The police violence wasn’t shocking to anyone who knew what to expect. True, it was upsetting, and above all disappointing, but I never expected lines of riot police to be kind and courteous. What was shocking was the hostility proffered by otherwise reasonable people when I explained my role in what happened on April 1st. The protestors were at fault, they claim, and the police shouldn’t be blamed. After all, they were just dong their job, which can’t have been easy given those dirty hippies clogging the city streets. These everymen didn’t care what the protests were for, which I didn’t find so unusual. What scared me the most was that they refused to hear about abuse of power by the police, and about the many ways in which the law was broken by it’s supposed upholders. The police force, usually so quick to condemn protestors, should always be held accountable when they act like violent, psychopathic bullies. Many have pointed out how we should be grateful that the water cannons and tear gas weren’t broken out. It is true that we are living in one of the most liberal countries in the world. Indeed, we have more freedom than the overwhelming majority of people alive today. Yet even here protestors are treated like criminals for exercising their human rights, getting corralled in like animals, deprived of food, water and shelter. If that doesn’t scare you, it should… if the right to peacefully protest should be upheld anywhere, it is here. Stand up for the rights of your fellow human – even if you disagree with everything else the G20 protests were about, the right to peacefully protest should never be compromised.
May 03, 2009
West Side Story - Green Song (Jet Song):
If you invest in the carbon exchange,
The long-term environmental future looks bleak,
A sustainable world, depends on less consumption (GO GREEN!),
So profit short-term, is a contradiction (GO GREEN!)
- By Owen
The Jungle Book - I Wanna Be Like You:
Now I’m the king of the financiers
The business VIP
I’ve reaped quick profits from the climate’s losses
And life has been pretty sweet
I wanna carry on my business
And roll my debts back down
And pedal my quick fix for economy misfits
Let the cash wipe away my frown
Oh, oobee do
I wanna finance you-oo-oo
I wanna talk with you
Walk with you
You’ll see us through
A government like me-e-e
Can save the economy
Gee Mr Dirty Energy
We’re on our way to prosperity
Now here’s the deal, sir
Lay the secret on me of a sustainable future
Now don’t try and kid me fossil fool
I made a deal with you
I gave you money and you’ve had it real sunny
To see our targets through
Give me a greener option
Did you think you could grow and grow?
There’s not the resources
And the natural forces
Will be the end of you
- By Martin
The Beatles - It's All You Love (Can't Buy Me Love):
It's all you love, oh, love, oh
It's all you love, oh
I'll buy you a carbon credit card
So you can offset burning coal
Destroy the world with no regard
Because you've got no self-control
'Cause you don't care a-bout the climate
Money is all you love
It's all you love, oh
Money is all you love
It's all you love, oh
Yeah yeah yeah, yeah
You spend spend spend on your climate card
Until the fossil fuels run dry
Your children's world is burnt and scarred
And when you're dead they'll see your lies
But you don't care a-bout your children
Money is all you love
We've got no homes or jobs to do
All we've got is you to thank
If we put our climate's hope in you
It'll end up like the banks
So I don't care too much for markets
Money is all you love
It's all you love, oh, love, oh
It's all you love, love, love
- By Tim
Leonard Cohen - Everybody Knows:
Everybody knows the warming’s coming
Everybody knows we’re heating fast
Everybody knows that the carbon trading
Is just a fat cat covering his ass
Everybody knows the targets fixed
But the earth gets poor while the rich get rich
That’s how we flow
Everybody knows the states are meeting
Everybody knows that it’s change they cry
Everybody knows that they’re just hoping
Old strategies will do just fine
Everybody’s filling up their pockets
With money steeped in oil and rockets
From the earth’s death throws
And everybody knows.
Everybody knows that you care for the climate
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you’ve measured targets
And even done a graph or two
Everybody knows when you guys meet
The climate makes a good aperitif
If you’re thus disposed.
That everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how things goes
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows that it’s now or never
Everybody knows the banker’s blue
Everybody knows that you live forever
When you’ve got another loan or two
All the pyramid schemes are rotten
And it’s not all plain sailing when the country’s gotten
From its short-term woes
And everybody knows.
- By Martin
West Side Story - Brown (Cool):
Brown, Brown, Gordon Brown
Go Green Brown!
Got renewable energy in your pocket
Why don't you use it?
Invest a lot
Of your fiscal stimulus in green Brown
- By Owen and Jess
West Side Story - Change (America):
How are you combating climate change?
How are you combating climate change?
How are you combating climate change?
We need results to fight climate change.
- By Owen
West Side Story - There's a place for us:
There's a place for us
A greener place for us
Peace innovation and clean fresh air
Take all of us there
There's not much time for us
But we have the power to act
Work together sustainably
Create a green world economy
Act now with fossil fuel reduction
Or wait for environmental destruction
- By Owen
The Jungle Book - Green Sustainables (Bare Necessities):
Look to the ... Green sustainables
The long-term green sustainables
Forget about your gases and your coal
I mean the green sustainables
Of Mother Nature's recipes
That bring the green sustainables of life
- By Martin
Statement of Intent:
"We are here because we believe that climate change is the most serious
threat facing our planet and business leaders and governments are taking no
real steps to tackle the problem.
We believe that climate change cannot be dealt with within a system that is
based on unsustainable and unregulated economic growth and consumption.
We are calling on the world’s leaders at the G20 conference to take climate
change seriously and scrap false solutions such as carbon trading. We reject
carbon trading as part of a dangerous logic which allows the richest to
pollute while the poorest suffer.
We reject the false logic which puts the economy first and climate change
second. The recession and climate change are part of the same problem and
need to be addressed together. That’s why we are protesting in the financial
We will be joining a grassroots potentially thousand strong movement the
day before the G20.
We began our discussion by talking about what we would like the world to be
like and our protest will be informed by these ideas. The Warwick group will
complement the climate camp through street theatre in the tubes, in cafes
and in spaces that we find on the day. We will try to create a dialogue with
passers-by about alternatives both through theatre and through direct
communication and free food!"
*Climate change affects you.* Don’t let governments and business speculate
with our climate in the same way they speculated with our homes and jobs.
Climate change and the economy are part of the same problem and need to be
solved together. That’s why we are in the financial district!
World leaders at the G20 need to look at meaningful solutions to climate
change and stop spinning their way out of it with carbon trading. The
solutions exist yet the UK currently spends 0.0083% of its GDP dealing with
Fossil fuel companies and trading firms are churning out global warming
gases and reaping huge profits whilst doing it. The UK government wants to
bulldoze people’s homes and build a *third runway* at Heathrow. Meanwhile
the first *new coal power station* in twenty years is planned for
Today we are joining a *grassroots movement*. Diverse people all over
London are calling on business and world leaders to take their concerns
seriously. We are taking theatre, food and discussion to the financial
district and starting a dialogue about the world we want our children to
*A sustainable future is a green future*. Take a look at the alternatives
such as *http://www.zerocarbonbritain.
April 30, 2009
Q. What’s worse than being stuck in a kettle for five hours?
Police kettles are meant to stop different groups of protesters rallying together and taking over the world. It creates what the police call a ‘sterile’ area or group of people, which they can supervise and control. However there is another kind of kettle being used much more effectively against protesters all the time, and we hardly even notice. Constantly updating news services, always on the look-out for the next story, seem at first to be a perfect opportunity for representation; but there’s no better way of being sterilised than by being treated like a protester on News 24.
