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.