After the 1981 Brixton riots, which prompted widespread criticism of police powers, the Conservative government moved surreptitiously to permit a greater freedom for the police to crack down on protest. Since then, successive British governments have condoned their tactics—from batons to horse charges to kettling. Through undisclosed documents and eyewitness accounts, Matt Foot and Morag Livingstone reveal organised police violence against miners at Orgreave, print workers at Warrington, anti–poll tax campaigners, student protesters, and Black Lives Matter activists.
Those protesting against racism, unfair job losses, draconian laws, or environmental disaster have been targeted, brutalised, and unfairly detained. In response, the media has frequently denigrated protesters while praising a police force that continues to act with impunity. As a result, protest and resistance have become almost unsustainable—to the detriment of democracy.
This history of policing reveals the true character of a state that tries to silence dissent with violence. Protest will, however, not be suppressed.