A. Never getting out.
Any protest is essentially a desire for representation, and is crucial in any healthy democratic society. However, the protests at the G20 illustrate a growing phenomenon whereby our ability to represent ourselves has been usurped by rolling news channels, whose representation of events turns them into items on a news programme (or in a newspaper), rather than real-life occurrences that have a real-life meaning. War, disease, weather, traffic, protest, celebrity, climate change, expenses, sport. Events do not seem real unless they are awarded airtime; however, once in the news, they become part of a predetermined news script and lose their originality and ability to represent anything. This, at least, is the analysis of Jean Baudrillard, the ‘pop’ philosopher who was famously misinterpreted in The Matrix. According to Baudrillard, rolling news channels broadcast “the realm of perpetual change, of a ceaseless updating, of an incessant succession in real time which produces this general equivalence, this banality that characterizes the zero degree of the event” (Baudrillard 2005, 122). Wars become video games, the House of Commons turns into a soap opera and politics becomes a drama, crime becomes thriller, genocide becomes horror, and, by the magic of the media, events become non-events.
Baudrillard writes that the rolling news channel is “a space where everything is pre-neutralized, including war, by the precession of images and commentaries” (2005, 123), and if this is the case, what chance do protesters have of getting their message across? “Information, news coverage, is always already there…the best thing being to invent or cause the event so as to be the first with the news” (2005, 123), and this is exactly what, in the days leading up to the event, the special reports in newspapers predicting slaughter and riot were attempting to do. Even if they avoided the (tellingly named) “special demonstration pen near the Excel Centre [which can] accommodate a few hundred protesters” (
As protesters, we even pigeon-hole ourselves on occasions, through waving banners with nothing on them other than the name of the organisation we are representing, through chanting “what do we want? [insert cause here]! When do we want it? Now!”, through becoming systematically obsessed with the police response, and by generally acting like protesters. We act like protesters ought to act, and so do nothing to change the story that we are a part of. Even getting arrested is sometimes just part of the whole ‘protester experience’. We are like stock characters in a fairy tale. The evil stepmother, the innocent child, the wise old man, the chanting, flag waving protester. In Baudrillard’s terms, we are “events in a system that has put an end to history” (Baudrillard 2005, 126).
So far, so sceptically unhelpful. Of course protesting is necessary, and of course protesting is often fantastically successful and has brought about the most amazing change against the worst odds. I shall be going to more protests. However, as people wanting to make a difference in the world, we must always fight against the forces of legitimation that seek to make us fit into their narratives. We must stop caring about being so “media-friendly” at the expense of making a story. The crucial thing for us to learn to do is to stop being satisfied at being heard, and demand (somehow) to be listened to.
I don’t think we should be afraid of calling some protests a failure, even if there were some good outcomes. We ultimately failed on the 1st of April to do any more than make our indecipherable voices heard. Perhaps protesting as we know it is an out-of-date technique, an inadequate method of achieving political representation, but that doesn’t mean that this desire for representation is futile. Baudrillard’s big mistake is to believe that old lie, that history ended in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, when ideology ceased to be a battle-ground and the neo-liberal agenda became the world’s only meta-narrative. If the world is now ruled by game theorists, it is Baudrillard who treats everything as if it’s a game. We’ve got to find a real-life way of representing ourselves; it is, after all, not us who are living in the fantasy-world.
Baudrillard, Jean. Impossible Exchange. Trans. C. Turner. London : Verso, 2002.
---. The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact. Trans. C. Turner. London : Berg, 2005.
“Police warn of G20 protest scale.”
April 26, 2009
"I camped on Bishop's Gate because I believe that climate change cannot be solved within an economic system that is based on growth at whatever cost. I was also there in solidarity with climate camp, a growing grassroots environmental movement whose strength is its inclusivity. On the day I feel we helped create a space which fostered solidarity and dialogue between protesters. I will take away the sense that this was a stepping stone to building a larger movement within and outside of climate camp. I think its important to remember that we were not alone. We joined thousands of people in the Square mile to de-legitimate the current agenda of the G20. Though the protests have been termed pointless and purposeless, it is important to remember that we were all calling for change and some of us for radical change. To coin the name of the march the saturday before, we were all there to 'Put People First'."
