Friday, 3 April 2009

The Battle of Threadneedle Street

I and several other members of Haringey Green Party attended the G20 Meltdown demonstration on Wednesday 1st April. The march from Liverpool Street to The Bank of England was very peaceful, and had a cheery air about it. Once we arrived at The Bank, the police penned us into a small area surrounding The Bank of England. They didn’t let all of the people into this ‘kettle’, and many marchers were left outside. I’d say, inside and out of the ‘kettle’ there was probably about 10, 000 demonstrators.

If you were inside the kettle as I was, the police would not allow you to leave, as I and a comrade tried to do several times. This went on for hours, and people gradually got more and more angry.

I realised that the most likely flashpoint would be at the police cordon on Threadneedle Street, and mostly stayed away from that area. Riot police and mounted officers appeared at this cordon, and tried to push the crowd back in a very aggressive fashion. One Haringey green, who was playing in a drumming band, was knocked to the floor and trampled by the crowd. Luckily, two other members of the band rescued him, or it might have been very serious indeed. As it was, he felt very unwell, was sick, and had to be taken to an ambulance.

There is no doubt in my mind that police tactics, particularly on Threadneedle Street, contributed to the subsequent riot that took place. These tactics seemed designed to provoke a violent reaction amongst demonstrators, and in this it was highly successful.

Away from Threadneedle Street, still inside the cordon, the atmosphere, at least at first, was completely different. It was like a carnival, with a solar powered music player entertaining the dancing crowd. In another corner, Billy Bragg sang ‘The Internationale’ in a cappella style, and the spring sunshine bathed the crowd. As Rosa Luxemburg said, ‘I don’t want to be part of a revolution that I can’t dance at’.

Unfortunately, I think a tiny minority of demonstrators came with the intent of causing trouble, but the way the police handled the situation, made the situation much worse, and in effect gave cover for these people to smash windows and pick fights with the police. The Green Party are all in favour of non violent protest, indeed it is the mark of a free and democratic society that people should be allowed to express their views. But when the police pour fuel onto these peaceful protests, by detaining innocent people in small areas, with no toiletry facilities, for long periods of time, it looks to me as if they really want a fight to start.

A 47 year old man collapsed and died in the area, and I hope we get a proper public investigation, with an independently minded coroner. The police were quick to rush out a statement saying that he was found with breathing difficulties and that they came under attack whilst trying to resuscitate him. People don’t normally just collapse for no apparent reason, and this is the same police force that told us that Jean Charles de Menezes, jumped over a ticket barrier with wires trailing from his jacket, which turned out to be completely untrue. Let’s get to the bottom of this, and perhaps we can all learn some lessons on how to police demonstrations in the future.

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