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.

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