Why were you protesting? What if anything do you think anti-summit protests achieve? Can we get a comments page started, maybe also from people you knew who were not part of climate camp and who were involved in one of the other protests. I had suggested putting some names onlike Tony Benn but I've had a listen and the speeches were a bit shit so perhaps our comments will be better.
April 24, 2009
Climate Camp inspired me to go to the G20 protests. The International Panel on Climate Change says we need to act fast on climate change. It's crunch time, with very little meaningful action having been taken so far, despite the consensus on the extreme seriousness of the issue. As well as speaking out about climate change, the camp in the city had a specific target: the European Climate Exchange – a carbon trading farce which has allowed EU governments to spin their way out of implementing meaningful carbon emission reductions. My personal experience of the events and their aftermath shocked me, and has set me thinking more about how the police works in this country: how far is it really supporting or repressing truth, political discussion, freedom of assembly and indeed our civil liberties?
There's a history of Climate Camp being mistreated and misrepresented by the police. Kent police misled the public by saying that lots of police had been injured until a Lib-Dem Freedom of Information request revealed that these “injuries” were actually wasp-stings and officers accidentally shutting their fingers in car doors, etc. It sounds implausible, but the camp is leaning towards Ghandianism in its peacefulness. There have been no cases of violence against police from the movement, despite dozens of cases of violence from the police. Climate Camp just wants meaningful action taken on climate change and believes that politicians, business and the public are ignoring the urgency of the issue.
To begin with the policing seemed fairly appropriate. There were a couple of thousand people enjoying the sun, setting up tents, talking to the media, standing on bus-stops with banners, dancing to a pedal-powered reggae sound-system, using the temporary compost toilets... you name it. It was peaceful, and to be quite honest, the police could almost have policed it in the same way that they would a fun-fair.
Police, however, donned increasing amounts of riot gear through the course of the day and their numbers gradually increased. Where we were camping, at the north end of Bishopsgate, the line grew thicker as they brought out boiler-suits, heavy gloves and finally helmets with visors down. At around 6.30pm the police surrounded the camp, not allowing anyone out. Two thousand people were trapped, including the media, passers-by and workers from the surrounding offices. No explanation was given.
The tactic, known as 'kettling', is often used for crowd control at football matches, and I can see why it is sometimes justifiable if police need to find out who perpetrated a serious crime. In this case however, it seemed like politically motivated detention. We were 'kettled in' from 6.30pm to 11pm – an arbitrary length of time. The effect was to demonise a peaceful protest and put people off: an infringement of our right to freedom of movement and liberty.
The group of 30 of us from Warwick sat down peacefully as a line of police tried to push us back and break up the camp. It was a tricky thing to do, as we were out on a limb, at one corner of the barrier of locked-together bikes that marked the northern end of the camp. Reacting in the way we did, by sitting down and starting to sing, we helped pacify a group of police – some of whom began to lift up their riot visors – clearly uncomfortable in the situation. One Warwick student heard that the police were saying they were going to deal with “the shits” from the south end, and this is indeed what later happened. As the evening drew in, the police finished with the protesters at Bank. Still fired-up, it seems they decided it was our turn, especially since the media and two MPs had gone home.
At the G20, there were dozens of cases of unjustified assaults by the police. Ian Tomlinson's has come to the fore as he was the only person who died. It's amazing no one else was killed. A Warwick student, for example, saw a man in the foetal position being kicked by 8 to 10 police. Tomlinson's death was initially reported as a case of a man who died of a heart attack, while protesters stopped police from rescuing him by blocking them and throwing bottles. It now transpires, as shown on the video evidence, that he was beaten by the police in a unprovoked attack minutes before he died, and that protesters did not stop him from receiving aid, but in fact called the ambulance and encouraged the crowd to stay back while the police administered first-aid. The more you read about Tomlinson's death, the worse the story gets. The initial autopsy proved unreliable, the police falsely claimed there was no CCTV and the City of London police were allowed to investigate a death in which their own officers were involved. The Tomlinson case is representative of how little the public knows about the true nature of the policing at the G20. Thirty-second news-clips mainly showed violent people smashing RBS, and favoured the police's version of events. Furthermore, the case is indicative of a police culture that treats protesters as “shits”, acting in a tribal manner and dishonestly covering things up - though I don't want to generalise all police in this way.
