Daily Archives: April 3, 2009

Initial police charge of Climate Camp

This is an excellent overhead view of the first police charge on Climate Camp, which kettled the majority of protestors there, just after 7pm.

For context: before the riot police arrived, most people were sitting round eating supper, we’d been there since 12pm with a wonderful friendly atmosphere, bankers had been walking through leaving work with no hassle, policing had been low-key with normal uniforms rather than riot gear.

The camp was hemmed in on both sides by tall buildings, and the end away from the police charge shown was blocked off by rows of police and nose-to-tail police vans. The police were charging people with no way out. The effect of the police charge was just that the road was now blocked to pedestrians as well as motor vehicles, and the kettle ensured that it would remain so until well into the night. I cannot understand the operational reasoning behind this, there was no practical advantage and much lost.

Protestors in the video can be seen raising their hands (to indicate no weapons), linking arms (to avoid being pushed to the ground and trampled), chanting ‘this is not a riot’ and ‘shame on you’.

Advertisements

Inside Climate Camp kettle

Before 7pm the camp was totally friendly and relaxed, so relaxed that I was dozing in the tent for a little while. I woke up to chants of ‘this is not a riot’ and left the tent to see that the police had formed a kettle. This was just after the charge shown in the video and the atmosphere was naturally tense. We started to defend the sides of the camp and sat on the curb in front of a line of riot police, some still holding their batons. I guess that this was about 8pm; we must have sat around that curb for 3 hours or more and in all that time the closest thing I saw to aggression from the protesters came from one unseen person who threw a plastic cup at the police behind us. The policeman commented to us on the curb that we ought to move or we would take the brunt of the missiles; it was clear that they were expecting violence on our side. At about 11.30 (?) the line of riot police at the north end moved forward, I believe that this was agreed with the protesters as we didn’t have enough people left to fill the space. However, shortly after that those of us at the side were standing up facing the police line when they rushed forward and pushed us forcefully backwards with their shields, pushed us towards the middle while the police line at the north end did likewise to that line of protesters. I couldn’t see too clearly, but I saw clusters of police forming around individual protesters and certainly acting aggressively if not using batons. There were shouts of ‘sit down, sit down’ and the police had to stop advancing as several hundred people sat down at once. Once again there were chants of ‘this is not a riot’ and ‘shame on you’ and the police stopped and some raised their visors. Someone nearby asked if they were trying to get rid of us; the police officer answered that they only wanted to move us closer to the south end, but this was generally pronounced to be bullshit. Everyone on the ground linked arms but then the police started hauling individuals up and out of the crowd; they grabbed legs and arms and in one case yanked a man by his ear. Everything got quite chaotic at this point; the protesters discussed whether to move up to the south end as the north was starting to seem a hopeless cause and we decided that we would move, but that we would shuffle sitting down to avoid being shoved again. A policeman told me that the protest was now unlawful and that I was liable for arrest under section X. Why unlawful? ‘Well, clearly someone has acted aggressively’. Again, while this was happening I did not see any violence on the part of the protesters. They were still pulling people out and my friends and I ended up in the first two lines, when a woman near us refused to move the policeman trying to pull her out grabbed her by her scarf and pulled and I heard the people around her shout that they were being kicked. My friends and I shuffled backwards but soon we were among the last people sitting down and it seemed unsafe not to stand. So we stood up, the police rushed and we were pushed by shields, shouted at to keep moving and pushed into the tents that were still all around. As the police line advanced we had to jump over or trample on the tents, one of which had caught fire. My friend tried to take her tent but the police pulled it away from the other side and marched forward until everyone was evicted from the south end. Basically, the actions of the police were ugly, unnecessary and soured a completely peaceful event.

Bishopgate police violence, forced ‘voluntary’ searches

1st April

11am-5.30pm: In the morning I and my friend joined the procession with the green horse to the bank. The police were keeping it very tightly controlled and certainly didn’t feel like ‘facilitating’ protest but no aggro from the crowd. I was pretty annoyed at unnecessary semi-kettling and asked a cop ‘why are you separating me from my friends in the crowd?’ he told me he wasn’t separating us, but I had. (…?!pretty bizarre reasoning). When we reached the bank it was tightly packed, and FIT were photographing everyone. We decided to move out and join the climate camp. Were there until approx 5.30pm, enjoying the sunshine and relaxed atmosphere, a little island of sanity and spontaneous humanity in the middle of the city. Had a walk around and noticed that whole bank area now kettled, and saw some squads of riot police on standby but camp was still very relaxed and friendly. Big game of human-sized snakes and ladders, bicycle powered sound system, etc. The road was lined with police vans, all of them with engines running…huh. They wouldn’t tell me why. At around 5.30 we left to join my friend’s mates in a pub.

