As austerity pushed by Britain’s Tory government whittles away jobs and benefits and increases poverty and despair, many Brits are asking where the resistance is. Journalist Laurie Penny knows: “There was resistance, and it was brutally and systematically put down.”

“The students, the street-organising anti-cuts campaigners, the Occupy movement,” she writes in The Guardian. “When people speak about the Occupy camps and anti-austerity protests of 2010-12, it is with a tone of regret, as if somehow those grassroots movements just fizzled out because those involved didn’t know what they were doing. On the contrary: they were cleared out, arrested and beaten back by police.”

“Even the most peaceful protests are put down as a warning to the rest of us,” she continues. In November, a 28-year-old teaching assistant named Bethan Tichborne appeared at a political event in Oxfordshire and told Prime Minister David Cameron that he had “blood on his hands.” She was referring to Cameron’s decision to deprive vital support from people with disabilities.

“Tichborne was grabbed, tackled to the ground and restrained during her arrest, as Cameron continued to speak,” Penny writes. ” ‘The police officers on top of me either couldn’t or wouldn’t hear me,’ [Tichborne] wrote on her blog. ‘I was crying and bleeding, I couldn’t properly breathe.’ Two weeks ago she was convicted of causing harassment, alarm and distress and fined more than a a month’s wages. The message is clear: whether or not a protest is peaceful and legal is entirely up to the police and judiciary to decide, so if you want to play it safe, stay at home and sign a petition.”

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Laurie Penny at The Guardian:

Sadly, many of the liberal-minded folk now wondering aloud where all the anger on the streets has gone were the same people who condemned the students and anti-cuts protesters for being just a bit too noisy, too rowdy, too “violent”. As soon as the frustrated kids of Britain and their allies started smashing up bus stops and lighting bonfires outside Tory HQ, that was too much: throw the selfish brats in prison, teach them to mind their manners. First they came for the students. Now they’ve come for the rest of us, who will speak out?

Any government trying to push through austerity against the will of a large proportion of the population is going to have to rely on force to deal with dissent. That’s exactly what this government, which had the support of just one in seven of the population even before it started tearing up the welfare state, has done. New movements to resist austerity must expect to meet the same wall of state violence as soon as they become effective, because that’s how the Tories operate. It’s how they’ve always operated. And shame on us, even in these cowardly times, if we don’t support those with the courage to take a stand.

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