At midnight, our group from Warwick decided to leave because we felt unsafe staying overnight due to the police. Shortly afterwards, police beat their way through protesters at the south end in an orchestrated operation: battering peaceful protesters as they went. When our group left just after midnight, we passed forty police vans lining the road on the way out – continuing for half a kilometre down the road. Reliable friends saw police assaulting people as they left.
Despite the police having kettled the Climate Camp in for 4-5 hours, nothing was thrown at the police, and the protesters were peaceful throughout. The same cannot be said about the police, who stated in advance that they were “up for it” and seemed to lump all protesters together as violent.
It's important to understand the role that police played in causing the clashes that occurred elsewhere at the G20 protests. Climate Camp responded without violence, but it's not hard to imagine that not everyone would. Police crushed protesters back and unjustifiably forced them into a confined space for hours. And, as one commentator said, “the thing about kettles, is that they have a tendency to boil.” Protesters were demonised by the police in advance of the G20. But there are also other factors at play, such as the police mentality and indirect political pressure to not be embarrassed by protesters. I was slightly traumatised by the whole affair and slept badly for several nights afterwards. It brought home how very real the injustices in the world are.
Climate Camp’s lawyers have prepared a dossier of over 400 eyewitness statements that claim to have witnessed or been victims of police brutality. I don’t know what exactly what needs to be done about the police, but there needs to be a systematic change of culture. We need a police force that recognises its first duty is to citizens' rights, not the government. Secondly, police who behave like thugs need to be rooted out. It doesn't look like this is happening at the moment. The police have obfuscated the Tomlinson case and an officer found guilty of assault last week already had 60 complaints to his name. Thirdly, police need genuinely independent oversight. Too often, the police act as if they are above the law. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is hugely slow and ineffective, and too many of the people who run it are retired policemen.
The culture of the media also needs to change, with BBC News in particular lacking any scrutiny of the police. There is a worrying tendency for the media to be dismissive of protesters, and get sidetracked into reporting on the practicalities from the police's point of view, instead of discussing the issues that tens of thousands of people are protesting about. Our group from Warwick got on BBC news 24, sky news and video clips on the guardian website, but the overall coverage left a lot to be desired.
With this in mind, I want to end the article with a paragraph on climate change. Massive change is needed and carbon allowance schemes are a good idea, but the European Climate Trading Scheme doesn't help to reduce emissions and is being used by the EU as a way to put off dealing with the issue. The solutions are out there. Plans have been drawn up for how to make Britain carbon-neutral (zerocarbonbritain.com). It's a question of political will. We need bold decisions from political leaders as well as ordinary people to take the necessary steps, even if it upsets some business leaders. We currently only spend 0.0083% of our GDP tackling global warming.
This article is still a bit too long (3 sheets of A5 in size 10). I feel editing it down more would cut out key points, but please say if you see any bits could be taken out.
April 23, 2009
The name of Kevin Gately may ring bells amongst some of you. A Warwick student, he was killed at a demonstration against the National Front in 1974, almost certainly by mounted policemen during surges of the crowd after police lines pushed forward. He was not a seasoned protester, nor was anyone ever brought to justice after his death – mainly because there was no way to conclusively prove with evidence, regardless of the amount of witnesses testifying against the official police story, that he was hit. This story has regretfully been replayed recently, but with one major difference: despite police overtures after the incident, this one was heavily documented. The new mediums that both we and the powers above communicate by have highlighted a number of things: how the Met hasn't changed since De Menezes; different ways to try to sway the opinion of “the public”; and how independent news sources and blogs are more on the pulse of the nation.
