The Metropolitan Police are well versed in the management and policing of largescale public demonstrations. They have learnt over the years how to effectively monitor and use intelligence to predict the size and likely behaviour of demonstrations. They know how to effectively utilise their resources on the day, managing the delicate balance between having a visible presence and also having additional resources available and ready to call upon within the vicinity, usually parked up discretely on neighbouring side streets. They manage their different resources using appropriate combinations of routine officers with the riot trained Territorial Support Group.
Why then, have they so monumentally failed to effectively police the recent Black Lives Matter protests in central London? Firstly of course these demonstrations were wholly illegal. From 1 June 2020, under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, restrictions) (England) Regulations, only up to six people have been able to meet legally in public spaces and only where they maintain two metres social distancing. Over the weekend of Friday 5, Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 June 2020, tens of thousands of protestors were allowed to gather without any social distancing and with zero challenge from the police. As tens of thousands marched from Parliament Square to the US Embassy in Nine Elms and back on both the Saturday and Sunday there was zero police presence throughout the majority of the march. As thousands passed down the Embankment, over the Thames and through sitting traffic at Vauxhall, not a single police officer was to be seen. This despite the protests and marches being actively publicised on social media.
The police following on foot, spreading out their white tape alongside the marchers, standing at key points to marshal both the marchers and traffic were simply nowhere to be seen. The only exception on the Saturday was a line of officers standing alongside the moat around the American Embassy.
Though most of the march and the majority of the protestors were wholly peaceful, there was a clear minority who were intent on causing trouble and criminal damage. This had begun during the previous week when B.L.M. was daubed over the walls of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office along Whitehall. Graffiti that still remained untouched four days later on Sunday.