"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
"Home Secretary Priti Patel's craven criticisms disgraced her office"
Scenes of male police officers dragging female protesters away from the Clapham Common bandstand in London brought forth a torrent of adverse comment. No matter how you cut it, the arrest of women at the vigil for the slain Sarah Everard is poor optics.
Emotions were bound to be unrestrained when you consider the victim's alleged murderer's profession, which I'm afraid cannot be ignored. With a serving police officer as the accused and coming on the back of ‘International Women's Week,’ the confluence of events couldn't be worse.
Thus when Commissioner 'Cassandra' Dick stood up for her officers, she earned my respect. In the past, I was less than enamoured with Commissioner Dick; she appeared willing to sacrifice police neutrality for any passing trendy tenet. On this occasion, she's stood her ground against the onslaught.
We've yet to hear from the commanding officer on the ground. Whether it was right and proper for the police to act is a judgement that awaits all accounts. Thus, wouldn't it be appropriate for commentators to wait until all the evidence is available? How many people have seen the clips of the peaceful protesters chasing the police?
Nonetheless, the incident fascinates me because there are distinct parallels to events we've seen in Hong Kong when protesters put themselves above the law. So, please excuse me if I join in the debate.
For starters, the police are in this position because politicians enacted laws that make such gatherings illegal. These same politicians are now rounding on the police. Home Secretary Priti Patel’s craven criticisms disgraced her office. No surprise there.
Let's break this down. Either the police enforce the law or don't, and once they start to act on the law, and people refuse to comply, the outcomes are never good. That's my experience in over 36 years of policing. And yes, the police must exercise care, discretion and may decide in some instances not to act.
Days before the vigil, the police told the organisers it would be an illegal gathering. At a hearing on Friday, the courts upheld this position. The judge did ask the organiser and police to liaise, although this did not happen for reasons that are not clear. The police also briefed ministers of their approach, so Patel can hardly claim ignorance.
On Saturday, the event kicked off quietly. The Duchess of Cambridge attended without a media fanfare. She was mask-less, appeared to have no bodyguards and stayed long enough to be filmed. Take that, Meghan!
Having examined the available videos of the incident, I can see a clear progression. Initially, the crowd looks dispersed, maintaining social-distancing around the bandstand. As night falls, several speakers start to address the group, and the people come in closer. At this stage, the police continue in a passive mode. That includes assisting with the placing of flowers on the bandstand, which has become a shrine.
With the crowd pressing in, the police start asking people to move back. These police requests draw a hostile reaction from some in the group. A red-headed lady stirs up the crowd with chants, while a blonde female charged forward and collides with officers. Pushed back at least four times, she keeps coming on. Soon, scuffles kick-off. Officers retreat at one point, chased by an aggressive yelling mob. The police then start detaining people.
The red-headed lady is then pinned to the floor by two male officers. That becomes the iconic image of the event.
Underlying the events at the bandstand are strong feelings. In the UK, a woman dies at the hands of a man every three days. The vast majority of these terrible deaths occur behind closed doors in homes. Partners are responsible. Thus the outrage of women, specifically as this case involved a police officer as a suspect, is understandable.
Less understandable is why similar protests don't arise for murdered men. Figures show that three-quarters of murder victims are men, and the homicide rate for men and boys is almost three times higher than that for women and girls.
In the year to March 2020, the number of male victims rose by 20 per cent, from 422 to 506, while the number of female victims fell by 16 per cent, from 225 to 188. In 2019, 75% of suicides in the UK were male. Where are the vigils and the outrage?
Meanwhile, today The Independent elects to lead a story with, "The vast majority of murderers in England and Wales are white men, official figures show." Well, given that white males make up most of the male population at 88%, that's pretty much a given. What about the other 33%? Which group do they belong to that only makes up 15% of the population? Don't go there.
The Independent proves a point made here. The white working-class are the only underprivileged group that can face open revilement in British society. All the data points towards white working-class males as the largest disadvantaged minority in the UK. They suffer the worst educational outcomes, higher unemployment, high rates of alcoholism, drug abuse and lower life expectancy. Meanwhile, because the intersectional pyramid of victimhood ascribes them as 'white' and with 'masculine toxicity' they're ignored at best and vilified at worst.
Getting back to Hong Kong, the authorities here stand accused of silencing protests with Covid restrictions. The same accusation is now levelled at the UK Police; 'Women's voices must be heard' is the mantra. Yet, in both instances, it's not true. There are plenty of forums to allow voices of protests and dissent. It's undeniable that people can make themselves heard without threatening public health and placing themselves above the law.
Given the bile heaped on the UK police, will they be prepared to step up next time? The court of public opinion has found them guilty while the politicians seek to distract from their liabilities. How often have we seen that before?
On a lighter note, this officer from Twat Valley Police responds.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.