Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Breath Taking

Regular readers may recall my recent post about the shambolic organisation and policing of the Chelsea v Burnley game earlier this month, where once again the lessons of Hillsborough had clearly not been learned. Today more griping about policing at football matches, although this time not a safety issue it still shows the bewildering attitude of some parts of the police force to football fans where we are still treated like animals.

Lets be clear, football fans are not a perfect breed. While we have come a long way since the dark days of the early 80s, while women and children and black and Asian fans are now happy to come to football again and while the fanzine and supporters trust movements have provided a constructive voice for fans, there is still a small element among football fans who behave like neanderthals and cause trouble.

However there is still no need to treat fans the way a group of Stoke City fans were treated by Greater Manchester Police prior to their recent game against Manchester United as reported by the Football Supporters Federation and The Times.

I wont regurgitate the contents of these articles here although I would urge you, whether you are a follower of football or not, to go and read them because their content makes quite chilling reading. 80 law abiding people were removed from a pub by police, a number of them were threatened, the opportunity to identify the police involved was denied, they were then put on coaches to Stoke, even those who had travelled from elsewhere and all without having done anything. These were not rowdy fans causing problems, they were not singing or shouting or abusing passers by, there was no public order situation, they were simply out having a drink before a football match, something thousands of people do every week.

The power to do this is given to them by Section 27 of the violent crime reduction act 2006 which when you read it is, as well as pretty draconian, clearly not designed to empty a pub of 80 people and have them sent a hundred miles away. While it is clear that the police gave the notice under the second example on page 8 of the guide linked to I would like to know how the fuck is Manchester to Stoke removing someone from a "locality"? And what gives the police the right to refer to 80 people as scum? Why did they believe that they were going to cause trouble? Why was everyone treated the same? Why were they not allowed the dignity of using a toilet? How the hell is this sensible policing? Is this really the society that we live in now? I fear it is.

The powers given to the police are strong and the public need to trust the police to use them only in appropriate circumstances, the example here suggests that some police are completely incapable of being trusted with those powers and that is to the detriment not just of them but everybody.

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