Sunday, 3 April 2011


If the accusations are true that the police:

  • conned the peaceful demonstrators at Fortnum & Masons into leaving on the basis they would be not be arrested

  • attacked peaceful partying demonstrators in Trafalgar Square

then not only can the police never be trusted again over agreements on policing demonstrations; but because of the lack of trust some people will be more prepared to take violent action.

Alongside public enquiry into these aspects of the policing of what appears to have been a fantastic 4-500,000 people on the TUC March for the Alternative on Saturday 26 March, the extent of involvement of police and security service undercover officers involved in organising and taking part in the very small amount of violence that took place needs to be questioned.

There is of course also the possibility that the Met hierarchy deliberately under-policed the buildings targeted for attack (as opposed to peaceful occupation) because they wanted violence and 'riot' to be able to justify why they should not have their budget cut.

The media and the Home Secretary have concentrated on the violence rather than the message of the great majority of peaceful good humoured demonstrators, and to do so in a negative way. There is a likelihood of more powers being given to the police, many of whom are clearly not controllable. A retired police officer on the recent BBC Radio 4 Reunion programme on the 1981 Brixton Riots described the macho testosterone attitudes of many officers, and the worrying racism that still exists among some officers.

The group I was with on the March knew that things were happening because a member was checking the news on their sophisticated electronic device. So we knew that a group had broken away into the direction of Oxford St, and later that the Ritz had been attacked.

Although I have not been a member of the Party since November 1996, and have no illusions that a Labour Government would not be making cuts, I decided to march with Battersea Labour Party, so I could march with people I knew, and behind a banner I was involved in making back in 1987.

As we walked down Lavender Hill to Clapham Junction to get the train to Waterloo it suddenly occurred to me that we should be wearing kettle hats. I dashed into a store and bought a small red kettle.

We duly arrived at Waterloo and slowly worked our way over Waterloo Bridge to the Embankment to the section at the Temple allocated for Labour Parties to assemble. While we waited I tried unsuccessfully to tie the kettle on top of my head but with no success. So I hung it round my neck instead. Most of those who saw it understood the point I was making. Battersea's banner was much admired.

As we slowly progressed along the Embankment with numerous stops and starts, we were parallel with very large RMT contingents from around the country headed by a brass band. Walking through the crowd were a couple dressed up and the slogan Teapots Against the Kettles. Later a pedal tank went by.

Eventually we reached Parliament. There a noisy road side demonstration by Libyans against the military intervention in their country. Then up Whitehall. The march spread across the whole street, approx 30 people in each row. All the time lots of noise: whistles and those South African instruments. At several points along Whitehall lots of shouting particularly as we past the locked gates to Downing St.. When we got into Piccadilly we passed a Santander Bank branch splattered with paint, a jewelry shop with a broken window, broken jewelry windows in the Ritz and lots of paint splattered on its frontage. Clearly small groups had decided to target symbols of capitalism luxury and banks. But all was quiet, any conflict with the police had obviously been short lived, and was one of the reasons why the March had been delayed in its progress. All quiet too as we went past Fortnum and Mason.

It is right that the majority on the demonstration should deplore the actions of the few because it enabled the media to concentrate the story on the violence rather than the message of the great majority of peaceful good humoured demonstrators, and do so in a negative way. Those involved in the violence should be ashamed of themselves. They potentially put others at risk if the police reaction had been a lot tougher. They put at risk the workers at some of the buildings they attacked. Those arrested will either lose money through fines, could lose their jobs, be given a criminal record and some may even go to prison. Martyrdom NO – stupidity of the first order – YES. Or more worrying – the growth of a new wave of NIHILISM – and it's not forget nihilism became a breading ground for FASCISM.

1 comment:

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