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Archive for the ‘Kettling’ Category

Westminster, London, Thursday 9 December

Picture credit: Guardian

Hundreds of violent thugs descended upon Parliament Square yesterday. Calling themselves “the police”, the gang armed themselves with batons, shields and helmets, using mounted cavalry to charge into crowds of defenceless students. They sustained a few minor casualties (30 injured, 6 of which required hospital treatment), but then, they had come prepared for a war, and since casualties on the other side were far greater (44 hospitalised, hundreds more injured, despite pleas of protest organisers), the gang must surely consider yesterday a success.

What follows is an eyewitness account from one of the gang’s victims: me. File a complaint about the police conduct with the IPCC by following this link.

Kettled, crushed, charged

I was chanting towards the back of the crowd facing the Houses of Parliament when it happened – people behind us shouted about the line of policemen that attempted to seal off the square. We rushed to the SW corner (by Westminster Abbey), where the line had been formed. The next hour is a bit of a blur, but I vividly remember seeing a dazed-looking man being led back through the crowd, blood streaming down his face. After he was let through, the crowd got tighter and tighter, and like several others, I was struggling for breath.

And then the mounted policemen charged at us.

This part was probably the scariest. Already trapped in, nowhere to run, a herd of half-ton animals running at you… somehow the crowd parted and we managed to avoid being trampled. Someone shouted “duck!” – I did, and a baton flew past me, missing by inches. Shortly afterwards, my friends and I found ourselves three rows from the front. Three rows from the merciless baton-wielding police. At some point, we managed to get away and sat down in what was, for the forseeable future, our home.

Big Ben, with police van and line of riot police in frontStatue with placard

As darkness fell, I did a reccy, confirming that all exits were sealed, and deciding that the best way out would be the NE corner (by Big Ben). After watching someone give a statue a placard, we headed there, but by then another battle was raging, and we were getting rumours of another kettle on the other side. Then the result was announced, and all chanted “shame on you” with renewed vigour and anger. We gave up on Whitehall and moved to the NW corner.

Carols and the sacking of the Treasury

Despite the pleas of many peaceful students, police would not let us leave. So we sat down and sang every Christmas carol and song we could think of. This scene was punctuated every few minutes, as yet another protester was lead out of the kettle with a serious head wound. It seemed to be the only way to escape.

Then shouts went up as the treasury was stormed. I went over to watch as a thug with a rock on a rope repeatedly tried to break a bombproof window. The lack of a police presence here (save for 30-40 trapped inside the treasury) was shocking. They all preferred to stay 100 yards away in order to stop carol singers from leaving. If even half of that regiment had gone to the treasury, then the crowd of observers would have dispersed and they could have arrested the perpetrators on the spot. Why this was not done, we will never know.

After the police inside escaped and secured the treasury, we went to find out information from police on the west side. As I was speaking to an officer, yet another man with a head injury came up. He was told that he could not be taken to hospital as they had run out of ambulances “because of all the trouble today” – well maybe if you didn’t fucking smash people’s heads in, officers, there would be ambulances. I don’t know what became of this guy, but hopefully he got treatment.

Lies and the Kettle on the Bridge

We were told that we’d be let out of the SW corner, so there we went. Around 1000 were there asking to go do their homework. After some time, they told us we would be let out across Westminster Bridge. So we waited there instead. At around 9.30, the crowd finally started moving. We had space. We hugged. We thought it was over… then on the bridge, things slowed down. There was confusion, as I tweeted:

we’ve moved to westminster bridge but have stopped again. What’s going on?

We were in another kettle. The general mood of the crowd can be summed up by “oh for fuck’s sake”. I was desperate by this point. I contemplated jumping off the bridge and swimming for freedom (at low tide, extremely dangerous), bashing my head on the pavement, or perhaps shouting at police until they arrested me. Resisting these options, I went for shouting angry, impassioned chants. We didn’t move for an hour, but at length, we started inching forward. I used my view of the London Eye as a gauge. The sight of its other side was a minor victory.

Escape

Finally, we reached the interim funnel, between two police lines, as they allowed us slowly through. We were organised into single file, walking down a snaking line of smirking coppers. I covered my face with my hands as cameras focussed on me, until finally, fucking finally, I was out. Exhausted, I lied down on the kerb; I had become separated from my friends and wanted to wait for them, but I was soon moved on by police. The street corner seemed to be the designated reunification point, and this is where I met back up with said friends. Our eight-hour ordeal was over.

We were the lucky ones. Although battered and bruised (various parts of my body still ache), we had managed to avoid the batons and hooves that several others had endured. The emotional effect that being trapped for an interminable evening, though, must not be underestimated. We were all in this ordeal, this illegal, immoral, unjust, and unfair ordeal, together.

