On Wednesday evening I started out with the climate camp that had set itself up on Bishopsgate, to the west of Liverpool Street tube station. The 3,000 or so strong crowd was very festive, well organised and peaceful. They were serving vegetarian food, cleaning up after themselves, holding workshops on environmental issues and generally getting on with all around them, even the police (who mostly looked unamused). After 45 minutes or so, I left to go to see what was happening around the Bank of England, where several thousand people had been ‘kettled’ in by the police since early in the afternoon. I parted after seeing a very drunk but quite friendly guy in his late thirties hug most of the police who were in a line across Bishopsgate.
I spent a couple of hours on Cornhill Street after that. It is one of the main streets leading to the Bank of England, and had a lot going on. After an hour or so of rubbernecking to see the protesters on the other side of the police lines, the crowd on the outer side of the police line got bolshier and more aggressive, as did the police. Both seemed to be egging each other on a bit. Channel 4 and the BBC were both there at the time, so the troublemakers in the crowd (both protesters and police) may have been playing to the cameras.
Anyway, for whatever reason, a couple of police thought it would be a wonderful idea to arrest someone and drag him through the crowd. This happened around 7:15pm and was not a very bright thing to do.
In response to this, three dozen or so people chased the police with the protester up the street. Debris was thrown at the cops, various names and epithets were uttered, and the police had to get their backs to the wall and wait for some of their colleagues to rush up with their batons a-batting people left, right and centre in order to clear a bit of space and leave.
Shortly after that, just off a side road from Cornhill Street, came the police with their German Shepherd dogs without muzzles. I went to check on this because I thought I saw someone get chomped by one of the dogs. Getting closer didn’t make for much fun, however, because things were in full psycho mode by that time. The police were moving fast and got either side of me, and when I moved after a cop told me to move, another one was behind me, baton at the ready and German Shepherd barely under control on his leash. Since I had just seen a cop let his dog loose by accident, and only just get the dog under control before it was too late, I was not a happy camper.
I said, ‘Which way should I go? Your buddy just told me to go this way?’ He yelled at me to move, two or three times, and threatened me with his baton and his dog and said he would ‘take me in’. Since we hadn’t even been introduced, and I didn’t fancy a nip of that sort, I left his, ahem, embrace and buggered off 30 yards or so.
A few minutes later, one of the protesters, a man in his 20s or 30s, collapsed on the pavement. The guy was totally out of it when I went to take a look at him. Protesters informed the police, and then allowed the police to carry the man back to their lines using what looked like a tarpaulin to carry him away. Twenty minutes or so later, after the police had used their dogs and more riot cops to clear Cornhill Street back up to Bishopsgate, two ambulances came up Grace Church Street and were let down Cornhill by the protesters and police to attend to the injured. I have since been able to confirm that the person who died was the one I saw.
Ten minutes or so after that, three police vans came up Grace Church Street, which runs directly into Bishopsgate. Various protesters/rioters threw bottles and debris at them. A very solid hit on the side window of one of the vans by some masonry led to the police hightailing it back the other way.
After a bit of time in that area, I noticed that some city workers who had gotten well pissed, and were looking for a fight, were all holding empty beer bottles behind them so that people could not see them. After seeing these guys trying to pick fights with some of the protesters, I did my civic duty and told a police officer about them. It seemed like the right thing to do since they (the police) were wasting their time trying to protect a store that no-one was bothering. Said city boys, all suited and booted and looking as if they were rugby players, were made to drop their bottles and escorted out of the area.
Following a notice about the Climate Camp being charged by the police, I headed back to where I had started. Over the next couple of hours I witnessed a generally well behaved crowd on either side of the now rock-solid police lines. The odd yahoo on my side of the barrier, sure, plenty of alcohol was openly being consumed, but there was no reason why the police had to be so heavy handed with the Climate Camp. The camp was full of fluffies, not so-called Anarchists.
For my swan song of the night, I had my ‘friends’ the police dogs back in the frame. I stayed well clear of the buggers this time. Once they were out of their pens in the back of the police vans they had been brought in, it took the police about 45 minutes to push the crowd on the outer side of the penned-in Climate Camp back up Bishopsgate towards and then past Liverpool Street station. From what I was told, the Climate Camp people were slowly being let out around the same time, allegedly being ID’d under the terrorism laws. I can’t confirm that yet, but the police have misused the terrorism laws in the UK on dozens of occasions, and have been reprimanded by judges for doing that, so what’s one more time, eh?
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill