Who do you call when you need protecting from the police ?
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
Well I have been a little quiet on the blogging front of late so thought it was about time I made a return. I have delayed writing this one for a couple of days due to being in a fairly high level of shock.
On Wednesday night of this week (1st April 2009) I was chased for almost two miles through the streets of London in genuine fear for my life by a group of armed men with dogs.
I didn't call the police. Why? Because it was the police who were chasing us.
Our crime? Exercising our legal and democratic right to protest.
Most of you will be aware that the G20 summit took place in London this week. And we turned out in our thousands to make our voices heard about the decisions we think they should be making.
We are currently facing two crises; one financial and one environmental. Now the casual observer may be wondering what they have to do with each other, but they have the same solution.
A fiscal stimulus is required to kick start the economy and bring us out of recession. Basically this means the government needs to spend money on stuff, it doesn't really matter what. To tackle climate change we need to increase environmental projects, e.g. renewable energy, public transport improvements etc. This requires spending money on it. So 2 + 2 = ? You get the idea, invest in green projects and we are on our way to a solution to both crises.
So that was why we were there, because let's face it, our world leaders have never been strong on simple logic, mainly due to the distraction of one thing:
That's right . . . money. Well as far as I'm concerned, there's no point in being rich if you have no planet left to live on, so these guys need to take a look at their priorities.
So Wednesday morning tens of thousands of us descended upon the city to voice our proposed solutions. On the way to the demo we passed several newstands with headlines reading "Protests Turn To Violence", "Riots in the City" etc. This was before the demos had started ! Nice to know our media can see into the future . . . either that or they knew what story they wanted and were determined to get it.
On arrival the crowd were in good spirits, there was music, colourful banners, children and general festivities. The event was peaceful and with no sign of any trouble. That was until the police waded in. Crowds of people were penned in from all side and pushed into each other. I was within the cordon that ended up being pushed away from the Bank of England and towards RBS (The Royal Bank of Scotland) on Threadneedle Street. A number of people were hit with batons to chants of "Shame on You"" at the police and we were held in this cordon unable to leave for a couple of hours. During this time the majority of the crowd remained peaceful. Held their hands in the air, turned their back on police and even attempted to sit down, which was difficult given how tightly packed in we had been pushed.
However about 3 or 4 teenagers responded to this by smashing RBS's windows. Guess what appeared in every paper the following day ? That's right RBS windows smashed and no mention of the police actions leading up to that.
After managing to get out of the police cordon we headed away from the area to Trafalgar Square where another demo was taking place. There were a similar number of people there, from the same organisations and friendship groups, but next to no police. And that's right no trouble. The rally took place, people waved their banners, listened to the speakers and then peacefully left when it was over.
We then decided to head down to the Climate Camp on our way home which had been set up at the Climate Exchange. Having spoken to people throughout the day who had been there we had been encouraged to come down and see how lovely the peace camp was and to join them for tea and cake.
When we arrived however it was a different story. The police had surrounded the camp and were not letting anyone in or out. More police were arriving by the minute and it wasn't looking good so we stayed to show our support for the people trapped inside and to keep an eye on what was happening.
The police were obviously gearing up for something and by around midnight we heard the arrival of the police dogs. The riot police lined up in front of us and marched forward. There were shouts amoungst the crowd for everyone to sit down to show that we were not threatening and not give them any excuse for confrontation. The police then proceeded to start kicking people who were sat on the floor in the head.
The dogs were released and the whole group of us was chased from the Climate Exchange as far as Kingsland Road which is almost two miles away, with anyone who couldn't run fast enough feeling the wrong end of a baton.
When they eventually stopped chasing us some of us who remained (some people had managed to escape down side streets) decided to turn back and find out what had happened at the camp as they had obviously wanted us out of the way for a reason. By the time we returned there was no camp left.
The following is what I found out the following day from friends who had been inside the camp.
Once the group outside the camp had been chased away (the group I was with), the riot police moved into the camp assaulting people. A friend of mine who is a very slightly built 19 year old girl was sat on the floor drinking tea and a riot cop pinned her to the floor with his shield shouting "Get Up, Get Up". Her response to this was "I'd love to get up of this piss-ridden floor but your pinning me to it". He lifted his shield enough for her to half sit up before knocking her back to the ground. She is covered in heavy bruising.
Similar and more violent attacks were happening across the camp. The protestors were starting to be allowed to leave however under a number of conditions. They had to give their name and address (which is not a legal requirement if you are not arrested). They had to be searched, without being given stop and search receipts (which is a legal requirement) and anyone who had cameras was made to delete their pictures and video in front of an officer or had their camera confiscated.
Now if as the police claim, their actions were proportional and legal, why did they have to wait until nightfall when the last of the press had left, chase away all witnesses and confiscate all evidence ?
I have been on several protests, direct actions and camps over the past decade. There are usually a couple of protestors who just want a fight, but I would not judge the majority of peaceful protests by these few people. Equally there are usually a couple of police officers who like to throw their weight around a bit too much, but I would not judge the rest of the police on this.
However what I witnessed at the G20 demos was organised, ordered, violent attacks by police on peaceful activists. This needs to be documented. It needs to be made clear that it is not acceptable. The police need to know that they are not themselves beyond the law. And the senior officers who gave the orders need to lose their jobs.
This was day one of the G20 demos. I shall write a further blog on what happened on Day 2 later on but for now shall leave you with some further reading and viewing:-
UK 'Kettling' tactic sparks anger Al Jazeera
Climate Camp in The City Some Great Pictures
Baton Charges and Kettling: Police's G20 Crowd Control Tactics Under Fire
G20 Campaigners Claim Brutal Police Attack
Unprovoked brutality: police at anti-G20 protests
The protestors are the ones we should listen to at this summit
Kettling is potty (Now when even the right wing rag that is The Mirror sides with the protesters over the police, something is definitely wrong)
G20: Questions need to be asked about kettling
We need to make 'kettling' an issue
The politics of 'kettling'
Kettling A Counter-Productive Police Technique
Witness Statement: Death at G20
Concern over G20 Police Tactics
A right to protest? Police Tactics are about Repression not Public Order
Video: Protestors let ambulance through Police block its path
Video: Police using dogs on protestors
Video: Police Drag man across floor
Video: When we all sat down before being attacked (I'm in there somewhere)
Video: More heavy handed policing
Video: More assaults caught by Sky News
Video: Yet more attacks while protesters hold their hands in air and chant this is not a riot