Updated: Oct 20, 2020
The Law Society Gazette occasionally has a piece of content with a great headlines and as our CEO is a GOT fan this one caught her eye – see
Statues being toppled by protestors is something Shergroup can relate to as we have seen first hand the passion and anger of protestors for various groups including anti-war (the eviction of protestors at Parliament Square), anti-capitalism (eviction of OCCUPY at St Paul’s Cathedral) , and eco-warriors (eviction of protestors on the M11 Link Road in London).
We will all have our personal views on this controversial piece of history which reflects a time of a person dying at the hands of the police in the United States. Over the years we have worked “up close and personal” with various UK police forces and safety in dealing with protestors has always been paramount. This however comes as part of the planning process where safety is an issue which must be addressed. We cannot say how this translates to day-to-day policing except as we know every citizen has a camera on their phone, and every action can be captured often from the most unflattering of angles. This should temper the action of any individual officer who should be following their training with the utmost care when coming into contact with a member of the public.
The article in the Gazette reminds us all that history evolves and what was right 100 years ago may not be right or must be countered today. The suggestion to audit all historical statutes and memorials is a sensible one. Venice carried out such an audit and found (probably to its horror) that the city had a number of Nazi references in its street names. It appears that the UK Government is taking the same approach to analyse its monuments and anticipate the flashpoints for protests in the future.
It is of course the democratic right of a person to protest. Bearing in mind our own history as Sheriffs, when we are asked to step forward and remove protestors under a Writ of Possession, we do so with an Operational Plan which includes a full health and safety audit and is agreed with our policing partners.
All we want to see is safe protest action – and safe policing. A toppled statue is a huge health and safety risk which could kill or seriously injure anyone in its path. It is therefore right to anticipate the statutes or monuments which could spark a protest and take steps to manage the risk as part of a rolling programme.
Game of Thrones was at times very brutal, and a Game of Stones could result in a tragedy if the risk goes unchecked. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen by having the discussions now about the statutes we can live with and those that need to go.