Police run wild in the City

Apr 02, 2009

The build up by the media promised violence – the police provided it.

A few of us spent the day in the City of London with about 10,000 others. As the four marches converged at the Bank of England in Threadneedle Street there was a celebratory atmosphere, the hilariously ‘dressed down’ bankers in their moccasins and expensive, ironed jeans stood out like sore thumbs, but rather than receiving the media imagined kicking they might have expected, they talked with the protesters, some even admitting the system was screwed.

We went back up to Bishopsgate and helped in the decoration of the Climate Camp – which sprung from the back packs and bicycle trailers of the campers in minutes. Food, a dodgy toilet, workshop spaces, stalls, chalk on the pavements and music and dancing were keeping the atmosphere mellow and fluffy. Perhaps the most coherent of the city events that day.

We displayed Noel D’s artwork and slapped “Capitalism Means War” and “Another World is Possible” tape on anyone that wanted it (and a few that didn’t), in our own small attempt to add to the political discussion and debate for the day.

Reports came through that the royal Bank of Scotland had been smashed, which just like in workplaces and front-rooms around the country was greeted as a justifiable attack if ever there was one. We wandered back down to the Bank to have a look, but corralment had started. Eventually got back to the camp and joined the throng again, talking and generally enjoying the atmosphere and discussions. Wandering around we saw many familiar faces, but encouragingly scores of young people were determined, yet realistic about their chances of staying camped in the middle of a London thoroughfare overnight during a world summit with 2000 police on duty.

Before we knew it the coralment had kicked in in Bishopsgate. There’s a video attached to this report that shows the story of the attacks, and how the camp was one very peaceful space. The police, backed up by the media build up and given the go-ahead by the Home Office laid in. You can see on the video they were charging and battering people who were holding their hands up to prove their peaceful intent, but the batons and shields till swung heavy. After that needless attack, which achieved nothing except moving the edge of the camp up the road a few metres, no one was allowed to enter or leave the camp – for the next five hours or so.

Given the peaceful nature of the protest, which has been clearly reported in the media, you have to ask why the corallment was imposed. Was there a risk that if any of us had spoken to a masked up anarchist that we would have turned violent ourselves? I don’t think so. The police had to prove the expenses of their operation and their over time correct, they were looking to provoke and to provide the pictures of a powerful state for the world’s media.

the collective punishment of protesters in the UK by trying to bore people off the streets was first spectacularly used at MayDay in 2001 at Oxford Circus. A few of us had had discussions about how to block off Oxford Street for an afternoon – the police did it for us that day. This time the camp organisers had declared an intent to stay put for as long as possible, and the police obliged at first at least. so we stayed, until they started to let people out at about 11.15pm, too late for many to get transport home. There was absolutely NO communication between the police in charge of the operation and the protesters, everyone was kept in the dark and pushed and generally provoked and how the whole scene remained that peaceful was testament to those camping.

The camp was smashed and cleared at 2am.

Elsewhere, at Bank, a protester died. Mainstream media has once more tried to turn the blame on the protesters by claiming they pelted police with bottles when they went to assist the man. Every eyewitness I have read accounts from has described a very different story, and the idea of sending in cops to deal with a seriously injured man in that situation was not the best thought out to put it mildly. Ambulance workers would have been not only better at trying to save the man but trusted by the people that had experienced batons charges and provocation by the police for hours beforehand.

More reports will follow, including from the consequent Strasbourg protests against the NATO summit happening from Friday.

if you were in the City, or at the Excel cetre on Wednesday or Thursday, send us a report!


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