8pm-ish we started getting reports from a camper friend that the police might be trying to close the camp. I felt I wanted to be there, re-join the camp if possible or support it and observe events. I arrived from the direction of Liverpool Street station at approx 9-9.30pm. That end of the camp was cordoned off by a row of police, but there were a significant number of protesters outside, some standing, a number sitting, one tent. I texted a friend I understood to be inside the camp to ask if there was any way in but got no reply. People were playing impromptu music with streetcone percussion and the tone was calm if somewhat uncertain. Those I spoke to mainly had friends inside the camp and many had similarly gone away for a while only to find themselves cut off. two even said they had their tent (and thus accommodation…) inside the cordon. I wandered up to the left (Camomile street I think, looking at the map) to try and find another way in. Police had blocked off all alleyways and the camp was fully kettled. I walked all the way around the camp; at the other end (towards the bank) there were not many protesters and the police were controlling a much larger buffer zone, so I continued around.

When I returned to the ‘front’ (as I saw it) of the camp, a lot more police had arrived, they had cut off an approximate square area at the junction, dividing up the groups of people onto separate streets. I somehow managed to wander into this area before it was fully closed. As I approached the other side (Camomile Street ?) where I had been, a police officer told me to “go through there.” I said “why?” at which point several police officers grabbed my arms and forcibly ejected me from this empty police-controlled zone. Smaller groups of protesters seemed to have been divided off and kettled themselves. Nearest to me there was a group of, I’d say, about 15 or so protesters sitting on the ground (I wish we had too…). Without any warning police in full riot gear suddenly waded into them grabbing them and basically throwing them on the ground outside the kettle. I saw one man who had been lying on the ground outside this small kettle have two other people thrown on top of him. This was about 10.30. After this everyone was standing and there was understandably a lot more anger addressed at the police. However, I only saw one protester who I thought was actually aggressive (i.e., might actually initiate any violence) and he was shouting at another protester that peaceful protest never works. He was unmasked, but at that point a masked protester came over and asked him to calm down and separated the two who were arguing. Musicians still playing. A general sense of “what should we do now?”

At around this point the main group of protesters on bishopsgate began to be forced backwards. I decided to go round there as I felt where I was I was not achieving anything and I wanted to know what was happening. I and several other protesters moved down a side road to rejoin the larger group. I emerged into a Bishopsgate at a time when the riot police were holding their line. An apparently drunk girl climbed on top of a police van and was cheered, but I personally did not see any missiles thrown or other violence from protesters. I had moved around towards the police and was briefly facing away from them. Suddenly (again without any warning) the line of riot police surged forward, using there shields essentially as clubs. I stumbled and fell and was somewhat trampled, probably partly by protesters trying to flee but also when I turned round the police were right behind me and were not going to stop for anything, they looked damn scary and I saw frankly vicious expressions. I managed to get to me feet and stumbled forward, at which point I was bashed into the front of a police van by police with riot shields. I was not badly hurt (though somewhat bruised and still find it a little painful to walk normally) and I can’t say I noticed if batons were out at that point, but the shields were weapon enough anyway. I staggered to the side of the street and regained some composure before legging it up towards liverpool street station as I had no desire to be hit or trampled on further. This was about quarter past 11. I noticed police dogs inside the station, straining at the leads and barking. I thought a number of the police did not seem much different.

Looking back I saw another sudden surge by the riot police. I ran up the steps on the side of the building and looked down from the kind of balcony there at the scene below on the street. The police chased protesters to just about where I was, and then pulled back (Some police were still surging forward aggressively and had to be ran after and told to pull back). Directly below me I saw a man I would estimate to be in his late 60s knocked to the ground. Several other protesters helped him up, at which point he took one step towards the policeman who had hit him with his shield (who was maybe 1.5 to 2 metres away) and the policeman just strode forward and smacked him back down to the ground, hard. The man was not behaving aggressively. [Editor’s note: the older man has also come forward, he is 73].

Then the police surged forward again and chased the protesters further up the road. Several police officers then approached myself and some others who had taken refuge up there and ordered us to leave back down the steps. They were not pissing about and I did. I went down to the street, and felt fairly traumatised and not sure where to go, as there seemed to be police lines in all directions. I was also fairly disorientated. With the help of another girl in a similar circumstance, and my map, I worked out where I was and the direction I needed to go (which happened to be following after the protesters and riot police). I decided to walk up Bishopsgate and take the next road left (Primrose Street I believe) to avoid encountering the back of the riot police again. Primrose street was full of men (riot police) with big snarling vicious dogs, so I changed my mind… If my experience was anything to go by, the men would probably be big snarling and vicious too. I hurried on and left down the next turning. There I met a friend and fellow protester. He told me he too had encountered the police violence and had been beaten. He was concerned that a friend of his (not a protester) may have been caught up in things so he went back to look for her. I went home then. I got back not too long after midnight.

