Kettling and the Fear of Revolution

originally published at Critical Legal Thinking on March 23, 2012


“… what are you laughing at? Change the name and you are the subject of the story” (Horace, Satires and Epistles. London: Penguin 2005: 5)

In November 2010, British students staged a series of demonstrations in several cities of the UK and Northern Ireland. Organised by the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), thousands marched against spending cuts to further education and an increase of the cap on tuition fees by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. The 2010 protests have marked something of a turning point in modern British history: the political protest was back. After the 2003 anti-Iraq war protest in London which attracted almost a million people, the 2010 protests showed once more that it is the political protest that shapes the world for the better. But if these protests made dissensus visible, and posited it at the heart of British politics, they also gave police an opportunity to widely use a scare tactic, ensuring that protest against the status quo is effective. The tactic is called ‘kettling’, which so easily turns a legitimate protest into a ‘violent disorder’. Continue reading