Posts Tagged ‘security’

Seumas Milne does the deconstruction work so you don’t have to:

It’s billed as the greatest show on earth. But the closer you get to the London stadium that will be the centre of the Olympic Games in just over a fortnight’s time [now under 2 days], the more it’s starting to look like a militarised occupation zone. East London has become lockdown London. The Olympics are the focus of Britain’s largest security mobilisation since the second world war.

Soldiers are already on the streets. Around 13,500 are being deployed, more than currently in Afghanistan, along with tens of thousands of police and private security guards. Drones will patrol the skies over the Olympic park, barricaded behind an 11-mile electrified fence and guarded with sonic weapons and 55 teams of attack dogs.

Mustn’t forget the law changes which will allow police to move gatherings of two or more on for any reason they can think of. Is the Olympics really worth sacrificing freedom of assembly? As Milne points out later in the article, just what is that promoting? But of course that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as he goes on to explain:

The greatest local outrage has, not surprisingly, been triggered by the decision to site surface-to-air missile batteries, with orders to shoot down any unauthorised aircraft, in six residential areas around the park – including in the former factory buildings where the socialist feminist Annie Besant led the celebrated “matchgirls’ strike” in 1888. On Tuesday, residents of another tower block failed at the high court to stop the army putting missiles on their roof on the grounds that they hadn’t been consulted and could be vulnerable to terrorist attack.

Of course, if the state hosting the Olympics is in the habit of invading and occupying other people’s countries, the likelihood of terrorist attacks will increase. And ever since the killing of Israeli athletes in Munich 40 years ago, Olympic security has been tight. But the scale and visibility of the London operations, including powers to crack down on protest and even remove critical posters from private homes, go far beyond the demands of any potential threat.

People are already getting threatened by the police, merely for having expressed anti-Olympics dissent online. It’s quite unthinkable. What is this supposed to be, China? Have we learned nothing from the police excess around the Royal Wedding, where protesters were essentially arrested (without having done a single thing), for not joining in unquestioningly with the party?

There are other motivations, naturally. In the words of one Whitehall official, the Olympics are a “tremendous opportunity to showcase what the private sector can do in the security space“. But it’s all a long way from the Olympic ideals of promoting peace, internationalism and participation through sport.

Not just security. As he goes on to discuss, it’s a corporate free-for-all. Want to get your money from a non-VISA cashpoint while you’re cheering on Tom Daley et al? Good luck with that. Want to eat healthily, which would sort of be in line with a major sporting event? Enjoy your Big Mac and supersized fries in the largest McDonalds in the world! From The Braiser:

“London won the right to host the 2012 Games with the promise to deliver a legacy of more active, healthier children across the world,” said Assembly Member Jenny Jones, who proposed the motion. “Yet the same International Olympic Committee that awarded the games to London persists in maintaining sponsorship deals with the purveyors of high calorie junk that contributes to the threat of an obesity epidemic.”

I wish the athletes (at least the non-drug taking ones) well, but the event which they’re partaking in is making a mockery of itself. Respect, excellence and friendship? By threatening dissenters, militarising the city and encouraging obesity (yes Coca Cola I’m also looking at you)? What a joke.

Laurie Penny explains why with her usual vigour:

In Britain, private security agents might be hired to do the same jobs as police officers and prison guards, but they’re not accountable to the public in the same way – at least, not yet. The Independent Police Complaints Commission still has no power to investigate private security staff, and the Government is prevaricating over the watchdog’s request to extend its remit – which was supported by G4S – while extending the outsourcing of policing to for-profitcompanies. G4S was recently awarded a £200m contract to take over half of the civilian duties of Lincolnshire police force. Policing employees helping protect the public in Grimsby and Scunthorpe will now wear G4S’s company logo – that discreet sharp slash of red and black.

What difference does it make if the men and women in uniform patrolling the world’s streets and prison corridors are employed by nation states or private firms? It makes every difference. A for-profit company is not subject to the same processes of accountability and investigation as an army or police force which is meant, at least in theory, to serve the public. Impartial legality is still worth something as an assumed role of the state – and the notion of a private, for-profit police and security force poisons the very idea.

The state still has a legal monopoly on violence, but it is now prepared to auction that monopoly to anyone with a turnover of billions and a jolly branding strategy. The colossal surveillance and security operation turning London into a temporary fortress this summer is chilling enough without the knowledge that state powers are being outsourced to a company whose theme tune features the line: “The enemy prowls, wanting to attack, but we’re on to the wall, we’ve got your back.” If that made any sense at all, I doubt it would be more reassuring.

It’s brilliant to look back on this, given the fiasco currently unravelling regarding G4S’s incompetent mishandling of the role they were paid hundreds of millions to undertake at the Olympics. It now turns out there’s no penalty clause in their contract:

Private security company G4S will not be financially penalised for failing to recruit sufficient security guards for the Olympic Games, it emerged last night.

The firm has been accused of letting the country down just two weeks before the Games, with soldiers forced to cancel family holidays to ensure venues are protected. But a senior Government source told The Independent that the contract with G4S did not include a penalty clause.

The revelation appears to contradict a statement by the Home Secretary Theresa May in the House of Commons. She told MPs that while the contract was between G4S and the Games organisers Locog, she understood that there were “penalties within that contract”.

A source said that in fact it was a pro-rata agreement where G4S were paid for each extra security guard they supplied – and not penalised if they did not make the overall target. “The person who negotiated the contract should be shot,” the source said.