Thousands of police were on the streets yesterday, many equipped with hard hats and weapons from the start, all intent on imprisoning protesters in a makeshift detention centre outside the houses of parliament. They viciously and repeatedly beat protesters around the head, leaving one twenty year old with life threatening injuries, and dozens more hospitalised. When protesters continued to push against their lines, they charged horses into the crowd. They threw a journalist to the ground from his wheelchair, and held others on the streets in freezing conditions without medical attention until almost midnight.
This, according to Sir Paul Stephenson, was ‘restraint’. On Radio 4 this morning he claimed we should be grateful that the police escorting Charles and Camilla didn’t open fire on the protesters who attacked the car with paint bombs, a rubbish bin and their bare fists. Given the show of ostentatious wealth paraded in front of young people denied even their EMA, I’d say it was the protesters that showed the restraint.
Hearing the police and some sections of the media dismiss the demonstrators as ‘thugs’ is sickening. The students and school kids out on the streets are fighting for their future, against a load of rich, out of touch MPs who think a £30k debt is mere chicken feed. What the hell are they supposed to do, write a letter?
The students acted with determination and courage. Their efforts to reach Parliament, get into the Treasury and attack Oxford Circus’s Topshop (with chants of ‘Pay your taxes!) stretched the police to breaking point. The gloves off brutality of the police showed how close they came to losing control of the situation.
Many demonstrators also understood the need to resist FIT teams. Even early on two FIT teams had to run away as they were pelted with smoke and paint bombs. Fitwatch would have had a lovely picture of the FIT covered in blue paint, but unfortunately our camera was lost and smashed during a later altercation with a police line, so you’ll just have to imagine it!
The police have promised once again for the ‘full force of the law’ to come down on student demonstrators. The FIT will be trawling though their pictures, and the details taken from students in the Westminster kettle who were forced to give their names before release. Fitwatch advice to students fearing arrest remains as important as ever.