April 2nd

I won’t say much about this, but there is one important thing I want to put in writing – I told a legal support person this (we met her later outside earl street, where people had been ‘brutally evicted’, we were told).

Myself and friend went to Bank to the memorial and demo against police repression. We were there from about 1.30pm. At some point in the afternoon the police kettled us all. There were police horses being paraded around too. They were allowing people to leave, but only if you submitted to a search. As time progressed the atmosphere became more and more tense and dogs were brought out. The dogs were barking at protesters who were responding in kind. At this point we decided to leave.

We approached two women police officers who were conducting searches as we knew it had to be them, not male officers. As I resignedly approached and handed over my bag she said to me ‘you want to leave?’ I said Yes. She then said something about a ‘voluntary search’ but I didn’t quite understand. I then said to her (quite calmly and purely in a spirit of investigation) “so, is this under section 60 then?” (I wanted to know what powers they were using to search us). She reacted with a growl, telling me it was a “voluntary search”. I was quite confused by this and asked if that meant I could leave without being searched. She said no. I asked – then what would she do if I just tried to leave without a search. I think she said she would use section 60 to keep me there (or, to search me, I’m not 100% sure which). The reason I am not entirely sure is that she had become very angry and was shouting at me “do you want to leave or not?!” I was pretty taken aback as I had only been asking for clarification. At no point did she give me any information such as her name or station, and indeed I did not notice her number anywhere.

So basically, I had to submit to a “voluntary” search, or I would not be allowed to leave. I think this was about 3.30-4pm ish. My only thought is that maybe if its ‘voluntary’, then they are not obliged to give us any of the information they otherwise are supposed to?

I think it is important to say (though obvious and well known) that at no point were we as protesters given any indication of the police’s plans and intentions. I heard from someone else that dogs were set on protesters further up with no warning as well, though this is not something I witnessed. On both days they did not try to communicate with the crowd in any way. Except through the use of force.

Police turned a festival into a massacre

This is what happened to me and what I saw at climate camp. It was confusing at the time, I’ve had a couple of hours sleep since, and still rather panicked and incoherent, sorry about that. I got separated from everybody I knew there soon after 7pm when the police charged us, so I’ve only got mobile phone records to cross-check with, otherwise this is what I wrote up Thursday morning, only slightly tidied up. I fail in lots of ways. Sorry.

I try to be nice about the police. They are people doing a difficult job, allowing them to be de-individuated is playing into what the system wants, and crowd control must be scary to do. But the only word I can use for last night is bloodthirsty. I’ve done a fair bit of protesting / NVDA, but that was the worst-policed I have ever been to.

Daytime till just after 7pm, everything was really laid back, could have been at a festival, policing was friendly & police in normal clothes, city workers & bankers wandering through back from work with no hassle at all. Site is one long street with tall buildings either side, no way out (police blocking one side alley).

At 7:10 I was sitting around near south end, north end had a bicycle-powered sound system up and people dancing, there were a few (<10?) drunk idiots slumped round being incoherently rude to the police but absolutely no threat or sign of violence. It was just turning too dark for TV crews and commuters had left. Then this happened: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t244-zEENSs&feature=related Riot police turned up maybe 6-8 deep south end (video I don’t think shows lines behind the two front lines who were actually charging), two deep north end, started kettling us (no-one in or out). Then the south end baton-charged. They charged us sat down praying, they charged people sitting round eating tea, they were hitting people faster than they could run away, and going for heads rather than legs. At first people tried standing in front of them hands in the air (to show you aren’t holding weapons), but they were getting beaten up so people ran, and they were still getting hit. I saw three people throwing fruit, but as far as I could tell that was as violent as resistance got. You can see on the video people chanting ‘This is not a riot’ and ‘shame on you’, no-one hitting the police back.

I have no idea how I ended up outside the kettle, must’ve jumped the north end bike-fence & police & vans but I just remember lots of stuff being in the way and then being the other side of it, but I was stuck outside the kettle, with my friends all inside. The police stopped about halfway down the street, now lots of scared people inside small kettle and lots of angry people who’d just watched their friends take an unprovoked beating outside (we’d been allowed to wander in and out freely before than so many people just didn’t happen to be inside, and some got away like me). I saw several people with obvious head injuries be taken away by police medics.

