Last week an under-reported 10,000 students protesting against social inequality were "escorted" through the City, flanked on all sides by ranks of police.
As a barometer of social change, this example of deteriorating social relations and instability of law and order should raise suspicion.
The founder of modern policing Robert Peel considered that "the degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force."
Keeping the peace was - and is - achieved by consensus.
The scale of Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe's "total policing" operation was incalculable. The show of strength - 4,000 officers, four helicopters, dozens of horses, dogs, vans and hardware - put London on edge.
The deployment of armies of officers armed with questionable tactics and lethal weapons during peaceful protests has damaged social relations.
Law and order is currently maintained by the police, a body that is as alien to the communities it serves as it is to Peel's original concept. As the basis for law and order breaks down, the police are dangerously ostracised.
Before the march moved off, police officers huddled together for comfort. Elbows touching, occasional hugs, a joke, the reassurance of a different sort of comradeship.
Every so often the conversation would stop and there would be a pause. The moment before battle.
Most looked scared, not of the students but something unseen and unknown. Rubber bullets would have shot down the last remnants of consent.
The fact that students marched on the City implies a seismic shift in perceptions of democratic power.
Parliament and the political classes have become obsolete. The real power, the money classes, who gawped at the procession from behind the reinforced glass and toughened steel buildings were at the front line.
Floor upon floor of men in suits and women in heels gazed down at the spectacle of unrest.
Protesters shuffled through the City like prisoners of class war.
Riot police cries to "keep moving" echoed through the streets. An elderly woman with a stick was dragged to her feet. The City was in lockdown.
As columns of police formed around the young protesters, hearts raced and adrenaline surged. The atmosphere of a protest in late 2011 is intoxicating for thrill junkies.
Just before the protest moved off, expectation electrified the mood. That day could be the end of it and no-one knew which way "it" would go.
So civil liberties, the right to protest and freedom of movement were curtailed.
There was fear on all sides. The latest police tactic is a moving kettle with protesters tightly packed, slow moving or moved at record speed.
Protesters were vulnerable to attack from the political gangmasters and were easily caught in the crossfire between those who sought to resist.
The fear that our ancestors relied on for survival, fear that you could smell, ruled the streets of London.
The police have confused protest with criminality.
Every building, every public space was a target. The police didn't know, they only feared how far this fledgling insurrection could have gone.
Every protester was deemed a potential threat, thus rationalising dissent as crime against society.
Protesters occupying Trafalgar Square were cleared within hours under section 12 of the Public Order Act 1991.
Young people were arrested for covering their faces. One man was arrested for carrying a sign which the police claimed was causing offence.
Entry into and out of the "march" was strictly controlled. Young people and the more mature sparks who had attempted to join the students were prevented from deviating from the route, even for a coffee.
This is not total policing but total control of the rights of citizens to move freely around the City taking part in lawful protest.
Without the right to protest peacefully and effectively, free from the threat of violence, can we retain any illusion of democratic principles?
As the moving kettle made its way along Fetter Lane, a large group of perhaps 100 young people unwittingly walked ahead of the police cordon.
Panic brought things to a standstill. Senior officers on the ground began shouting, reinforcements piled in.
Within minutes the mood of the crowd changed.
The pressure mounted as more and more protesters were squeezed into a narrow space on Fetter Lane.
Chief steward Sean Rillo Raczka, vice-president of the University of London Students Union, attempted to negotiate with police to keep the march moving.
For what seemed like an age of uncertainty, the moving kettle simmered.
At 14.32 the Met tweeted: "The march is stationary at Fetter Lane and police are engaging with the protesters to continue on the planned route."
Officers ran up and down the lines, on the phone, on the radio screaming: "We've lost the A lot, we've lost the A lot."
Senior officers carried out high-octane exchanges with stewards.
Whoever the "A lot" are, they weren't in the march - and they were not "anarchists" - but their disappearance was enough to warrant full-scale panic among 4,000 police officers.
A small group of masked teenagers - not the A lot - eventually attempted to break through the police lines and missiles rained overhead.
This wasn't an ambush. It was a simple situation of cause and effect.
There was a danger that people would be crushed as the rear of the march made its way forward into a wall of police and horses.
Panic within the crowd was growing. Journalists, myself included, rushed around the gap at the side, hurried through by police.
What I saw was a police force in disarray, running scared, without direction in an urban conflict zone.
There was a constant drone of helicopters circling overhead. More than once I stopped in disbelief to gaze at the City sparkling in the autumn sunshine overrun by police herding protesters.
I had entered another world somewhere between Bladerunner and Robocop and nothing seemed real. All that was solid melted in the heat of unrest.
Reason gave way to instinct and the need to survive, a genetic imprint that overcomes all boundaries takes over.
Minor scuffles broke out between police and protesters. Within minutes, it was evident that there was only a very thin line between law and order and chaos. But that line wasn't crossed on the protest - by consensus.
Hogan Howe's strategy contributed to the minor incidents that occurred and heightened existing tensions, putting thousands at risk.
Sheffield and Manchester can police a demonstration without terrorising the participants and instilling fear in the population. Hogan Howe needs to reconsider.
At dusk, I listened to Billy Bragg singing Which Side Are You On in the shadow of the Stock Market, the Anonymous flag flying over the tent city of St Paul's, a scene of peace and calm.
It was a stark contrast to earlier in the day and I fought back the tears.
There is a depressing familiarity to the spectacle that is protest in Britain.
Humans, being what they are, adjust to fear and crisis.
Threatened with the use of rubber bullets, protesters responded by singing - and telling the Met where to stick them.
This was not bravado that would dissipate with the first shot across the bow. Those who had turned out had done so in the full knowledge that the first shots to be fired on civilians on British soil would take down a generation.
We can either call a ceasefire or man the barricades.
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