Of course it is. I've worked on loads of demos over the last few years ranging from calls for life to mean life, children's charities, anti war, anti capitalism etc and only a very small number have ever deteriorated to the stage of people being arrested, and even less turning into large scale public disorder. The vast majority have been attended by dozens to hundreds of people, and even a couple where a few thousand have turned up and there have been no incidents or problems. Compared to last week at the Israeli Embassy, I can attest that the 'flash mob' protest at Heathrow Terminal 5 was a considerably more jovial affair.
As usual the differences on numbers were wide apart, 500 from the organisers, 250 for the official Police estimates, from where I was standing we estimated the number to be around 350. The protest was reported by some media outlets as creating 'chaos' at the airport but it was anything of the sort - there was an area set by for the protest to be held in, security at the terminal was out in force and we had plenty of level 3 officers and a couple of level 2 serials to prevent anything getting out of hand.
We were briefed that BAA had actually given permission for a protest to be held within the terminal, contrary to existing legislation, which made things considerably easier for us to plan around. An area was set aside by the airport staff (which wasn't used eventually), level 3 officers were patrolling the terminal and the level 2's were in place behind the security access to the departure lounge. If the protestors got through us there, the terminal would have been shut down and we would be looking at a 'search to contact' of the entire terminal (and possibly even 'airside' which would have been an absolute nightmare) and every nook and cranny until everyone who wasn't supposed to be there was accounted for and removed. As we did that, the airport would be shut down which is why there is specific legislation prohibiting demonstrations within airports.
It was a gesture of 'goodwill' by BAA to allow the demo to go ahead but if it went wrong, the disruption would have been enormous to both passengers and the airport, and a number of people (including some of our senior officers) would have been out of a job by the late afternoon. A point which we were made aware of and reminded constantly about in the run up to our deployment!!
We were told to expect the demonstrators around 12 noon, and that they would be there for between 15-90 minutes, depending on how many turn up and how emotive they are. From where we were at the departure lounge entrance we could see a few people in the distinctive red t-shirts underneath coats milling around, the vast majority seemed to be women and children. There were a few men around but it seemed to be more of a family atmosphere to everything and not in the slightest bit hostile. When the time came all the coats came off and the crowd that had gathered near the main exit began jumping around and singing, there was quite a bit of jeering and throwing red balloons and sponges around, and at one point a few people got half-nekid and did the congo. All in all, a reasonably loud, relaxed and very friendly demonstration
After a few more songs and chants the group started to thin out quite quickly after about 30 minutes, by 45 minutes they had all gone. Once the bosses were happy that the demonstrators had left or that there was no threat (from them anyway) of a security breach, we were stood down. We waited for redeployment to central London to assist with the anticipated demonstration at Trafalgar Square but as there were only a couple of thousand people there we were 'dismissed with thanks' and headed back to go home.
I spoke to a mate who was at the demo as we headed back to our nick, "I've seen a few of the knobbers who kicked off with us last week, but apart from that there's hardly anyone. Most of them are loud but alright, looks like loads have stayed away because it kicked off so badly last time" I got a text from him not long after I left to go home "as expected, a few have kicked off, going to be a long one, laters"
And so, as expected -