First a GAME Meta Kettle!
February 2011 – We took part in our first game design jam here in Cambridge. The focus was really indie, digital game developers coming together for a frenetic session of collaboration and inspiration. Andy S was even persuaded to have a go at designing his first ever computer game. However, it turned out rubbish, so don’t get distracted by that – the other game we made was “Metakettle“.
Metakettle is, quite simply, a game about being kettled, to play when you’re being kettled, to pass the time until you’re not being kettled any more. It’s a group game, so all you need is other people; no dice or anything. You pick an animal, shout that animal name constantly and try and recruit other “players”. When you have enough people, you capture more players by completely encircling – or kettling – them. They then join your animal team and it’s onwards and upwards until you’ve kettled the entire group. At that point you realise the cops have won and you start again.
It’s an attempt to diffuse a potentially confrontational situation but it might also keep your mind off the fact you’re being illegally detained in the street without access to basic amenities like toilets, shelter or water.
We produced two versions of the game to print out. One to frame and put on the mantelpiece (left, below) and one that won’t use your entire black ink cartridge/toner in one go (right, below). We hope you’ll do the responsible thing and circulate the ink-saving version at your next demo/protest/picnic/kettling workshop.
“METAKETTLE IS A GROUP GAME for 20+ people, played to pass the time while being kettled. The aim of Metakettle is to be the dominant kettling animal by kettling everyone else.”
Game variants: Try starting a game of Metakettle within a game of Metakettle. See how deep you can go. Or, for biology students, try a taxonomic variant of the game, where your group animal is only allowed to kettle other group animals in the same genus as your own. This should be especially fruitful for beetle enthusiasts.
Please let us know of any game reports – especially those within a kettling situation. We’ll update this page/site with those reports and I think this could even be the beginning of a new game genre: Games in Detention.
The coalition’s stance on peaceful protest exposes its inherant frailty
The reforms are welcome, but it is hard to see Conservatives allowing peaceful protests in, say, shopping centres
Rather like Conan Doyle’s dog, it is the absence of any mention of the right to peaceful protest in the protection of freedoms bill that is striking. There is much to commend it on DNA samples and fingerprints, shifts on surveillance and CCTV and reducing pre-charge detention for terrorist suspects to 14 days but nothing comes near to satisfying the clear pledge in the coalition agreement to restore the right of nonviolent protest. So what went wrong?
The first signs of movement came in the deputy prime minister’s pronouncement on civil liberties last month. There was little mention of peaceful protest as one of the freedoms to be restored. Nick Clegg limited himself to the rather bland unsubstantiated statement that “the government is changing the law to restore rights to nonviolent protest”.
Unlike libel law or control orders, there was no big policy statement or analysis. It has to be said, it’s hard to see where this change is taking place. The only possibility is the planned loosening of the ban on demonstrations around Westminster contained in the police reform and social responsibility bill.
This shows, writ small, a real problem confronting the coalition – the underlying policy and ideological tensions at its heart. There is much more to restoring the right of nonviolent protest than simple legislative tinkering. Protests need somewhere to take place.
This is why the reform of the much criticised provisions relating to Westminster is welcome but inadequate. The shrinking of publicly owned space will make this harder. The plans to place Forestry Commission land into “big society” hands, or failing that into commercial ownership, although now shelved exemplify this. Is a Conservative-led coalition really going to require those who own retail developments – the investment funds and pension funds – to allow protesters into shopping centres across the UK for the purposes of peaceful protest?
If not, where are those who object to Liverpool One or Quaker’s Friar in Bristol going to make their point effectively to the greatest audience? What we get, as Jacob Rowbottom called his book on the topic, is democracy distorted: we are able only to hear certain political “messages”, those that accord with the current demographic skew of landholding in the UK.
Similarly, will the coalition really “restrict the scope of injunctions issued by vested interests”, as promised in the Liberal Democrat manifesto? It is not only the police that can put the brakes on peaceful protests; anti-harassment injunctions are a potent weapon in the hands of private commercial targets. Those granted in recent years to the arms manufacturer EDO and the animal research lab, Huntingdon Life Science, are good examples.
Are Conservative politicians going to inform those who have donated to party funds (HLS donated £1,500 in January, just four days after Nick Clegg’s announcement) that they will just have to put up with aggressive chanting and annoying disruption outside their businesses?
Missing a trick on these bigger matters would not be so bad if simpler, non-contentious changes had been proposed. One such would have been reforming section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, as recommended by the joint committee on human rights in 2009. It proposed that using “insulting” language where harassment, alarm or distress were caused no longer be a criminal offence. It has been the source of some very intrusive measures against peaceful protesters; the police warning a London teenager that he get rid of a sign proclaiming Scientology was not a religion but a dangerous cult is perhaps the most extreme.
That leads to the last sticking point. What will really ensure or reduce the right of peaceful protest will be the policing response. In times of austerity – where protests and disorder are more likely – the policing of them will be made harder, not easier by the estimated £125m cuts, equivalent to about 40,000 officers.
Chief constables can make those sorts of sums more politically digestible if they do not reduce bobbies on the beat but impose cuts in training budgets. Yet it is exactly training that is the concern of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in its most recent report. Perhaps for that reason reform of peaceful protest has found itself unwittingly in what Charles Clarke, the former Labour home secretary, calls “the too-difficult box“?
Ban Police Kettling
Kettling is being used to suppress dissent rather than to prevent violence. In fact it is a cause of violence. You can join this campaign and vote to ban kettling.
Policing of demonstrations is increasingly becoming political policing. Although the police claim that kettling is designed to prevent violence and disorder, it is more accurate to say that it is being used to protect an illegitimate government (with no mandate for some of its major policies) from the legitimate anger of democratic dissent.
There is ample evidence that kettling provokes violence rather than prevents it. It is designed to intimidate individuals and to discourage democratic protest. More often than not,protests where kettling has not been used, did not result in violence. However, when kettling and other vicious tactics have been used, almost inevitably violence occurs.
A clear message needs to go out prior to March 26th that protestors will resist and will refuse to be kettled by police. This gives the police time to consider other strategies which facilitate peaceful protest (as they are legally obliged to do.) If, after this clear advance message, the police still resport to the use of kettling, it will be abundantly clear exactly who is provoking the ensuing violence.
In the meantime, it’s useful to draw attention to two campaigns which are keeping kettling in the news. Firstly, there is an Early Day Motion condemning kettling being presented to the House of Commons by Katy Clark, MP. Has your MP signed yet?
Secondly, there is a campaign building up on the 38 Degrees website on the subject of kettling. Individuals comment and VOTE for a proposal that kettling should be banned. There is also some useful info on how to avoid being kettled. The campaign needs more votes. Please encourage people to give 3 votes to “Ban kettling”. Just go to the 38 Degrees website, sign in with an email address (not published) and a username and click on Vote (1, 2 0r 3 Votes). http://bit.ly/gtDtFV #kettling.