[note: ‘A’ referred to here is the author of the post ‘Bishopgate police violence, forced ‘voluntary’ searches’]
April 1st, Wednesday
I’m a woman in my early twenties. I joined the G20 protests on Wednesday morning with my friend who I shall call A., following the Green Horseman march from Liverpool Street Station to Bank. Bank was crawling with FIT (Forward Intelligence, who photograph protestors who can then be identified and put in a file). At one point there was smoke of some sort, but it didn’t seem to have any effect so we assume it was a screen of some sort (this was somewhere around 12.15?). After witnessing some scuffles at Bank we decided to head to Bishopgate to join the Climate Camp ‘swoop’ at 12.30 when the street was turned into a camp site. The atmosphere was friendly, there was plenty of activities going on and passers by were passing up and down the pavements taking pictures of us on mobile phones. We stayed there until 5.30 or so, meeting up with friend B. and friend C. When we left there were police in visors with shields lined up, but not moving, just up the road in either direction from the camp. We went to meet up with some friends in North London. At 8pm I sent a message to friend C. who was inside climate camp: “Did the police with shields and visors close you in?” At 8.33 I received this response: “They’re trying [to break through into the camp] right now, but we’re trying to stop them. Situation a little tense, but stable – for now.”
My friend A. decided to go back to the camp to see if she could get in to spend the night. I stayed home due to tiredness. At 9.41 A. sent: “Whole camp cordoned. Big crowd this side. Cops not doing anything except illegal detention.” She was outside the police cordon at the south end (end nearest to Liverpool St Station). 10.31pm: “Outside [protestors outside the police cordon containing the climate camp] now itself divided. Police now dragging peaceful sitters and chucking them out.” 10.36 I asked: “Any suggestion of people fighting back?” 10.37 reply: “No. Except Passively.”
At 11.11pm, from A.: “I just got trampled on and hit by police.” I called her at 11.20, and she told me that the police had trampled her and some other protestors who standing somewhere on a road towards Liverpool Street. She also said she’d met B., who had also been hit and pushed over. While she was explaining this she was at Liverpool Street Station, and there were dogs baying in the background. Suddenly she said, “Shit, they’re charging us,” and the phone went dead. (She later told me that then she ran up some steps onto the covered walk way that runs round the side of the station where there are shops. As she looked over the balustrade she saw the police beating an old man who was lying on the ground. When this man tried to stand up again he was beaten again.)
I sent a message to B. asking if he was ok at 11.49, and he called back sounding shaken, but said he wasn’t badly hurt. He said, “I was standing at the front of the group at the southern end of the camp, facing the police. We had our hands up to show we were unarmed. People were shouting but not doing anything else. Then the police charged us, and there was this policewoman who charged me screaming and hitting, she was like an animal, they all were, they were really rabid.” At this point I heard a man’s voice shouting clearly, “What did you just say? What the fuck did you just say? Say it again, say it to my fucking face, come on, say it again, say it to my fucking face, do you want some? Come on, fucking say it.” B. was saying, “Can you hear this? It’s a policeman.” The man concluded, “No? Then fuck off home.” B. moved away towards Liverpool St Station while still on the phone to me. I was naturally quite frightened after hearing this clearly extremely aggressive verbal attack on someone who was describing the police charge into a phone.
Friends who experienced the police charges on Wednesday night agreed that the police were extremely aggressive and angry, to an extent that seemed personal. Both B. and A. are non-violent individuals, I have been with them on protests before and they are neither aggressive nor provocative in their actions. In both cases of violence towards them relayed over the phone, they were moving away from the climate camp and trying to find a way out of the police-controlled area. In both cases police aggression was unprovoked and directed at small groups of protestors who were not seeking to engage with them, but merely trying to leave. They also report that police did not have their numbers on display, thus rendering identification next to impossible.
April 2nd, Thursday
On Thursday, A. and I returned to Bank to join the group of people gathering in solidarity against police violence and in memory of the protestor who died. At 2pm we were inside the police line which was still letting people in and out, but who were stopping and searching people in masks. We were informed that section 60 was in place throughout the City. At about 2.20 a woman near us called her friend who had been at the convergence centre on Earl Street, who said they had all been forcefully evicted and that there were 20 people arrested so far. At 2.25 we held a one minute silence for the protester who died. Ten minutes later black police vans moved in as well as mounted troops trying to clear the streets, the police cordon closed and we were contained. However, people continued to be allowed out if they submitted to a search.
At 4pm dogs were brought in and held barking outside the police line. A. and I decided to leave as we feared that there might be a police charge in the small space. We went over to be searched, and A. asked if we were being searched under Section 60. The policewoman searching her told her that no, this was a voluntary search. A. pointed out that since we weren’t allowed to leave without a search, and since the place we were being held was being made into a steadily more threatening environment with the introduction of dogs and the closing in of police lines, it wasn’t particularly voluntary, and could she choose not to be searched? The policewoman became angry, shouting and demanding whether she wanted to leave or not. A. replied that she was only asking a question, and submitted to the search. The police search involved a perfunctory checking of our pockets and bags. No information was taken or given. We received no proof of this ‘voluntary’ search. The policewoman who searched me was very friendly and remarked on how ‘surprisingly’ polite all the people she had searched that day had been.
We then went to Earl Street and talked to some legal observers who took some details of the events at Bank. They also informed us that several people who had been in the convergence centre had been taken away by ambulance. A woman with a backpack on who was about to head home wearily described it as “brutal”.
NB. I recorded major movements and information as I experienced/heard it on twitter. There was quite a detailed coverage on both twitter.com (hashtag/trend [#]G20) and indymedia.org by people like me who were updating from phones.