13 January 2011

Edward Woollard: the meaning of his harsh sentence

Britain treats illegal violence against the state very differently from illegal violence committed by state officials.

In January 2011 Edward Woollard (18), who threw a fire extinguisher from the roof of Tory HQ at lines of police, was sentenced to two years and eight months in jail for violent disorder. Apparently, the harsh sentence handed out to the youngster was intended to send a message to the British people. But what is the message?

Woollard is undoubtedly a stupid youth who almost certainly didn't intend to hurt anyone in his irresponsible act, and he didn't. Yet, every institution of the state has been quickly lined up to punish him and make an example of him.

It is interesting, then, to compare Woollard’s case with that of PC Simon Harwood, the police officer who fatally assaulted the newspaper vendor, Ian Tomlinson, during the G20 demonstrations in April 2009. Harwood, a trained police office, certainly did intend to hurt and injure Ian Tomlinson by tuncheoning him and hurling him to the ground; but in his case every institution of the state was lined up to prevent him from being held to account for his actions.

These two examples taken together show the real message sent by the British state to the people. Violence by people against the state is given exemplary punishment; illegal violence by police against the people is brushed under the carpet.

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