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Police at a pop
the police nor the pop festival organizers and fans have come out of
the melee in Windsor Great Park with much credit. No one wins in such
confrontations. The pictures in today's newspapers of policemen with
truncheons drawn moving towards the pop fans can only erode the most
important strength of the force: public confidence. If the police should
ever lose that confidence, then there is no way a force -of 100,000
men can police a country of 50 million people. Hence the attention that
the police have paid in recent years to community relations. But events
like yesterday's -whoever is most to blame - can set back months of
hard work by hundreds of policemen working in local communities.
Worse still is the way such incidents
harden attitudes. Relations between the police and some young people
were already out of balance before yesterday's scuffles. No doubt this
morning a majority of the 600 policemen who were at Windsor will have
an even lower opinion of pop fans; no doubt most of the 2,000 young
people will have an even lower opinion of the police. It is as absurd
for the fans to label all policemen as " pigs" as it is for the police
to label all pop audiences as "hippies." It is important for the future
of the police that the young are not alienated any further. .
Certainly the festival posed a tricky problem for the police. It
was set up without permission six days ago. A considerable number of
policemen was needed to patrol the area. No attempt was made to clear
the park earlier because of the large numbers involved, but yesterday
the police estimated that the numbers had dropped to 2,000.
Strict instructions were given to the police involved in the operation
to carry out a "softly softly" exercise. Clearly something went wrong.
As the police approached the crowd some
of the festival organizers appealed over the microphones to the fans
to resist. That was a highly irresponsible act. Both children and pregnant
women were in the crowd. Even if there had only been adults, festival
organizers who call on crowds to defy the police should be dealt with
sternly. It is one thing to turn a blind eye to an illegal festival;
it is quite another to ignore festival organizers who encourage people
to defy the police.
But if the organizers had no right to be mobilizing resistance and
the fans no right to start hurling tins of beans, the police had no
right to draw truncheons and use force. In an early statement yesterday
a police spokesman denied truncheons had been drawn. Later, when the
evening newspapers showed through photographs that they had been, the
police claimed that this was only in self-defense or to knock down the
festival stage. But some reporters noted senior policemen trying to
The operation suggests that even where
there has been strict briefing and a large number of senior officers
is present, in certain circumstances police can, like ordinary people,
be carried away by the momentum of events. A full investigation into
the exercise must be carried out.