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Boris Johnson has bought water cannons to extinguish student protest

Posted on Thursday, 30 January by

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson must be expecting a long, hot summer of protest action this year as the London Mayor has given the nod to the police commissioner’s plans to employ water cannons to deal with demonstrations in the capital.

The senior police organisation, ACPO, want water cannons to be made available for deployment across British mainland for the first time, as they assume ongoing and future austerity will likely lead to more protest. Frankly, if that doesn’t scream fascism then I’m not entirely sure what does, with this announcement alone likely to lead to people wanting to take direct action themselves.

However despite no intelligence to back up this claim of an increased likelihood of protest, and the fact this move can only be seen as a way to treat symptoms rather than the cause of action in the first place, it’s likely that the water cannons that cost upwards of £1,000,000 each will get the go-ahead by February.

Boris admitted the idea was formulated following the London riots in 2011, which saw widespread violence and looting in London and across the country. Speaking during a session at the London Assembly, the mayor was asked to explain his support for their use in the capital, after the home secretary denied government funding for their purchase in January:

Using water cannon could save lives by dispersing crowds preventing further serious disorder. If there’s a situation calling for water cannon it will be when loads of people are throwing petrol bombs.”

This in stark comparison to what the police commissioner had said in 2011 following the riots, by saying “they are not the answer” and committee member Jeanette Arnold described the move as “policing by fear”. The Mayor also conceded that using water cannons during the London riots in 2011 “would not have made a blind bit of difference” and that he wouldn’t use them in student protests.

However a report by the Association of Chief Police Officers highlighted several events in recent years when the use of water cannon might have been warranted – including the Countryside Alliance march, the Gaza protest and the student protests in 2010.

Boris has since written to the Home Secretary Theresa May to say that he will ask members of the public and key figures about their views on use of the machines for which he explains will be used only “in the most extreme circumstances”.

Warning: video contains scenes of a graphic nature

So far, public reaction hasn’t taken kindly to what has been seen as a potentially dangerous extension of power for a government that has lurched from scandal to scandal involving free speech. It’s more than likely that we’ll see protest action on the streets of London this summer, and you don’t need me to tell you that things can get ugly even without the police’s new fangled heavy weapon.

Here’s a tip Boris: stop your friends imposing unfair austerity measures and devolving our civil liberties, and then there wouldn’t be so many reasons for people to protest.

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Lewis Scrafton
22. Co-founder and editor of SQ Magazine. Studying at University of Sussex. Interned at MATTER and published in The Guardian.

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