PLO block hits the streets at Sussex

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The following report is from PLO block, operational at Sussex university on Monday…

A large banner and a small group of people (it can work well with just 3 people) is all you need for PLO blocking.

PLO block turned out for the Sussex National Demo against Privatization. Although the group have all engaged in cold stares at PLO officers on previous actions, it was our first time actively blocking them for most of the protest – it turned out to be an incredibly fun and effective tactic, stopping evidence gathering, slowing down police response, and showing their true colours behind that baby blue to other protestors.

These two liaison officers had not yet mastered the ‘disarming charm’ of other PLOs, nor had they mastered pretending to liaise whilst actually information gathering. They didn’t make much of an effort to mingle in the crowd or to make ‘friends’ with protestors. Initially they kept at a distance from the march – taking a walk through the daffodils rather than joining the main march. They wanted to watch and report on the protest and didn’t make much effort to disguise this as they desperately tried to dodge our banner which blocked their view of events. They spent a good deal of time liaising with their radios. As things did get more interesting on the march, they did try to get a lot closer, pushing their way to get to the front of where stuff was happening and trying to embed themselves in the crowd – us and our banner frustrating them even more as their view was limited to “say no to PLO!”. Outside Sussex house, as we stood blocking one of them (they kept deviating from the usual working in pairs model), he reported over on his radio – “they’re banging on the doors” – presumably he knew this from sound rather than vision which was being blocked by the banner. Helpfully, we took this chance, and other opportunities that arose, to shout other information down the radio and his ear.

As well as hampering their evidence gathering and police communication, following them around and holding a banner over them also attracted laughing from other protestors, and when we explained what we were doing, they showed their support. Highlighting the PLOs presence and their role in such a way also built up hostility in the crowd towards them and they joined in with PLO blocking – as the PLO attempted to speak with someone in the crowd, another woman shouted “what was that? Can you hear something?” Another group of people with a banner came to block the PLO with us, creating a funnel shape with the two banners on either side of the PLO and funnelling him out away from the crowd.

There were a couple of occasions when we did lose one or both of them, but overall, we stuck with them for most of the day. This meant that they definitely spent more time trying to dodge us and escape from under our banner than evidence gathering. On one of the occasions when they did escape our watch, it turns out that one PLO had whipped off his bib to join his police buddies during scuffles with protestors (making the point that we had been raising earlier for us – “PLOs are not your friends, they are the police”). When PLO block were not on their case though, other protestors took up the job for us – from the Sussex Police Liaison Twitter account it turns out that protestors had thrown paint and ‘targeted’ the PLOs.

The effectiveness of these tactics can be seen by the PLO desperately trying to speak with a protestor in the crowd to find out what had been happening to Sussex house whilst he had been under the banner. He had not seen a thing. We were there to bring this conversation to an end.

(PLO online – it seems that blocking them on the ground is not enough. They’re out there on Twitter too trying to fuck things up for us. In response to a tweet about the PLOs being hounded off campus, @SuptSimonNelson tweeted “what a shame – there to advise and support”. Fortunately other Twitter users were there to put him straight.)

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