Serious violence by police at protest party.

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FIT teams come under attack

Forget what the mainstream media are saying about the black block, the most serious violence yesterday was probably the attack by police on partying crowd that was gathered in Trafalgar square.

Senior police officers had warned in the run up to the March 26 protests that any occupation of Trafalgar square would be dealt with ‘robustly’. There were true to their word. The party taking place there hadn’t been violent, and taking part in it was not unlawful. But that didn’t stop the police from wading in with batons and boots flying, sparking further confrontations that went on into the night. The police justified their actions because of alleged damage to the Olympic clock, but a prior statement by Asst Commissioner Lynne Owens that an occupation would not be tolerated suggests that this was a pre-planned operation.

It seemed to some of those that were there that some police officers were after vengeance for things that had taken place earlier in the day. The police were noticeably hyped up and frustrated by black block activists who had outsmarted and outmanoeuvred them all afternoon, and this may well have added to their aggression in Trafalgar Square.

Unlike the police though, the black block didn’t make the public a target of their anger. In fact the block were disciplined and focused, attacking only the property of banks, tax-avoiders and symbols of the mega-rich. Media outlets like the Mail and Telegraph will froth at the mouth, and the TUC will cough and splutter, but the truth is that a lot of people will watch the footage of smashed windows at HSBC and Santander and think, ‘they had it coming’.

Overall the police have arrested around 200 people, a large proportion of which were from the non-violent occupation of Fortnum and Masons. As with previous demonstrations, many of these arrests appear more motivated by a desire to gain intelligence – names, addresses and photographs – than by a need to prosecute for so-called criminality.

The FIT noticeably had a bad day. The black block kept them at bay with paint bombs and fireworks, and they were stopped from moving through crowds by protesters who linked arms in front of them. Even from the very beginning they were ‘flashmobbed’ by people on feeder marches, and stopped from picking up their much desired ‘intelligence’.

What is needed now is some solidarity, and a determination not to separate ‘good’ protester from ‘bad’. Nobody at any of the demonstrations was, as Met Commander Bob Broadbent claimed, “engaging in criminal activities for their own ends”. Certainly not by holding a party.

23 thoughts on “Serious violence by police at protest party.

  1. I had been in Trafalgar Square with friends earlier that evening. There was partying and dancing and a good atmosphere. We left about 7.30 and it was fine. One of my son’s friends was still there (I think he must have been arrested). Later on I was walking back down Charing Cross Road when a group of about 20 young protestors must have broken out of the kettle. Dozens and dozens of riot police chased them right in front of me. They caught one young guy, surrounded him then forced him to his knees and a police officer hit him against the police van. They also caught another guy near St Martin in the Fields. He was knocked to the ground and he was screaming. They were kicking him I think. I shouted at them to stop hurting him. A police officer charged at me and pushed me away really hard so I couldn’t see what they were doing to the boy. I think they probably went easy with me as I’m partially sighted and use a white cane other. They then ran up to the beginning of The Strand and formed 2 lines right across it. They kettled the Villers Street entrance to Charing Cross station and surrounded the frontage. This all sounds very fast but I think it happened over about 1.5 hours. I know that there is little point in saying any of this officially as my impairment would be used to discredit what I’m saying. Last point – I was close enough to one police officer to see he had no serial number on display.

  2. I hate the media saying “we hijacked the protest” when the ukuncut protest were organised away from the march and it was planned weeks before the protest. It wasn’t a last min thing. The police where scared and kept running back and defending. The fit team’s where hiding in the big police vans though out the march!

  3. “…but the truth is that a lot of people will watch the footage of smashed windows at HSBC and Santander and think, ‘they had it coming’. ”

    I certainly did

  4. I agree with unconditional solidarity and with resisting good protester/bad protester divisions.

    However I think there’s more to be done by the black bloc to defend their tactics, which presumably are tactics not habits. Many more people – from social media and walking home – are thinking that an unexpectedly massive march had its political impact fucked up by unstrategic vandalism. Yes we can try and educate them that the media, the state, the TUC, Liberty and the extrovertedly ‘peaceful’ protesters are the problem in addition to the Con-Dems, but out of the 500,000 of them we’ll only reach a few hundred via blogs and Indymedia, maybe a few thousand via social media. Unless that is we are participating in an ongoing movement and having a constant dialogue about tactics. But Network X has bombed and the most concerted anarchist organising around 26th March was Chris Knight’s circus act.

