The Metropolitan Police has turned to Twitter to help control an upcoming Climate Camp protest in London.
After the robust policing of the G20 protests caused controversy and was blamed for one death, the Met has clearly decided that confusing and boring protestors into submission is a much less dangerous strategy.
The feed can be found here (CO11 being the unit that deals with public order).
A statement on the Met's website says: "The account has been set up to specifically to inform the Camp for Climate Action of any operational updates relating to the policing of their event starting on 26 August."
It promises the protestors, and of course the watching Twittersphere, the following:
- Operational updates about the policing of the Camp for Climate Action, relevant to participants
- Information from emergency services partners relevant to the safety and well being of participants of the Camp for Climate Action
- Crime prevention advice or local community information relevant to participants of the Camp for Climate Action
The police add, "If you follow us on Twitter we will not automatically follow you back. This is to discourage the use of direct messaging, avoid resource wasting spam handling and so that you can easily identify other key Twitter users we think are relevant to our work in who we follow. Being followed by us does not imply endorsement of any kind."
According to The Guardian, the Twitter account is part of a "community-style" policing operation for the Climate Camp which will also "limit the use of surveillance units and stop-and-searches wherever possible."
The paper also notes that the operation to police the camp is being overseen by a female officer, which is being seen as part of an effort to shake off the macho policing accusations recently levelled at the Met.
The Met has not apparently ruled out the use of "kettling" during the protest. Presumably this would be a last resort, as compressing the crowd would compromise mobile phone signals, cut off the Twitter feed and lead to an outbreak of seething piffle.
The force was slammed by MPs in the wake of the G20 protests, and the UK's police forces in general have been subjected to increasing criticism over heavy-handedness and scant regard for human rights in policing protest. Not to mention some rather screwy notions of how to treat photographers. ®