Photograph: Christian Charisius/Reuters
Earlier in the year there was a lot of media attention on the police tactics at the G20 Summit in London. How depressing to see the same heavy handed approach being deployed in Copenhagen. A reported 100,000 protesters marched in a mostly peaceful event last Saturday, and further marches and events followed over many days. Stupidly, depressingly, a minority attached to the legitimate protesters are reported to have engaged in some vandalism and confrontation. Stupidly, depressingly, police tactics were confrontational and heavy handed:
Almost 200 people were arrested late last night after protesters set fire to street barricades in a central Copenhagen neighbourhood. Protesters hurled fire bombs at riot police who responded with tear gas, officers said. But pressure is growing for Danish police to account for their tactics, after four days of demonstrations have seen the controversial “kettle” tactic used three times, and more than 1,500 arrests, with 200 official complaints already filed.
One eyewitness reported:
We’ve long had a problem with preventative policing in the UK it is something I have been subject to, and have campaigned against. However, the level of repressive policing displayed in arresting more than 1,000 people at the weekend in Copenhagen far exceeded anything we have experienced in this country.
I joined the march as a police observer, my aim being to monitor events and compare how the Danish police treated protesters. I was near the back of the march. There was a large contingent of people wearing black hoodies, some anarchist flags were waving, but where I was, there was no trouble. The atmosphere was good, and my friend and I commented on how lovely it was to see so few police officers on such a large demo.
The change came suddenly I saw some people running forward, and in the time it took to turn round to see why they were running, the police had used the grid system of the roads to kettle the march into several sections by driving vans through it, and deploying riot police to stop anyone leaving. The kettle was tight, and it was an effort to walk from one side to another. The mixture of people ranged from parents with children, Hare Krishnas, socialists and anarchists. All had one thing in common they had done nothing other than join a demonstration.
We tried to leave the kettle through an open apartment block. However, this led only to another road full of handcuffed people sat in lines. As soon as the police saw us watching this scene, we were also grabbed, thrown to the floor and arrested. We later learned that all the people in the kettles were also arrested. …
Another account from a young Swedish student:
There were 12 people in my cage, and we probably had one square meter of space each. A while after I arrived a disturbance broke out. A lot of people started to scream loudly in anger and some even tried to break out of the cages. When this happened, many police in riot gear rushed into the hall. When the disturbance didn’t end one of the police men started to spray pepper-spray into the cages. Me and three or four of my cage-mates were sitting quietly on the floor during the screaming, but because we were close to the door the spray went in our direction and I only just had time to hide my face. I got pepper-spray on my clothes but fortunately not in my eyes. This made me feel very scared of what might come next, since they were using such violent tactics on people who were just sitting quietly down on the floor. I was released 11 and a half hours after my arrest without charge. …
I don’t know who to be more angry at, the minority who used the events as an opportunity for foolish violence (thus tainting the legitimate protest), or the Police for their disproportionately violent tactics against perfectly innocent people. My heart goes out to the protesters, I wish that I had been there with them. In my opinion they speak more for the peoples of the world than the so-called leaders inside the conference.