The police managed to sabotage their supposed aim of keeping the peace early on. Ignoring the idiocy of naming their operation (Glencoe) after an infamous Highlands massacre, the police tack also smacked of hypocrisy in their liaising with protesters. Outwardly, they were complaining about the “summer of rage”, telling bankers to dress down, lamenting that “violent anarchist groups” from the 90s (that didn't actually exist in the 90s) were reassembling to cause chaos... what better way to prejudice people that putting out the hackneyed idea that protesters were just “intent on coming on to the streets to create public disorder”. I'm sure I don't have to point out what a self-fulfilling prophecy police predicting violence is. Strangest of all was their insistence for protest groups to “talk to them” and keep them in the loop – strange, because in practise the police force were refusing to meet protesters, and also refused to let protest groups attend their press conferences to get their side across. I mean, who was gonna know that the police were rebuffing them all? Papers at that point still blindly listened to police over us normal citizens.
On the day, the major news outlets were poised for a story, and were trying really hard to make the first few hours (before the protests got fully under way) seem interesting – at the start of the day, reporters outnumbered protesters about 10 to 1 in some places. The second there was any form of confrontation, it was reported as “clashes” between police and protesters (a phrase that makes it seem a lot more evenly matched than when a line of police herds protesters around, but still). It was quite telling that from the BBC there was a lot more hype about newsworthy events, like the Space Hijackers APC and the generic “black-clad anarchists” statements, than any attention towards what the protesters were actually there for. The “increasingly ugly mood” in Threadneedle Street was attributed in reports to the protesters, with barely any mention of kettling or disproportionate police force. When it was reported about Ian Tomlinson's (IT's) death, of course again the focus was on how the poor police were trying to help, whilst the unhinged protesters were bottling them – with comments from “pelted with bottles by a screaming mob” (Mirror) to him dying after being “caught among the mob” (Telegraph).
Interestingly, the reports were a lot different coming from the independent, people-run media – just going to show the difference between embedded reporting with a press pass, and actually being a part of the masses proper. Twitter and the blogosphere were awash with people pointing out it was the protesters that helped him along, it was the police that ignored the first calls to help when there was a man down, and so on. Note that, in this disparity, the major media outlets (outside of the Guardian) learnt nothing from the De Menezes affair, and proceeded to quickly publish the “official” version of events for the morning papers.
Cracks started appearing in the official line of “protesters irrational, police did well to keep the peace”, when even less progressive publications such as "The Economist" went against the party line: in an article a few days after the protests, they commented on how indiscriminate the kettling tactic had been, and how the police were not exercising the keen judgement they were trained to. Stories about IT lamented that a non-protester had died, implying that if he were a protester his death would have been more justifiable. BBC News 24 made no mention of the destruction of Climate Camp, and the problems of widespread kettling and unwarranted police violence were widely unreported, though anyone with half a brain to search Youtube and Google would have seen how much the papers had seemingly missed. There is allegation that even when the video came to light showing how IT was in fact illegally assaulted by officers, the BBC refused to report it because it was “just a London story”.
After the video hit the 'net, something interesting happened. Stories of other attacks started emerging, and as time went on articles stopped talking about “apparent” assaults and instead referred to “a police officer beating a man in the head with a riot shield”. Reports started popping up about the government's statement in March about how kettling should be avoided in most circumstances, and started focusing more on the reasons behind the protests and the duties the police should be providing for us. Online news articles even got edited to be more in line with this new “pro-protester” stance... the tide swayed away from blaming the protesters for IT's death, and instead realised that the initial police reports had been at best misguided, and at worst downright lies.
These protests indicated how times have changed since Kevin Gately's death. As has been said, ““traditionally research on the police suggests the main reason why it's extremely difficult to bring officers to book for wrongdoing is that police actions take place in circumstances of low visibility”. The recent upsurge of sousveillance got these incidents of police brutality reported, and have hopefully taught both mainstream media and the rest of us a lesson: never blindly trust the “official” version of events.