    Is it not at least arguable that the use of black bloc tactics yesterday should have been assessed on the basis of the size of the turnout? Why couldn’t the banks have been smashed up overnight, once the following day’s papers indicating the diversity of the mobilisation had been written? Or some time this afternoon, after Vince Cable had said ‘we’re going to ignore this protest’? That might have led people to start seeing the need for different tactics. Instead they’re actively hostile to them.

    Of course, if the vandalism had caused, say, £200 billion of economic damage to the banks and the tax dodgers, it’d be different. But to say it’s a good start but we need more when all you need is a couple of specifically wrong images for the frothing to commence doesn’t hold up. The economic damage was probably greater as a result of shops that closed early because of ukUncut. So what extra was gained from black bloc other than proving that it’s possible?

    I’m happy to be argued round, and I reaffirm my solidarity, but it really needs a stronger defence than this.

  5. well good fro those having the bottle to try to show ones huamn rights over real protest at the banks etc. the so called main steam march of tuc. trying to make sure with police, your freedoms were to be beaten up etc, its police all over, to try to control freedom of movement and voice, its so true the eite. bankers not living in real world of us trying to make ends meet.

  6. Now I dont support violent actions and Im not a political radical. I am amazed tha tthe police went to so much effort to arrest the peaceful occupiers in Fortenum and Maisons and ran like little girls from violent black block actervists. If this is to continue , people may say ‘sod getting arrested in a peaceful demo, I’ll opt for getting away with a violent action’

  7. Same old same old. I went along with the TUC march. The protests I saw were, in the main peaceful. The police I saw were peaceful if a little bored. There were one or two idiots with placards and comments directed straight at the police who were obviously there to wind the old bill up, not to protest. There is no justification for the violence and disorder that will, unfortunately be remembered above our march. The attacks on the banks and shops will do nothing apart from put prices up even further. I think it is laughable that some were claiming to attack the tax-avoiders. How many of them currently pay tax?? Whilst I agree that the function of FIT is onerous, where is the justification for throwing paint (I saw one copper with the stuff all over his face) and fireworks? I felt that my march against the cuts and taxes was well and truly highjacked by others with their own violent agenda and this post just seems to prove it. FITWATCH? Not in my name.

  8. With regards to Ashamed’s comments. Can I ask, what do you think you achieved with your peaceful protest? In fact, what has a single day’s protest ever achieved? The anti-war demo was ignored, and a government spokesperson yesterday said that your protest is going to be ignored too. You haven’t changed a thing. And nor will you ever change a thing by marching for a single day. The ONLY way that peaceful protest is effective is when it is consistent and prolonged. And when things eventually get that bad for you, so that you’re prepared to give up more than one solitary afternoon for a stroll through the city, before your owners tell you to fuck off back to work… well, when that day comes when you won’t be moved on, when the riot police come charging at you so that they can send you home, where you’re not inconveniencing anyone and the city can return to business as normal. Upon that day my friend, you’ll be glad of what the blocs have been doing. You’ll be glad to have them in your corner. Time and time and time again the police have been shown to be the aggressor in these situations. The blocs are the only ones who are prepared to stand up to them. The blocs are the ones who are developing effective tactics to employ against calculated brutality employed to repress civil disobedience and the will of the people.

    I don’t think a little solidarity is too much to ask is it? We’re all on the same side afterall, no?

    I wasn’t there on Saturday due to prior comittments but the blocs get my gratitude and thanks for providing the REAL protest. I think it’s just a shame that too many people don’t follow their lead and show a bit of backbone.

    Oh – and btw – I don’t know why I need to point this out to you but EVERYBODY pays taxes of one sort or another. Even if it’s just VAT. The protests are about companies abusing the system and avoiding paying their lawful contributions. Contributions which purportedly amount to the tune of around £25 billion a year. And you’re marching in protest of £6.5 billion leading to job cuts?

    Do the maths my friend. Duh.

  9. I left this comment at another blog but I think it’s worth reposting:

    I was amongst the last group removed from Trafalgar and then arrested at about 1.30 ish (sadly I couldn’t see the Olympic clock to get the right time, too many police in the way.) I was released without charge (not before a fun mystery tour in to a part of london I didn’t know.) mostly because I’d done nothing other than be in Trafalgar Square in a kettle and be unwilling to leave with FIT shoving cameras in my face.

