Student protesters in London use Google Maps to outwit police "kettling"

Dr Ben "Bad Science" Goldacre sez,
A few days ago I suggested that the UK's protesting students could do with some kind of "anti-kettling app", to outwit the efforts of the police to stop them protesting, and keep them detained out in the freezing cold subzero temperatures well after bedtime. It turns out I was over engineering things in my head, the students on the anti-fees protests in London are now using this simple Google map (I got sent it by this guy). If you watch it, you can follow what's happening in London right now. With audio/video/image updates and stuff, it could also become a chaotic unflitered news repository. There may be others from around the country.

Don't let me get carried away, but what i find interesting with this, with Wikileaks, and going right back to older underground video news outlets like Undercurrents, is that it does feel a bit as if the tools traditionally only available to the state for things like surveillance, evidence gathering, coordination and dissemination are being democratised. I also very much enjoy the appearance of Godzilla in the Thames.

student protestors using live tech to outwit police in london



  1. Next headline:

    Police spread mis-information through students’ Google map after the URL is widely publicised by the media

  2. Another case of media censorship: BBC News stories about the protest do not mention Godzilla’s support for the students.

  3. 16:35
    Paint and olive oil bombs used to reduce horse traction. Parliament Square
    Students kettling police
    Cavalry split protesters
    Massive fire. Bad times.
    Police line reforming on Victoria St, mounted police have returned Victoria St
    Police kettle

    Saw a few twit pics, anyone have live images?

  4. You’re burying the lede here. Clearly, the headline ought to read:


  5. I’m probably not the only person who sees the monster in the river and is reminded of “The Creature that Ate Sheboygan.”

  6. I am rather distressed by the use of a golfer to represent riot police but after the ongoing coverage of police actions in Toronto at the G20, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.

  7. Didn’t cops in the US pretty much flip out at even the prospect of something like this? Great work though, as long as it does prove reasonably accurate.

  8. This was a pretty good idea, but in practice it was too rarely updated and patchy to be useful. Also, since the protestors were definitely heading for parliament (where MPs) were voting, their ability to evade kettles was pretty limited.

    In fact, there’s still about 1,000 people still held on Westminster bridge.

    What I did like was watching 500 plus protestors struggling to evade kettling by climbing a series of high fences until someone realised that all of the fences had doors in them.

  9. It just occurred to me: They have to adapt a golfers icon for the riot police, but there’s a Godzilla-with-a-plane icon ready to use?

  10. I’m impressed with this modern cyber retaliation to police methods, and in the same way that all people are amazed at how simple the best solutions are – I say – I cant believe I didn’t think of this before!

    I myself attended a May Day Protest roughly 7 or 8 years ago (maybe more, Im not sure. I’m only 28 but now I feel old!) and we got “kettled” in to a square in London for a good 6-7 hours. It was the most absurd, inhumane and ridiculous situation ever. Inhumane, unsanitary, and absurd.

    And the worst thing about it was – and this is a point I would like the police to take note of if they are reading this – is that yelling at people ONCE they’ve calmed down, is not a solution.

    Absolutely. The police would yell at us pent-up protesters for 20 minutes telling us to keep calm and will be released, then stop once the barrage of noise and shouts kicked up.

    Then after 20 minutes after the recently hyped up angry people had silenced down, once they had calmed down and stopped yelling, the police then piped up again with their “IF YOU KEEP CALM AND KEEP QUIET WE WILL RELEASE YOU” which of course then caused everyone to kick off again. And it happened numerous times. YELL AT CALM PUBLIC. WAIT FOR DIN TO DIE DOWN. YELL AGAIN. (which after 3 hours penned up against your will, with no reason to hold you, I sympathise. By the end I myself was yelling also. )

    Kettling does not work. Kettling is a statistic solver. Its a “yes we penned in and prevented hundreds of people from protesting illegally” yet when in reality a good 98% of those that get “kettled” are law-abiding protesters. If 98% of the Kettled Individuals were law-ignoring riotous wild west do-badders, then the damage would be done long before the police could mobilise their mismanaged assess out of the station.

    All Kettling Does – and this is from someone who used to be a respecting, rule following citizen who was once Kettled – is to alienate, piss off, illegally (oh wait scratch that now its legal) detain, chill, starve, deprive of sanitation (yes even serial killers get toilets, not protesters), deprive of food, and generally make sure you never want to protest again.

    And therein lies the key.

    After being kettled. You wont want to protest again.

    Chalk one up for the government.

    (P.s. apologies for grammar and whatnot. Its been a long day. No excuse I know, but some days just happen)

  11. This is sweet. It just about nullifies the Met’s air superiority. And it’sa lot simpler than, say, a few microdrones with cameras that stream video.

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