I returned from the G20 protests feeling shaken and appalled at the policing tactics employed. It is only thanks to my NUJ press pass that I managed to – eventually - escape the terrifying crush imposed by aggressive police. By that point I had spent at least two hours rammed in with other peaceful protesters, bursting for the loo and battling against a resurgence of a phobia of being trapped in tight crowds.
Just before the police cordon around the roads leading to the Bank of England was implemented, I, along with fellow Haringey Green, Sarah Cope, decided not to proceed any further into the protest as it was becoming clear that the police had one thing in mind - to pen everyone in. However, when we tried to retrace our steps and move away from the crowds, we were prevented from doing so by a row of officers who ordered us to 'move on', aggressively pushing Sarah in the process.
From then onwards we were condemned to a terrifying ordeal of being trapped in a confined space – a section of Princes Street - with an increasingly frustrated and angry group of protesters. When police in riot gear appeared and one protester was arrested, bottles started to fly over our heads, so we edged away from our corner of Princes Street to try and find a safer spot.
There must surely be a law against holding law abiding citizens against their will when they are at risk of harm.....including harm from the police! As a seasoned activist, I can honestly say that I have never experienced such bullying tactics by our own police, and it makes me very sad. The tragic death of a 47 year old man trapped for hours inside the police cordon, or ‘kettle’, could almost certainly have been avoided. I hope the full truth surrounding the circumstances comes to light and justice is seen to be done – for the family’s sake and for everyone else who suffered psychological distress and injury.
It is important that this tragedy serves as a warning to the Met Police. The strategies and tactics employed in Operation Glencoe were deeply flawed and dangerous and must never be repeated again. Marches, demonstrations and other forms of non-violent direct action will continue as long as we have a government and world leaders who believe that more of the same old free market paradigm is going to solve our problems.
We still pride ourselves in this country on our right to freedom of expression and the right to protest. Let’s not turn into a police state - a dictatorship. Only a brand new vision, a revolutionary Green New Deal, can transform the current global economic and climate crisis. You can help to make this a reality. All you need to do is Vote Green at this year’s European Elections and next year’s General Election and Local Elections. There really is a solution to all this madness!