Police prove ineffective in the face of extremist protesters - Bill Carmichael

On Saturday I happened to be in Sheffield and was strolling through the city centre when entirely by chance I came across a large pro-Palestinian demonstration.

A makeshift stage had been set up on the steps of City Hall and there were perhaps a couple of thousand people, many draped in Palestinian flags and carrying Socialist Worker placards whooping and chanting slogans for the elimination of Israel.

Out of curiosity I stopped to listen to the speeches. There was ritualistic condemnation of “apartheid” Israel, outrage at what is happening in Gaza, and calls for the end to the “occupation”.

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I wondered how many cheering on these words understood that the “occupation” of Gaza ended in 2005 when the Israelis unilaterally pulled out, forcibly removing Jewish settlers who had built homes and successful business over many decades.

The Palace of Westminster is lit up in the colours of Israel's flag for victims and hostages of Hamas attacks. PIC: Lucy North/PA WireThe Palace of Westminster is lit up in the colours of Israel's flag for victims and hostages of Hamas attacks. PIC: Lucy North/PA Wire
The Palace of Westminster is lit up in the colours of Israel's flag for victims and hostages of Hamas attacks. PIC: Lucy North/PA Wire

Instead of the “land for peace” deal that Israel hoped for, Hamas promptly used generous amounts of international aid to turn Gaza into a terror state and the base for attacks on Israeli civilians.

I wondered if any of the speakers would condemn Hamas’s racist and depraved atrocities against Jewish people, or express a smidgeon of sympathy for the hundreds of children and pensioners brutalised and kidnapped, including British citizens, but I heard nothing of the sort.

One bearded lefty was banging on about how all the evils in the world could be laid at the door of the west - particularly the US, UK and Israel - and I couldn’t help thinking if these people really hate their own country so much, why don’t they go and live somewhere more to their liking. Like Iran perhaps?

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While he was droning on there was a disturbance on the west side of Barker’s Pool. There was lots of noise and shouting and people started running in the direction of Division Street.

By the time I got there, things were turning nasty. The police had grabbed a young man and were attempting to drag him towards a police van, with the intention, I presume, of arresting him for some reason I did not witness.

But they were surrounded by a much larger group of protestors, who had also managed to get their hands on the man, and there was a tug of war, this way and that, with the crowd screaming: “Let him go!”

Eventually, the police did let him go and he ran away through the crowd to triumphant cheers.

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The police were outnumbered, under-resourced and overwhelmed. I don’t blame those officers. They had a tough job to do, and in the end the demonstration went off without any more serious disorder, so they deserve some credit.

And I never forget that policing is one of the few jobs where officers lay down their lives for the public. Just ask Sharon Beshenivsky’s family.

But it was striking that there was little or no respect for the police. Instead they were the subject of ridicule and scorn.

As a journalist I have covered many strikes and demonstrations over the years, including violent picketing during the Miners’ Strikes of the 1980s, and in those times the police were often feared and even hated.

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But they were never treated as an irrelevant joke, a pathetic bunch of losers worthy of utter derision and contempt.

But that is where we are now, and it is worth asking how this has come about.

The blame lies not with those young officers in Division Street risking injury to impose the law, but with their senior officers who have surrendered the priceless tradition of serving the public “without fear or favour” at the altar of trendy and transient ideologies.

In short the police have been captured and allowed themselves to become a political force - the paramilitary wing of some of the most toxic and divisive dogmas to infest modern Britain.

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That’s why if a Christian street preacher quotes the Bible, he will be arrested for “hate crimes”.

That’s why if an autistic teenager says someone looks like her lesbian nana, her home will be invaded by seven officers who will drag the terrified child into a police van.

That’s why if a middle aged woman “misgenders” someone on X/Twitter, the police will turn up mob-handed on her doorstep.

Yet when an Islamist extremist calls for Jihad, and for Muslim armies to destroy Israel, the police shrug their shoulders and say that’s fine.

The authority of the police derives from the consent of the public, but every time they pander to the lunatics and extremists they erode that absolutely precious quality of trust.