The kettling controversy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 December, 2010, 12:00am


What is kettling? It's a method of crowd control used by police during protests or other large gatherings of people. Police surround the crowd with a tight cordon of officers who will not let people leave the area, or only let them leave at one place. This has caused many complaints from protesters and bystanders.


Protests have been happening mainly in London where students are venting their anger over a trippling of their tuition fees. Kettling is used as a tactic in Britain, Denmark, Canada and Germany.


When has kettling been used? Police in Germany used the tactic in 1986 to contain anti-nuclear protesters. It has been used since then as a legitimate form of crowd control. British police used it in the recent student riots.


Who gets caught in a kettle? Protesters are the ones targeted. One of the arguments against this tactic is that very often innocent bystanders are caught up in a protest and they could be stuck there for hours. They are unable to leave and it can be scary and dangerous for them.


Why do police use this tactic? Kettling keeps the demonstration in one place. If groups are allowed to leave, they can do more damage over a wider area. If this happens, police have to fight many small battles. Kettling concentrates the potential violence in a small area. Why is it controversial? It amounts to unlawful detention by the police.


How does kettling work? It cuts off those inside from toilets, food, water and shelter. Eventually the protesters become tired and just want to go home.