Yesterday, Metropolitan Police officers, along with colleagues from the City of London Police, British Transport Police and Surrey Constabulary, became the targets and victims of extreme, gratuitous violence.

Their courage and dedication in the face of ever-present and grave personal danger deserves the unswerving thanks of the country, and especially of Government Ministers and other Members of Parliament who were able to proceed with their democratic business only because of the fortitude of the police men and women holding the line the streets outside Parliament.

Had these officers not acted with the professionalism and selflessness that they did, the consequences would have been unthinkable.

The attack on the Prince of Wales’s car and the acts of random destructive vandalism showed that some individuals took to the streets with the sole aim of achieving a breakdown in the law and order which protects ordinary, law abiding men and women.

Had they succeeded, they would have gone on to new excesses of destruction and others would surely have encouraged to repeat their violence at later protests and demonstrations.

The police men and women of London, with their colleagues from elsewhere, have now sent a an unambiguous message ­ that no matter how severe the provocation and no matter what tide of violence they face, the law and the right of ordinary people to go about their business will be defended.

But in the process, they have paid a price. Twelve officers are known to have been injured in the attacks on their lines, six of them seriously, and the long, exhausting hours in which they held the line will take its toll on them physically.

The final injury tally will certainly be much higher.

Some will be too badly injured to return to work for weeks or perhaps longer while others will be forced, however reluctantly, on to restrictive duties at a time when their skills may be badly needed again at any time.

Let us be clear: this has been a battle for democracy which almost reached the doors of Parliament. And had every police officer not possessed and demonstrated outstanding endurance and commitment to upholding the rule of law, it would have been lost.

Peter Smyth
Metropolitan Police Federation