    I have to state at this point, at no time during the entire day or at the start of kettle did I do anything other than happen to be in the square, talk to the police and pull a couple of terrified crying shaking young women out of the way after they got hit with batons, nice experience for their first protest. Many people inside the kettle were bewildered partying protesters not hardcore anarchists and to be honest like many others, the mood changed so quickly I didn’t even know what had happened.

    I was shoved around by police every time they tightened the kettle and ultimately ended up on the column, mostly because I was pulled up seconds before the police commenced thrashing the few people still on the ground as people up top could see more re-enforcements being brought in and told us to get up. There was a large amount of FIT in the swarm of police and no sign of the Legal Observers until we actually got arrested. Some photographers were further back but it was hard to tell if they were press or activists. We were spotlighted by the police helicopters.

    The number of police in comparison to the number inside the kettle was utterly utterly disproportionate, and again even when we’d climbed down peacefully, and were co-operating we were shoved and pushed.

    We were forced one by one down a double line of police, being made to pause for our close up for FIT – a full head to toe shot of us with hats and scarves off – before we were arrested, even though we’d had no option but to stay on the plinth.

    Positives were the general good attitude from most in the kettle,singing songs on the column and keeping close for warmth and the police who arrested me being civil and surprisingly hands off after the rough handling from the ones in riot gear.

    It was utter overkill & sparked off more than it ever resolved. No police in riot gear could give us a straight answer about why we were kept there – trouble-makers, safety, making threats, (not one mentioned the bloody clock) and ironically by the time I’d trapsed back to Charring Cross from my drop off there were Londoners revelling after their nights on the piss…on the bloody plinth of Nelson’s Column

  10. @ Andy. So you think they ‘had it coming’. But I bet otherwise you agree with the ‘rule of law’.
    If so, according to the rule of law, the police should have arrested those who smashed windows, not laid into people dancing in Trafalgar Square.

  11. @little sister, thanks loads for posting this here. What the police did at trafalgar square was horrendous, and appears to be punishing one group of people for the actions of another. Don’t know if you have been in touch with any legal support groups or lawyers, but if not, you should. You may be able to make a claim against the police for what happened to you. Getting in touch with GBC may be a good place to start.

  12. Letter to UK Uncut members by members of the Solidarity Federation in the aftermath of the disorder on the March 26 TUC organised March for the Alternative.

    We’re writing this to you to try and prevent the anti-cuts struggle being split up and weakened by the media.

    We are anarchists (well, anarcho-syndicalists, technically) – a word that is much misunderstood and misrepresented. We are also students, workers and shop stewards. We co-organised a ‘Radical Workers Bloc’ on the South London feeder march. The aim was to provide a highly visible radical presence within the workers movement of which we are a part, advocating strikes, occupations and civil disobedience.

    Saturday’s demonstration was far bigger than anyone expected, and saw thousands go beyond a simple A-B stroll to take direct action. The UK Uncut actions on Oxford Street and in occupying Fortnum and Masons provoked harsh treatment from police, including mass arrests.

    When we reached Trafalgar Square, we headed for Oxford Street for the 2pm actions to put some of these words into action (anarchist and UK Uncutter were not mutually exclusive on the day!). When we arrived, we met up with other anarchists who had had the same idea. Wary of being kettled, we chose to stay mobile, causing disruption on Oxford St and the surrounding area, including to UK Uncut targets which were closed and guarded by riot police. Subsequently, several banks, the Ritz and other buildings were damaged or hit by paint bombs. There were some minor scuffles with police. There is a valid debate to be had over tactics – which ones further the anti-cuts movement or are counter-productive – and many of us would favour mass direct action over property destruction. Let’s have that debate within the anti-cuts struggle, and not let the media divide us.

    But think about it from the store owners’ point of view: a broken window may cost £1,000. A lost Saturday’s trade through a peaceful occupation would cost many times more. Perhaps this helps explain the harsh police response to the UK Uncut occupation: it hits them where it hurts, in the pocket. Traditionally, workers have used the weapon of the strike to achieve this. But what about workers with no unions, or unions unwilling to strike? What about students, the unemployed? UK Uncut actions have been very successful at involving such people in economically disruptive action – and this seems to be on the right track in terms of forcing the government to back down on its cuts agenda. More and bigger actions in this vein will be needed to stop the cuts (in France, they call these ‘economic blockades’). Like those in UK Uncut, we recognise that just marching from A to B or waiting for the government to be fair is not enough. The government, rich and tax avoiders will continue to seek to make the poorest in society pay for the defecit unless we make doing so the more expensive option. As UK Uncut announced on the demonstration 29th January “If the economy disrupts our lives, then we must disrupt the economy”.