April 22, 2009
Ok, sorry this is so close to the deadline. I went to a bbq and got a bit drunk and forgot! Argh. If it doesn't quite follow, that's why. I hope it vaguely makes sense. Right: (word count, 659)
A lot of attention has been paid to the quality of policing at the G20 protests of April 1st-2nd. At first the footage of Ian Tomlinson falling over, as if having been hit, later the footage of the violent action itself, disseminated into the public consciousness. As other accounts and retrospectives in this zine will no doubt attest, the behaviour of the police was poor, and a result of more than just a few ‘rotten apples’. As time goes by more and more questions are being asked of their actions, and rightly so. Furthermore, we can only hope that the public consciousness will begin to think about the sort of society that justifies the brutality witnessed, and reject it as undesirable.
A lot of the rationale behind kettling, the deployment of riot squads, and the way the mainstream media chose to portray the protests is couched in psychology. The weapon of choice is selective, and ideologically loaded, language, with the aim of manipulating both the public response, and the self-assessment of those involved in the protests.
It is important to take a couple of minutes just to think about how our use of language can really close down debate, make entirely contingent events seem inevitable, and help policy absolve itself as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is no secret that words hold immense power. One of the most encouraging stories I have heard come out of the Israel/Palestine conflict in recent years is the existence of a linguistically apolitical radio station, which refuses to use terms such as ‘suicide bomber’, because of how they prime the listener to respond in a certain way, and close down any inquisitive mental response. We are predisposed towards a certain emotional reaction that is not conducive to constructive dialogue. The same is exactly true with the issue of the G20’s policing.
Whilst I don’t want to suggest that using words like ‘brutality’, ‘authoritarian’ and the like are inaccurate when describing the policing of April 1st, they remain hugely loaded ideologically. A lot of what I saw being done to protesters was quite upsetting, but it is too easy to fall into an unhelpful, and frankly stale dichotomy between ‘fascist pigs’ on the one hand, and ‘naive hippies’ or ‘violent anarchists’ on the other. As we all know, the word ‘anarchist’ has been loaded with negative –not to mention inaccurate- connotations by the mainstream media and our political leaders. It is used to denote directionless, obstinate violence. Even worse, people on the moderate left have been sucked into using this word -and politicised tool- in opposition to themselves; the aim being to legitimise their own standpoint. Of course, this attempts to make illegitimate a wholly legitimate ideology, because it serves the interests of the police, and those in the political system to do so.
The same is entirely true of how we consider the police. Even without resorting to words like ‘the pigs’, ‘brutality’ or ‘fascist’, we are in danger of closing down useful discussion by using blanket terms. Surely it is most helpful to facilitate inclusive dialogue about how best to resolve inappropriate police behaviour, rather than alienate sections of society by referring to such behaviour as perpetrated ‘by the police’. There were at least a few police at the protests who clearly sympathised with us, and thought the act of kettling wasn’t fair or appropriate. By making sweeping accusations of brutality, which may apply to many, even the majority, we alienate those officers not culpable of such an offence, and predispose them to stand as a united front with those against whom the accusation does legitimately stand.
The solution is to be specific, and use words intelligently. It does nothing to dilute the communication of our collective anger by using less ideologically charged, and more specific terms. I think it does quite the opposite, in fact. Our message can only be more powerful if it engages others in discussion, rather than shutting intelligent discussion down before we have even finished speaking.
