Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Crowd control turned inside-out

'Where have the barricades gone, Nobby?'
'That'll cost - '
'I am your sergeant, Nobby. We are not in a financial relationship. Tell me where the bloody barricades are!'
'Um...prob'ly near to Short Street, sarge. It's all got a bit metaphysical, sarge.'

It was a beguiling theory that might have arisen in the minds of Wiglet and Waddy and, yes, even in the not overly exercised mind of Fred Colon, and as far as Vimes could understand it, it went like this:
1. Supposing the area behind the barricades was bigger than the area in front of the barricades, right?
2. Like, sort of, it had more people in it and more of the city, if you follow me.
3. Then, correct me if I'm wrong, Sarge, but that'd mean in a manner of speaking we are now in front of the barricades, am I right?

(Terry Pratchett: Night Watch)

Ah, the glorious 30th November! Behold an army of brothers (and sisters), who have devoted their working lives to public service, marching shoulder to shoulder, banners held high, in the face of injustice and oppression! See the nation brought to a standstill in a manifestation of solidarity!

Or maybe not. As Anna Raccoon comments with amusement, the country seems to have managed pretty well without them. In fact, closing the schools made things much easier for the parents who usually have to fake a dentist's appointment to take their child Christmas shopping on a schoolday.

The London march also enabled the Police to unveil their newest toy, as Pavlov's Cat points out (with pictures) - a set of futuristic trailers with fold-out sides that transform into an interlocking steel wall. You almost expect the interior to be filled with Universal Soldiers.

Pavlov's Cat expresses justifiable concern at the existence of this equipment and its use to keep the people away from the seat of government. There is another worrying aspect; although the British authorities have, on occasion, demonstrated a heavy-handed approach to policing unruly crowds, there has usually been a suggestion that force will be held back until called for.

This, however, is policing at its most uncompromising - a solid steel barrier with armoured windows, blocking off an entire street. Its only apparent weakness, as Mark Wadsworth points out in a comment chez Cat, is that it can be outflanked when protecting a large target such as the Palace of Westminster.

But which side of a barricade is which? It may seem feeble as an attempt to keep the mob out of somewhere, but what if the position were reversed? How about a crowd penned into an ever-decreasing area - these things are on wheels - by an impenetrable wall of metal seven feet high?

It is clear from the structure of this contraption that there is most definitely a right side and a wrong side to be on. Like all weapons of defence, this shield has the potential to become very offensive indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Ta for link

    Don't forget the armoured cars in Hackney in the summer

    Our police seem to have been collecting civil unrest equipment on a par with S. Korea