Corralling peaceful protesters: Herald headline hides their own writer’s well-argued conclusion

In a report of the kind of high quality journalism we’ve seen before from this writer but all too infrequently in the Herald these years, the headline does not do justice to Stewart’s final thoughts and given it is an opinion piece why was there not the courage to say:

Opinion: Catriona Stewart: Police were wrong to corral peaceful protestors

After an extended account of the events with the obligatory recognition of the difficult challenges faced by the police, with which I agree, it is only at the end that we see what the writer thinks. Surely it would be normal practice to signpost that in the headline and in the opening sentence, rather than hide it away at the end. Here are the final paragraphs:

Yet the people inside the cordon of police officers were not football risk supporters. They were members of Stand Up To Racism and the anti-racism demonstrators. As they were propelled down the High Street they continued their pro-refugee chants.

Afterwards, a neighbour who had been caught inside the ring of police, told me, “We worked hard to make sure we were socially distanced in the square and the people who were coming to support us were kept safe, but then the police undid all that work within minutes. We were cheek-to-jowl with complete strangers.”

There has to be some sympathy for police, who are working in unprecedented times under new laws and repeatedly having to use vast resources to manage crowds when large gatherings are illegal.

It’s not, though, reasonable to ask demonstrators to wait until after the pandemic to carry out protests given that the issues on which they seek to enact change are time-sensitive and vital.

Local councillor Kim Long, who sits on the local police scrutiny committee, has said she will question why these tactics were used. The situation calls for meaningful answers.

The issue is the small group of disruptive agitators who must be dealt with – but not at the expense of peaceful protesters and those protesters’ health.

This is well-said, other than the reluctance to name the agitators, and surely readers deserved to see some sign of these sentiments earlier. The final Herald footnote, reminds you that there is an unstated but well-known editorial agenda:

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.

Police Scotland can be criticised but only if that criticism can then be applied to the SNP Government.

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