When the police first moved in, the mood changed dramatically as they began to crush a couple of our tents and anything lying in their way. There was a moment of panic and a split-second defining decision of whether we would pack up and clear out or try and resist. After a few seconds of scrambling and fear, we managed to all sit down and begun to sing. It was of the strangest situations I had ever been in. Suddenly we were surrounded by cameras and press, hoping to catch footage of police attacking a group of young peaceful protestors, but all we could do was sing. By this point the one song we’d got down was ‘It’s all you love (Money is all you love)’, a rewording of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ by the Beatles, and we sung this on loop for what felt like forever. It felt as if the only thing that was stopping the police from trampling our tents and disbanding the camp was our incessant singing. Once our throats were raw from the Beatles we moved on to ‘The Green Sustainables’ (also known as ‘The Bare Necessities’) which not only helped calm us down but got people around us to join in. Singing along to the jungle book whilst bordered by a line of threatening-looking riot police just seems to epitomize the ridiculousness of the situation. We were a group of twenty or so young students with colourful make up and fun accessories exercising our right to protest through the medium of song and street theatre, and yet we seemed to pose a big enough threat to merit being kettled by police wearing full riot gear.
Throughout the evening, a few officers began to interact with us, whilst others looked onwards, uncomfortable at the situation. They were tired and wanted to go home, we wanted to make a point against carbon trading and call upon the G20 leaders to take climate change seriously. But once we had become accustomed to the situation, a couple of them seemed to want to engage with us as if we were just a group of people who happened to be sitting by them. However whatever interaction took place between us ceased immediately as soon as an order was given which travelled down the line. Visors went down and straightaway the officers who had previously been joking about wanting to leave and find out the football results became a single force with no rationality or personality. This was one of the scariest things, for they could not be reasoned with, and if they were determined to clear us out, I have no doubt they would have done so.
Much of the footage from that day shows a few seconds of us singing which seems to characterise the carnivalesque and harmless atmosphere that was climate camp before the police decided to go from keeping an eye out for trouble to becoming aggressively threatening. However, what I’ll remember from it will be the four hours where we were sat singing, hearing poems and handing out food, trying to keep our morale up whilst faced with a line of riot police who seemed intent on clamping down on our right to protest.
12pm: I met the Warwick group at Trafalgar Square, dressed ready for the beautifully sunny day. There had been a sense of excitement in the morning armed with flowers and exchanging jokes with fellow protesters or well wishers on the tube.
12:30pm: Having got lost trying to find Climate Camp, myself and three others found ourselves outside the Bank kettle. We snuck under a policemen’s arm and were immersed in what felt like a festival with live music, massive banners and swapping of literature.
2pm: We had moved down with the crowd outside RBS. A drummer was leading chants such as ‘whose streets? Our streets!’ when the police moved in. At this point the window of RBS was smashed, not by black clad anarchists, but by ‘normal’ protesters.
3pm: We started to chalk the walls of the bank of England with messages such as ‘fuck capitalism’ and ‘anarchy is love’, then broke the police line to escape with about 100 other people.
4pm: At Climate camp I met up with the group, who showed us around. It had been organised brilliantly with a recycling point, bike powered music and kids playing hopscotch. I heard about an anarchist squat so went to investigate. On the way I found a group who had forced a Tesco to shut by superglueing their hands to the door and invited us to do the same to the opposite Starbucks. The people at the squat were welcoming and offered us a bed for the night and their phone numbers in case we got into trouble. Unfortunately these people were later arrested when the police stormed it that night. On our way back to Climate Camp we walked passed Bank where the second police line had been moved so far back that it was impossible to see what was happening inside but two injured protester told me that the police had charge with horses and dogs.
6?pm: At Climate camp the police had just kettled the protesters in and were pushing them back smashing up tents and bicycles as they moved, to the shouts of ‘shame on you’. The protesters on either side of the police peacefully sat down and sang whatever came into our heads like ‘the wheels on the bus’. The police tried to move us back so we could not see what they were doing in Climate Camp and when we refused, pulled and kicked us till we were cleared. Finally at 11pm we heard that the police were allowing people out on the other side so walked round to meet up with our friends who had been cadged in.
My day which had started off which such hope for change, with so many people from all over the country calling for the same revolution, had been ruined due to one thing; the disgusting and immoral tactics used by the police during the day. But this does not mean we shouldn’t try again, it just gives us more reason to try harder.