The Metropolitan Police are a common sight across London today, but for a long time their survival was far from guaranteed (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
London has the distinction of being home to the oldest professional police force in the world. The Metropolitan Police was formed in 1829 in an attempt to impose order on the chaotic and undisciplined city. Their primary purpose was to deter crime, but they became involved in the policing of protest in 1830. Ironically, the first protest in which the police were involved was an anti-police demonstration on the 28th of October 1830. Demonstrators chanting ‘No New Police’ clashed with the boys in blue at Hyde Park Corner. The British people had long been hostile to the idea of a professional police force, so the Metropolitan Police faced an uphill battle convincing Londoners that they were necessary. Ever since then, the Met has had an uneasy relationship with some Londoners. Radicals have always been particularly critical, especially in regard to the policing and control of protest. Disapproval and mistrust of the Metropolitan Police is reflected in London’s protest stickers.
You can see the locations of the stickers on the Turbulent London Map.
One of the most common ways of expressing anti-police sentiment is with the acronym ACAB, which stands for ‘All Cops/Coppers Are Bastards’. In most cases, the acronym’s meaning is not spelled out, but this sticker is particularly obliging, so it seemed like a good place to start the post (Regent’s Canal Tow Path, 20/05/15).
ACAB crops up frequently, in various fonts and colour schemes. In most circumstances though, you would need to know what the acronym means to understand the sticker’s message (King’s Cross Station, 27/05/15).
The text on this sticker is difficult to make out, but it reads ‘Kill the cop inside you… and then the fun begins’ (Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).
The previous three stickers refer to police in general. This sticker refers to the Metropolitan Police specifically, calling it the biggest gang in London (Gordon Street, Bloomsbury, 12/03/15).
This sticker is even more specific. Henry Hicks died after being chased by two unmarked police cars in December 2014. This sticker is calling for support in the campaign to get justice for Henry (King’s Cross, 06/06/15).
This sticker also relates to the Henry Hicks campaign, but contains much less information (Tolpuddle Street, Islington, 20/05/15).
This sticker also relates to a specific case. Ian Tomlinson famously collapsed and died after being struck by a police officer at the 2009 G-20 protests. An inquest found that he had been unlawfully killed (Kennington Park Road, 04/06/15).
There has been a lot of controversy over the pat few years over the policing of student protest. This sticker refers to a campaign to ban police from university campuses (Malet Street, Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).
I found this sticker close to Senate House, part of the University of London, which suggests it may also be connected to the controversy over student protest. The writing is not easy to make out; it reads ‘Total Policing- Total Nobs.’ (Senate House, 17/03/15).
Some stickers feature the logos of the groups who produced them. This sticker was made by the 161 Crew, a Polish anti-fascist group (Malet Street, Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).
This sticker reworks the logo of the Metropolitan Police, filling it with criticisms of the police force, including terrifying, intimidating, abusive and petty (Westminster Bridge, 20/06/15).
Sources and Further Reading
Ascoli, David. The Queen’s Peace: The Origins and Development of the Metropolitan Police 1829-1979. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1979.