ten days, because I have been writing about Olympic security, I have had numerous requests for interviews and comment from journalists all over the world. However, describing what we can expect from the largest police deployment in London since the Second World War is all very well, but the real question is what can we do in practice to protect the fundamental liberties of both protesters and local working class communities living on the doorstep of the Games?
This is why an event on 20 May at the Bishopsgate Institute in London is one of the most important in the weeks preceding the start of the Olympics. The ‘Kettling Police Powers’ conference is organised by the Network for Police Monitoring – which brings together activist groups like Climate Camp’s legal team and Green & Black Cross with community organisations such as Newham Monitoring Project. It will provide campaigners, lawyers and others working at the sharp end of challenging unlawful, violent, racist or excessive policing with a chance to discuss the impact of London’s new ‘Total Policing’ concept and what that will mean this summer.
Speakers include Alfie Meadows (who was struck on the head with a police baton during December’s student protests), Marc Vallee (one of the founders of the ‘I’m A Photographer Not a Terrorist’ campaign) and Rob Safar (one of the Fortnum & Mason 145 defendants), as well as the experienced lawyers Simon Natas and Kat Craig. Most importantly, the conference will enable activists to debate how to best respond to the most draconian, heavy-handed policing operation we have ever experienced.
I hope as many people as possible can attend. To register, visit the Network for Police Monitoring website.
Kevin Blowe is a community centre worker and activist in Newham, east London.