    The press coverage since Saturday has gone into a well-rehearsed frenzy of ‘good protestor/bad protestor’. Some UK Uncutters have expressed outrage at being lumped in with the ‘bad protestors’, (correctly) stressing the peaceful nature of the F&M occupation. We think the whole idea of dividing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ protest serves only to legitimise police violence and repression. As we saw on Saturday, repression is not provoked by violent actions, but by effective actions – there is a long history of peaceful pickets and occupations being violently broken up by police, from the Chartists to the Miners Strike. Indeed, UK Uncut have frequently been at the blunt end of this in recent memory yourselves, with police responding to non-violent occupations with pepper spray and violent arrests.

    In this light, we would say keep up the good work. Let the mass arrests strengthen your resolve not deter you. And let’s not fall into the divide-and-rule tactics that are the oldest trick in the rich’s book. If we can help or offer any practical solidarity to the arrestees, please get in touch. We’ve previously hosted legal advice and training sessions with Fitwatch and the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group – we’d be happy to do this again. Or if the arrests are causing problems with employers, we’ll help arrestees organise against victimisation. On Saturday most of the arrestees were UK Uncut activists. Next time it could be us. We – those of us fighting the cuts – are all in this together.

    Signed, Brighton Solidarity Federation

    Plus individuals from: Northampton, North London, Manchester, Thames Valley and South London Locals (our federal democratic structure means statements can only be issued in the name of a group if the group has had the opportunity to discuss it, and time is against us!)

  13. If people want to protest in peace then I’m all for it. It’s our human right afteral.
    However, if you wish to violently protest then don’t be surprised if the police turn up with batons.
    The peaceful protest has been wrecked by mindless thugs.

  14. @Really Fit Thanks for the advice…I’ll definitely be following it up.

    @Steve I can wholeheartedly say to you that myself and a number of other people who got hit with batons and pushed and shoved by the police did NOTHING to deserve it. So many people buying in to the good protesters/bad protesters crap. We should be showing solidarity with each other not shovelling the media’s junk food down our throats.

  15. Karma,
    having been made redundant in this recent wave of cuts, I have plenty of time to attend more and more marches. How dare you attempt to lecture me about my attendance when you could not even be bothered to attend due to prior commitments. What was that, your Saturday job? As with the previous marches and subsequent violence, the continued actions of “the bloc” and others of their ilk do nothing for the vast majority of decent people who are sick of this government and the previous one (who after all assisted greatly in getting us in to this mess). Having been on this march and numerous previous marches (previous commitments notwithstanding) I can tell you that, in the vaste majority of cases, the Police are not the initial aggessors, it is small minded individuals like you who bring about their reaction. Whilst I am sure that is some cased the Police may act “aggressively” I am equally sure that it is in a direct reaction to the verbal and physical abuse they initially receive. You are not representative of me and are certainly in no position to lecture me.

  16. Karma, I agree that “a single days protest” probably doesn’t achieve much, but a continued period of protests would. Having been made redundant in the recent wave of cuts I find I am able to give more time to such protests. I feel I have lost a lot due to the incompetence of the previous government and continued presence of this one which is why I wished to get involved. I have attended numerous protests about one thing or another. I find that I have been able to commit to them rather than not due to “prior commitments” and not castigate others from the comfort of my armchair! How dare you try to lecture me on the validity of my presence when you could not even be bothered. The “bloc” and others like them do nothing for my or anyone else’s cause but their own. If you think for one minute that they are doing it for anything other than their own violent agenda then you are sorely naive! Having been on numerous protests in the past I can tell you from experience (prior commitments notwithstanding) that the actions of the police are nearly always in response to the actions (verbal or physical) of some mindless idiot intent on causing trouble. I note that one of “the blocs” effective tactics is directing violence at the police from the rear of innocents, causing a block between the police and themselves which sometimes leads to innocents getting arrested or assaulted. Are those tactics very different to the human shield tactics of Sadam Hussein or Gadaafi?? Bloc?? Cowards the lot of them and certainly not representative of the will of the people. Karma get back to the safety of your armchair and desist from lecturing those of us who were there and care.

