10 November 2010

Anarchy in the U.K.

An estimated 50,000 people demonstrated on the streets of Central London to protest a proposed trebling of student tuition costs by the ruling Tory government.

But things turned violent when a group of perhaps 500 protestors broke off from the main demonstration and gathered in front of the Conservative Party Headquarters at Millbank Centre (Westminster) carrying an effigy of Prime Minister David Cameron.  The protestors at Millbank Center dropped their placards and burned them as they banged drums and shouted their slogans like “No ifs ands or buts–No Student Cuts”.  But the mood turned darker when masked anarchists lead the mob to start attacking the building by throwing missiles at the plate glass ground floor windows chanting “Die Tory Scum”.

Eventually the 20 cops stations at Millbank were overwhelmed  so the mob waltzed into the building, smashing everything inside and spray painting symbols of anarchism inside the building. Rioters set off fire extinguishers, overturned filing cabinets and threw paperwork out of the windows. Some rioters reached the top of the building and started throwing fire extinguishers, bottles and burning placards at the police cordon.  In the end, 35 thugs were arrested and 14 people were hospitalized in this violent row.

Conservatives were non-plussed that the Tory headquarters were trashed but the nearby Liberal Democrat Headquarters (which is the minority partner in the ruling coalition) was unscathed.  This lead a senior Tory official to grouse about how the Lib Democrats got a heavy security cordon but the police failed to do so for the Conservatives. There were some reports that the Conservative Headquarters had to be evacuated but this report has been played down by the Tories.

Of course, student leaders were aghast that their well publicized protest was hijacked by a small band of violent troublemakers. The student leaders feel that their message was completely undermined by the violence.

This episode is worrisome for several reasons.  This was a well publicized and organized protest march but only 225 police were assigned.  Moreover, the London Metropolitan Police had a woefully inadequate response to an attack at members of the governing party.  That is not yobs or idealistic protesters that is anarchistic terrorism that threatens civil government.   The infiltration by the anarchists was roundly criticized by student protest leaders, but the Millbank attack marks a foray at mainstreaming anarchism by bootstrapping on middle class protests.  It also was a violent protest that was not contained in a “free speech zone” that sometimes is tolerated for international meetings.  This sort of vitriolic violence can spiral out of control, especially if economic conditions markedly worsen.

Could this be a foray at fulfilling the dream depicted in the Fabian window? George Bernard Shaw commissioned a window for the London School of Economics that shows socialist hammering out a burning world under the crest of a wolf in sheep's clothing hammer out the world with the motto "remoulding the world nearer his heart’s desire".

Such symbolic syncronicity may seem specious to the Common Man.  But forces that want to impose  fundamental change might seize upon instances of social chaos.

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