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?
#236: The War Racket: Palestine Action on shutting down arms factories ● Paul Rogers on the military industrial complex ● Alessandra Viggiano and Siobhán McGuirk on gender identity laws in Argentina ● Dan Renwick on the 5th anniversary of Grenfell ● Juliet Jacques on Zvenigora ● Laetitia Bouhelier on a Parisian community cinema ● The winning entry of the Dawn Foster Memorial Essay Prize ● Book reviews and regular columns ● Much more!
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