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View this site at 800 x 600 resolution or higher for best results. Last updated 4-29-2002

Police at a pop festival. 
  Neither the police nor the pop festival organizers and fans have come out of the melee in Windsor Great Park with much credit. No one wins in such confrontations. The pictures in today's newspapers of policemen with truncheons drawn moving towards the pop fans can only erode the most important strength of the force: public confidence. If the police should ever lose that confidence, then there is no way a force -of 100,000 men can police a country of 50 million people. Hence the attention that the police have paid in recent years to community relations. But events like yesterday's -whoever is most to blame - can set back months of hard work by hundreds of policemen working in local communities. 
  Worse still is the way such incidents harden attitudes. Relations between the police and some young people were already out of balance before yesterday's scuffles. No doubt this morning a majority of the 600 policemen who were at Windsor will have an even lower opinion of pop fans; no doubt most of the 2,000 young people will have an even lower opinion of the police. It is as absurd for the fans to label all policemen as " pigs" as it is for the police to label all pop audiences as "hippies." It is important for the future of the police that the young are not alienated any further. . 
Certainly the festival posed a tricky problem for the police. It was set up without permission six days ago. A considerable number of policemen was needed to patrol the area. No attempt was made to clear the park earlier because of the large numbers involved, but yesterday the police estimated that the numbers had dropped to 2,000. 
Strict instructions were given to the police involved in the operation to carry out a "softly softly" exercise. Clearly something went wrong. 
  As the police approached the crowd some of the festival organizers appealed over the microphones to the fans to resist. That was a highly irresponsible act. Both children and pregnant women were in the crowd. Even if there had only been adults, festival organizers who call on crowds to defy the police should be dealt with sternly. It is one thing to turn a blind eye to an illegal festival; it is quite another to ignore festival organizers who encourage people to defy the police. 
But if the organizers had no right to be mobilizing resistance and the fans no right to start hurling tins of beans, the police had no right to draw truncheons and use force. In an early statement yesterday a police spokesman denied truncheons had been drawn. Later, when the evening newspapers showed through photographs that they had been, the police claimed that this was only in self-defense or to knock down the festival stage. But some reporters noted senior policemen trying to restrain juniors. 
  The operation suggests that even where there has been strict briefing and a large number of senior officers is present, in certain circumstances police can, like ordinary people, be carried away by the momentum of events. A full investigation into the exercise must be carried out.

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