Monday, March 19, 2007


This story starts stupidly but rapidly becomes moronic. Toni Comer, who was extremely drunk and had just caused over £3,000 worth of damage to a car, assaulted a police officer, and was rapidly and firmly restrained. She maintains that the force used was excessive, but given that she had just tried to kick the policeman in the groin her case is unlikely to proceed. Comer has not made any allegations of racial assault.
So... Only sensationalists would compare this beating to the infamous Rodney King episode. Technically, only morons would do so, but fire ahead.
Still, it remains difficult to imagine a petite middle-class white woman being beaten like this. I don't know - the level of force used by the police at the last countryside demo was pretty high - they used batons on tweedy chaps and chapesses rather than fists.
Iconic pictures of white women tend to tell stories of victimisation by vicious crime (Abigail Witchalls). There is no useful comparison to make here. Comer was a violent drunk resisting arrest, Witchalls a pregnant woman out for a walk with her toddler.
Ms Comer was drunk, disorderly and culpable of criminal damage. She was also committing that unpardonable female offence, "ball-busting", as she resisted arrest. Perhaps a guy, whether rapist or policeman, has gotta do what a guy's gotta do, including dragging this young woman to the police van with her trousers around her knees, while she, an epilepsy sufferer, flails and foams at the mouth.
So, a policeman arresting a criminal is the same as a rapist? Isn't this seriously defamatory? Hasn't the Guardian just accused this particular policeman of acting in the same fashion as a rapist? What the fuck?
It is now "reasonable" use of force to shoot an unarmed "Asian-looking" man at an underground station on suspicion. It is reasonable to bomb an entire nation "into the Middle Ages" for harbouring an elusive criminal, for kidnapping a soldier, or on suspicion of possessing weapons of mass destruction; even more reasonable to spend £20bn of public money to refurbish Britain's own WMD arsenal to deter an unspecified future enemy. It is reasonable, as the Baha Mousa case suggests, for the armed forces in Iraq to punch and kick civilians to death, resurrecting stress positions outlawed 35 years ago.
Ignoring the fact that perpetrators of the Baha Mousa case were convicted of manslaughter and assault, meaning that the use of force was not deemed 'reasonable', the writer is using a legal term of specific meaning ('reasonable') to cover both legal and non-legal scenarios - the debate on whether such an act is reasonable morally, politically or philosophically may be useful, but does not relate to whether it is reasonable legally. To return to the subject of this rubbish, Toni Comer, she assaulted a police officer, who used force to restrain her. She was drunk, had caused criminal damage, and had just assaulted him. The force he used in response would have to have been much much greater than it was to be considered 'unreasonable'. Any lawyer knows this; anyone with a modicum of legal understanding knows this; anyone with the capacity for basic common sense should know this.
Priyamvada Gopal teaches in the English faculty at Cambridge University and is the author of Literary Radicalism in India.
Fantastic. A Post-Modernist 'tab. And I thought the Guardian could sink no lower.


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