I was at the protests yesterday and I was hoping for a peaceful protest. I am not the anarchists of Daily Mail lore – I am a Labour member and I read the Times (not to forget my subscription to this splendid paper). There was undoubtedly a minority who were bent on violence and I do not blame the police for acting to prevent this.
The problem came about two hours after the RBS windows were smashed when the police started to force people into a smaller and smaller area. I was standing at the end of Queen Victoria street after the police let people go down there to spread people out and let them out. I was standing there talking with a policeman, (who incidentally commented “I didn’t join the police to protect the bankers”) when suddenly 200-300 people came running down the street in a panic. A few minutes later, when I was sitting on the pavement, the hardcore riot police with balaclavas covering their faces came down the street with shields and batons drawn. They started pushing and attacking people – people who were the peaceful protestors seeking to avoid the problems up at RBS.
The girl next to me was hit over the head by a baton and was knocked unconscious immediately. Blood was streaming from her head and the police kicked her to get up and continued to do so until people dragged her away, again being attacked by policemen. The blood dripped from her head as she was taken away.
This was repeated throughout the day.
I went to the protests as a peaceful demonstrator. I acted – consistently – in a peaceful manner. Most of the police were friendly decent people who were as unhappy as we were – their superiors hadn’t even arranged water and sandwiches for them and they’d been on duty for 10+ hours. The problem was the strategy used and the sheer brutality demonstrated by the small number of concealed riot police.