The UK government’s efforts to suppress dissent in the pursuit of greater power have given a green light to police to apply more aggressive tactics in managing crowds and protests. The results have provoked violence and even led to officers breaking the law. Charged tells the troubled history of the relationship between police and protesters in today’s Britain.
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.
“Brilliantly readable, it carries you with it every step of the way. One forgets how frightening authority is and the detail on police behaviour is dreadfully shocking and distressing. It never assumes what you might believe or what you might already know and at the end leaves the reader in no doubt as to what has happened in this country.”
“Foot and Livingstone have done a magnificent job of intertwining analysis of the legal system with history, showing us how the thing we call ‘the law’ morphs with what those in charge of the justice system want it to do. This is a great piece of bottom-up history because the authors write in sympathy and solidarity about what it’s been like in recent times to be a protestor on the receiving end of these changes.”
“Meticulously details violent state suppression in the protection of capital; backed by a propaganda machine. Exposed is the unofficial but permanent government with sharp attention to every detail. This is a story of how justice has been repeatedly stolen in this ruthless war against the right to protest. Read every word because you are holding history in your hands. Our history.”
“Matt Foot and Morag Livingstone have carefully documented the organised violence and secret police tactics used to attack trade unionists and others who have exercised their right to protest in Britain since the early 1980s. They uncover the way that successive Home secretaries and chief police officers have covertly worked together, deploying and legalising draconian tactics to defend vested interests from active legitimate dissent. If you want to know the dark history that has led us to the current police bill and to understand how the powers it contains would be used, I recommend that you read this book.”
“Foot and Livingstone show without a shadow of doubt that the suppression of protest over the past 40 years is essentially a strategic choice made by the elite in the neoliberal era.”
“When you read Charged, you will see ours is one of many struggles, past and present.”
“An important study of how history influences the present.”
“Timely and important.”