Reprehensible

Yesterday has completely changed my view of the police, particularly the Metropolitan police. Their actions throughout the day were reprehensible, and disproportionate. Other pages report of a disabled student being pulled out of his wheelchair and dragged along the ground, of one student who needed an operation for a serious brain injury, and of schoolgirls being beaten repeatedly with batons.

“They didn’t show any mercy whatsoever. They threw around my friends who were just 17 year old slim girls. They were beating my friends with batons.

“They didn’t show any sympathy in their voice and I didn’t see anything in their eyes.

“It was awful. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

“I managed to break away. I was pushed into a ditch by a police officer and when I tried to get out of the ditch he pushed me back in.

“I turned around to see a group of my friends on the floor getting beaten by police officers.

“I received a text later from a friend who didn’t manage to escape, saying that he was thrown to the floor by the neck. He was beaten on the floor by three police officers until he was throwing up blood and when that happened they just threw him aside and didn’t give him any medical attention and went on to the next one.

“These were just innocent people who wanted to go home.”

The actions of these thugs must not be tolerated. They must be brought to justice. I will soon be filing a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), and I urge you to do the same by following this link. I urge group leaders to organise petitions against kettling and against police brutality.

Further Reading

Laurie Penny gives a particularly harrowing account in the New Statesman.

I have several other pictures, and might look into adding a gallery to this website in the near future, if I get the time.

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Police brutality, covert tactics

Another shocking story has emerged about police brutality in Tuesday’s kettle on Trafalgar Square. A 15-year old girl, trying to escape the kettle, was beaten with a baton and then made to lie in agony for two hours before police were eventually persuaded to release her. Meanwhile, in City Hall, an unnamed Tory Assembly Member has called for the protests to be banned entirely.

The Guardian reports that even when they aren’t beating, kettling or trying to ban us, the police are still going undercover to watch us – even more reason to cover our faces with scarves.

How to avoid being kettled

There are a few excellent articles on how to stay safe. They’re quite long, but well worth reading. The Bristol Hum gives advice on just about every aspect, taking a lot from Wombles.org.uk, which has a TL;DR section that I’ll reproduce here:

Don’t be tempted to stand there and fight – get out to where you can still cause some damage or disruption without the police around.

Keep moving around, as a group and individually. Fill gaps. Never stand still.

Crowd divisions and the formation of police lines must be nipped in the bud.

Don’t be intimidated.

Do everything in small teams, prepare in advance.

Think defensively. Protect each other and escape routes.

Always face outwards.

Link arms as often as possible, form barriers, use your body.

Move quickly and calmly, never giving the police time to react.

This weekend

UKUncut’s national day of action against tax avoidance is tomorrow; I’ll be in London for a demo at Top Shop, which kicks off at 11.02am There are similar protests organised across the country. If you’re in Oxford, meet at 12.15pm at Carfax. There would have been another protest in London tomorrow, this time at the Lib Dem party conference, but they’ve cancelled it, just like Vince Cable back in October. Yellow bellies.

Then on Sunday, there appears to be general anti-cuts action in several cities, including over 1,000 listed as attending an event in Bristol, but I can’t find anything for Oxford.

No blog posting for me tomorrow as I’ll be in London, but check my twitter feed for updates, and I’ll get another post together on Sunday.

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144 students were arrested in Trafalgar Square on Tuesday night, after being held in a kettle in freezing conditions for eight hours. This was, of course, after the Benny Hill style cat-and-mouse game played by protesters in a commendable effort to avoid police lines.

Most were arrested for a breach of the peace, with some sixth-formers experiencing their second kettle in less than a week after being held last week.

The students were prevented from leaving, and eventually arrested despite assurances to the contrary (see quote below), regardless of whether they had actually done anything wrong. It’s no wonder that a few frustrated students turn to mild violence (throwing plastic bottles from ground level is unlikely to hurt anyone) in the face of such unwarranted, pre-emptive and immoral oppression from police.

Is this what democracy looks like?

Quote from Though Cowards Flinch:

Ashley, who was inside the demo last night, said “The police took me from the kettle with another person to be searched and questioned in front of cameras. They told us that if we gave our details we would be released but after giving my name, address and date of birth I was arrested.”

She added, “These arrests are nonsense. It was just an excuse for the Met to find out my name, take my figure prints and look at my phone to see how these demos are organised.”

Another protester, whose friend was trapped in the kettle in the snow for three hours before being arrested, said “I think what’s confusing the cops is how this is organised. They can’t seem to work out how these protests are happening and how to stop them and that’s why they feel the need to collect as much information on everyone as they can”

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