I tried to help out some medics outside, and take notes on police numbers etc. Also gave a statement to legal observers. Was scared to be separated from anyone I knew, but switched into ‘patient-facing’ mode and being ridiculously calm and reassuring at people. After a bit there was no more first aid to be doing, so I ran first aid supplies to outside south end of camp (couldn’t get near due to very very heavy police presence streets away), sat down in a back street to pray. Had a chat with some of the police. They said they’d been dealing with violence at Bank, obviously scared, expected the same from us, had no idea that we’d said we’d leave the next day or that Climate Camp had been un-kettled, non-violent & friendly most of the day. Overheard ~40 riot police being told ‘take your numbers off and leave them in the van’, lots of the riot police were also wearing balaclavas to hide their faces (this allows them to hurt people without being identified). Wandered back round to North End of Climate Camp, past a huge yellow corporate hoarding outside ‘Aviva’ with a Gandhi quote on ‘Be the change…’. Somehow the banks didn’t seem so keen on satyagraha in practice, when not hijacked for a corporate feel-good slogan.

Got back to outside north end maybe 8:30??? to police reading the riot act (literally – section 18 I think it’s called now?). There were police pouring in from everywhere, very hard to tell but prob > 50 vans down many side streets, saw I think 6 different forces vans. They started getting a lot nastier with those of us outside the kettle (by this point we were blocking a junction that no-one was blocking before the baton charge, ‘cos no-where else to go – another example of stupid counterproductive policing). They started moving forward in rows several deep to occupy more area. The police were doing ‘snatch squads’ for a while, there were more and more and more of them piling in, rows deep, they were moving away from the junction and batoning people out of the way.

c 10pm??? they started doing baton-charges down the street. they were going for medics (with red crosses) and legal observers (orange high-vis jackets) early on. I was still wearing a red-tape cross, picked up the first aid kit and ran with it, trying to stay out of the way of police whilst looking after people they’d hurt – running out of supplies by now though, mostly inside climate camp? Saw the police hit someone down, they were bleeding heavily+++ from the head, police kicking, batoning the guy on the floor. Two remaining medics and I went in to drag the guy away from police, police jumped us, I got hit with baton – head, chest, back, fortunately had backpack on & hair in bun took the worst of it but other medics down. dunno how but I found myself down the road on my own carrying heavily bleeding semi-conscious bloke taller & heavier than me away from police. He had a spurting very heavy bleed from the head (prob arterial??), so I called 999 ambulance. Call might have been funny in other circumstances ‘was a weapon used’ ‘yes, police truncheon’ ‘does the assailant still have the weapon’ ‘yes’ ‘is the assailant still on scene’ ‘yes’ ‘should we send a police escort’ ‘NO WAY, shit the police are charging, just a min…’. Police charged again, I dragged the semi-conscious person further down the road, repeat charge-and-drag several times, I finally stop doing ultra-calm dealing with patients mode and leave person with transport police (riot gear but not actively hitting anyone) at Liverpool St station because I can’t carry him any more, too slippery with blood & he is heavy & taller than me & the police are charging down the road and baton-ing people round the head and trampling anyone who goes down. Police are running down the road towards us, using batons, crowd running away, I run. Lost first aid kit some time ago, can’t do anything, a few people are throwing things back at the police who have been beating us up for hours and it’s going from frustrated and scared to angry, there is nothing i can do here, phone friend who tells me to get out, it’s maybe 11:30.

few mins walk away am spotted by five riot police. By this point am soaked in other people’s blood, wearing dark clothes and a warm hat, prob look ‘suspicious’. They chase me. I run away, no idea where I am or where to go, just running as hard as I can, climb onto garage roof and over fences and keep running as far as I can till I fall over, roll into corner, panic, but can’t see them. Lost, exhausted. Cleaned myself up as best I could with last of water & take off bloody jumper, guess a direction, recognise a roadsign, jog back to bike, cycle back to base, collapse in panicky heap ‘cos friends are still stuck inside original kettle and am terrified for them.

People in kettle seem to have got out OK, friends now all accounted for with no major injuries. Wish I knew what happened to unconscious guy, reports say one death but that was in the wrong place, feel like shit about leaving him.

Wasn’t a riot ’till the riot police turned up, just a street party, then more like a massacre. If no police charge, we’d have left the street tidy at lunchtime the next day as we told the police.

I will be back, I will protest again, and I will stick to non-violence no matter what they do to us. We can’t let them get away with attacking a peaceful protest.
I’ll be writing to my MP (http://www.writetothem.com/) and to the Met Police https://secure.met.police.uk/complaints/ (is this complaints form the best contact?) and I’d encourage other people to do the same, whether you were directly involved or not.
Check out Indymedia http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/ for reports and upcoming protests about police violence, the Guardian & BBC have had a few good articles but mostly there weren’t journalists around late at night when the police charged.

Further suggestions for action very welcome.