The police at Vestas

Submitted by AWL on 30 July, 2009 - 1:13 Author: Editorial

From Monday evening (20th) to Wednesday (22nd), the police were aggressive and very markedly on the side of Vestas bosses. They were especially hostile on Monday evening, but the aggressiveness continued for a couple of days.

In one stand-off, they confronted Vestas worker Doug Green and told him that if he took one step further towards his own workplace, they would arrest him for “breach of the peace” and confiscate the food he was trying to take to the occupiers. Doug stayed put where he was, defying the police, for four hours.

Some supporters were arrested for “breach of the peace”, the charge sheet saying that bringing food might “prolong the protest” and thus created a danger of disturbances.

Especially after a mass “walk-in” on the Wednesday got some food to the occupiers, the police have switched tactics, making an effort to seem calm and even-handed,

The strength and the organisation of the workers and their supporters have forced that change.

Police from outside the Isle of Wight were used in the aggressive period. Since then, it’s been Island police.

It’s a general rule that when police are being used heavily against workers, they are brought in from other areas. Local police are influenced by the community they live in, and may have friends or family among the workers. So the police used against the miners in their great strike in 1984-5 were always deployed outside their home areas.

Democratic accountability of the police — stopping the Government, or police commanders, deploying force at will — is the answer to that.

The courts, like the police, generally side with employers against workers. They are a bit more accountable than the police. But they operate within a framework of law which is set by the wealthy and tends to value property above life. Judges and magistrates are drawn from the well-off.

But the courts, too, can be budged by pressure. If they see that workers are sufficiently determined, they can find quirks and footnotes in the law which allow them to respond to the pressure.

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