  17. @ashamed. I have to take issue with this: “I note that one of “the blocs” effective tactics is directing violence at the police from the rear of innocents, causing a block between the police and themselves which sometimes leads to innocents getting arrested or assaulted.”

    I don’t know where you got this information from, but I am fairly certain it is wrong. The black block tactic is very disciplined, and although there can always be people in the crowd who do stupid things, the focus is usually strictly on corporate and government targets, not the property of private individuals, and certainly not other protesters or the general public. I certainly have never seen or heard of the tactic you described being used.

    I also take issue with your statement that people take action for their own ‘violent agenda’. I have no idea what a ‘violent agenda’ is, but the people I have known are very serious in their politics, and their anger has come from a strong awareness of the injustices perpetrated by their targets. It is not easy to do what the black blocks do – in taking part they risk violence, injury, arrest and imprisonment. You may disagree with the tactic, but cowards they are not.

    In the face of the overwhelming injustice that we see around us, have you not considered that perhaps all tactics have their place, including the black blocks, the occupations by ukuncut, the dancing in Trafalgar Square and the massive TUC march that brought so many passionate people to London. We do not have to criticise others because they do not adopt the tactics we favour.

    I was on the march, ashamed, so I feel I do have the right to say this. Please stop promoting division and criticism, and let us focus on what unites us and the various and diverse strengths we have.

  18. Wow, so many stereotypes being bandied around, well done all!

    Solidarity to all who protested in London on Saturday, and those around the world who are standing up for a better world, usually at far more risk than us.

    “peaceful protest” – what’s peaceful about a brass marching band!
    “violence” – hurting a living being is violence, property such as a window doesn’t feel anything.
    “mindless thugs” – I’m not going to think further than my knee-jerk media-fed reaction that if people take risks they’ve either thought about it or have their backs against the wall.
    “vandalism” – a way to discredit people, including the Suffragettes who smashed government buildings, burnt down government minister’s houses and spat in the faces of politicians, amongst other tactics. Mindless thugs, what did they achieve!
    “in the vast majority of cases, the Police are not the initial aggressors” – I’ve not been in many large crowd situations to experience standard police tactics, but the cops are there to protect “decent people”, right!!

    And all the stuff about people only having a right to comment if they were there, or if they pay taxes, and are somehow responsible for media sensationalism…PerLeaz! Oh the tricks of self-denial and defending inflexible thinking are many.

  19. Ashamed –

    Yeah alright dude, keep your hair on. I had no wish to argue with you. Though I do find it strange that you go all purply faced and tell me that I’m not representitive of you, then proceed to presume to speak for the whole country by the sounds of it.

    I’m left wondering, who died and made you spokesperson? A bit of a strange stance to adopt considering you appear to know very little about that of which you speak. Every member of the Blocs, [or ‘others of their ilk’ as you so graciously call them] that I’ve ever met, [and there have been a few] are serious, intelligent people, who care a great deal about the issues they take action for, and the people who are affected by them. For you to slag them off in the manner you have suggests to me that you’ve never met, or spoken to a single one of them.

    Furthermore – your claim that you’ve never seen the police initiate the violence is difficult to understand as I’ve seen it with my own eyes many times. Violence is the inevitable result of the police attempting to take control of the protest. Either to prevent them from moving somewhere they don’t want them to go, making them move somewhere they do want them to go, or breaking up the protest when they consider that it’s going on too long.

    In other words – people may only protest where, and when the police say they’re allowed. As soon as the police have decided it’s over, THAT is when you see police lines moving and violence erupting. Because strangely enough, people don’t like getting pushed around and hit very much. They tend to retaliate.

    THAT is why the police didn’t engage with the blocs last weekend, but instead attacked the peaceful ‘party’ that was happening in trafalgar square. You see – without CONTROL of the protest by the police, it just might turn into something that’s effective… and they can’t have that now can they?

    Now – having said all that, it could perhaps be argued that if the blocs weren’t running around getting their ‘smash on’ but were instead protecting the protesters from the violent thugs in uniform and prevented them from breaking up the demonstration then perhaps we may have got somewhere. This, I think, is where more thought needs to go into future demo’s – it’s only by ACTING TOGETHER that we’ll have any real strength. Peaceful protest should be the way to go… but it needs to be more than one afternoon, and it’ll need protecting from the boys in blue.

    Karma out.

  20. There’s a picture on page eight of the print version of today’s Guardian (Saturday 2nd April) that’s worth seeing in connection with this video:

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