>FIT policing at the Gaza demo

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> The Gaza demonstration last Saturday (3rd Jan) was justifiably passionate, angry and determined, and there were many more there than the 12,000 that the police claimed.

FIT coppers looked edgy from the start, focussing special attention on anyone who looked young Muslim and militant. But with such huge numbers of people, many wearing Arab scarves around their faces, it could hardly have been an easy day out for the FIT photographers.

Public order cops were aggressive from the start too. The one pictured above posed delightfully for a shot, and even introduced himself – CO 5484 Churchman from CO11 (his friends call him Bob). But then he appeared to have a sudden change of heart. Aggressively he grabbed hold of my camera phone and tried to pull it out of my hands. ‘You are going to delete that’ he shouted in my face. ‘You can’t photograph us’. After a brief stand-off in which I refused to let go of my camera, he gave up and turned his attention to bullying someone else.

He and his CO11 colleagues were clearly in a similar frame of mind when they tried to block in the march to the Israeli embassy at Hyde Park Corner underpass. Eyewitness accounts have emerged that police baton charged protesters on a march that had been, until then, entirely peaceful.

It seemed inevitable that there would be confrontation outside the Israeli Embassy, and so there was. Edgy and wound-up TSG sought to protect a small bit of Israel in London, while the Israeli military was pounding Gaza with rockets and artillery. The tightly penned in crowd eventually broke throught the crowd control barrier, with bits of it being returned to the police much faster than they may have wanted. FIT evidence gatherers found a roof balcony from which to film and photograph unhindered the angry crowd below, and powerful police and helicopter floodlights lit up the scene. Yet most of the more militant protaganists had covered their faces well with scarves, and had done so from early in the demo. I suspect that all in all, the FIT did not have such a good day.

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