I have been looking on with an increasing sense of unease at the aftermath of the demonstrations surrounding the G-20 summit in London.
I have a very simple philosophy.
I believe that in a democracy we all have the right to demonstrate, to march, to protest, to make our views known.
I also believe that such demonstrations, whilst they may be policed, should enjoy the protection of the police who should ensure our freedom of speech.
I do not however believe that in a democracy we have the right to riot, smash the windows of offices, shops or banks or attack those who are sent to maintain law and order.
Sadly and tragically at such events as the G-20 the determination to demonstrate and the thirst to riot become intertwined.
Society must not ban demonstrations for fear of rioting but equally it would be disastrous to allow rioting as being a legitimate form of protest.
A policeman’s (or policewoman’s) lot was never a happy one. They have a duty to protect us and property from rioters – but they also have a duty to protect our right to demonstrate. It is a delicate dividing line.
Whether the police officers highlighted were guilty of aggression or merely doing their job – I have no idea as I simply do not know all the facts. If they are deemed to have a criminal case to answer - then let them be charged, face justice and if found guilty duly punished.
However it is not the police in Britain who pose the threat to democracy – but those who riot behind the shield of democracy. It is they who threaten to steal my right to peaceful protest and it is the rule of law that is my protection.