On 24 February 2014, Shahrar Ali addressed a meeting in London convened by Defend the Right to Protest to discuss the threat to civil liberties of the proposal to equip the police with water cannon for the first time in mainland UK. The Met police advocate commissioning of the weapon and Mayor Johnson, whilst “minded” to agree, has set up a “public engagement” which ends on 28 February ahead of a decision by Home Secretary May. Baroness Jones AM has been arguing against the proposal on the City Hall policing committee and elsewhere, “Water cannon is an indiscriminate weapon and useless in a riot“.
An edited audio version of Shahrar Ali’s address, on behalf of the Greens, is posted here.
The main themes of the speech are as follows:
- Confusion in Mayor’s letter to May that water cannon is classifiable as a “non-lethal weapon“.
- “Public Engagement” disguises the fact that this isn’t a proper public consultation.
- “Attenuated Energising Projectiles” = baton round = plastic bullets
- What is meant by Policing by Consent?
- “To seek and preserve public favour by ready offering of friendship to all members of the public.”
- “To use only the minimum degree of physical force that is necessary.”
- “The police are the public and the public are the police.”
- The police are part of us.
- Direct action is intelligent.