May 10, 2009

Welcome to Systematically Out Of Order: Warwick Students' Experiences of the G20 Protests

Writing about web page

Greetings, and welcome to the blog for Systematically Out Of Order, a zine detailing the story of students from Warwick who were at the G20 protests. Some set up a Climate Camp in the middle of a London street, others joined the protests outside the Bank of England. Between them, they were baton charged by the police, penned in for 5 hours, threatened with arrest and saw a systematic abuse of police power. What follows are their first-hand experiences.

Articles from the zine:

Introduction by Various Artists (text / image)
Legal notes collage by Isobel Tarr (image)
G20 As I Saw It by John Walton (with an inset personal account by Sarah Reader) (text 1 / text 2 / image 1 / image 2)
Choosing Our Words Carefully by Chris Browne (text / image)
We Watch The Watchmen by Sami Wannell (text / image / supporting links)
Attack of the mutant, post-modern kettles of death by Tim Halpin (text / image)
Timeline by Megan Fortune (image)

Other articles:

Statement of intent and hand-out, from Warwick climate camp group
Lyrics from songs sung on the day
Why weren't you expecting it? by Anna Martindale

We welcome discussion, so please comment away! Given the ability of the subject matter to easily anger, please remember to keep discussion respectful and relevant. If you want to discuss the articles with us, come and ask questions on Tuesday of Week 9, at 6pm in SO.21.


Writing about web page

What is the G20?
A self-appointed group of leaders from the 20 'most influential' countries in the world. They met in London on April 1st to discuss the global economic meltdown.

Why were there protests?
Thirty thousand people from many different groups came together with an aim of getting their message to the world leaders: be that message about job cuts, the climate, or about capitalism in general.

What is “kettling”?
A tactic often used to control crowds at football matches. It involves lines of police isolating an area, and not letting people in or out. There are currently legal debates as to whether it's a viable tactic at protests.

Personal accounts:

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 delegitimise 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'. - Isabel Parrott

The mood started to turn as the sun left the sky: at first it felt like a real festival; once we were kettled it became a festival of compulsory fun. Only when the visors came down did things finally get out of hand. I find that quite ironic. If it hadn’t been for the G20 protests I would probably never have seen one of my old friends from Warwick who graduated last year. Thank God for activism! - Chris Browne

dancing to samba band, singing re-worded Beatles songs, compost toilets, sharing food, workshops, talks, giant ethical snakes and ladders, friendly strangers, a quiche point, a mini garden, sunshine, setting up a home, creating a community, being part of something larger, having purpose, an inspiring and informative event, holding fort at camp, maintaining peace, intimidated by police, making fast and democratic decisions, being overwhelmed at such a movement, its cause and effect. - Jesse Meadows

Our thirty-or-so-strong crew planned thoroughly for the event, spending the day before rehearsing environmental covers of West Side Story, Jungle Book and Leonard Cohen songs, making banners and other props, and cooking enough “nutritious and delicious” vegan food to last us all for two days! In order for us to successfully set up camp, we had to ‘swoop’ on the area at precisely 12.30, thus overwhelming the police. Much to our delight, it worked! In great excitement we pitched our tents in the road. True to its sustainable ethos, the camp had compost toilets and a kitchen, but there were also talks and workshops, music and dancing, street theatre and meditation. The peaceful daytime atmosphere did not prevent the police’s desire to destroy the camp, however. There is a lot of online video footage of unprovoked police violence. We sat in a circle an sang ourselves hoarse in an attempt to keep the peace and sustain morale, which was a powerful experience. At midnight, the Warwick contingent agreed to leave the camp as the police had begun forcibly evicting people. Whilst it was tempting to try and hold the camp overnight by passive resistance, this would not have succeeded, considering the force and numeric advantage of the police. The G20 largely neglected the issue of Climate Change, but we shall hold them to their fleeting references: to ‘make the transition towards clean, innovative, resource efficient, low carbon technologies and infrastructure’. Although the main impact of irreversible climate change is a “long-term” one, the natural world and the world’s poorest are already suffering from its effects. I urge everyone to get involved with environmental activism in the months leading up to December’s UN Conference in Copenhagen, which will be absolutely crucial to our success in combating global warming. Climate Camp will be returning to London from August 26-September 2, but perhaps the most important date is December 5, when we will march in London to demand results at Copenhagen. Activism is one of the best means of campaigning, and it is also wicked fun! - Owen Everett

Kettled in the Bank of England, handing out vegan brownies to our fellow protestors, revelling in the atmosphere, I received a phone call telling me my boyfriend was in hospital. Terrified and anxious to get out, I was told they didn’t care if I was pregant, diabetic, epileptic or any number of made-up conditions I peddled to the lines of uncaring faces in riot gear, I would be stuck there until the order came to let us out. I sat on the pavement next to a woman from Scotland called Claire. She was actually pregnant, and had been held in the sunlight without food, water or even a toilet for three hours and counting. Like me, Claire had been separated from her friends after being rammed into the kettle, and had tried without result to use her condition as a ticket out. We walked around the barriers of the kettle for over an hour, until we found a place where the lines were thinning. There was a sudden surge from the crowd, and as the police tightened their lines there was a gap at the side. Trapped protestors poured through. Without hesitation Claire grabbed my hand and shoved her way past, running and not stopping until we were out of breath and as far from the kettle as we could get. She was desperate for the toilet, and being four months pregnant didn’t help. We’d been stuck in with children and the elderly, and the police didn’t even care enough to send in a medic. Of course things eventually got violent. Of course the protest turned ugly. That’s what happens when you treat people like wild animals - the frustration and anger and disenfranchisement already brewing reaches boiling point. I was both proud and amazed that the Climate Camp protestors never responded to the police bullying, and never stooped to violence. I’m not sure I could have been so restrained.

I half-walked half-ran down Threadneedle street after making a wrong turn on my way to Monument station. I held my phone to my ear, locked in an upsetting conversation and struggling with my many bags. I turned my head for a split second, and collided with a police officer. The back of his gloved hand rose up and slapped me across my face. I fell back in shock and my first thought was how lucky I’d been that the truncheon he held had missed me. Another protestor rushed over to help me up, and the policeman, his face covered beneath his riot helmet, his number hidden, walked away without a backwards glance, free from any repercussions as his fellow officers didn’t care, and there was no way I’d recognise him again. My father was a policeman in London when he was my age, and he always taught me that they were there to serve the people and help those in trouble. I don’t think this was the sort of thing he’d had in mind. - Anna Martindale

Inset: Personal account

Writing about web page

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 decision as to whether we should pack up and clear out, or stay. 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.

Over the course of 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.

Sarah Reader

G20 As I Saw It

Writing about web page

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 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, dancing to a pedal-powered reggae sound-system, using the temporary compost toilets... you name it. It was peaceful.

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 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 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, 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.

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 had finished with the protesters at the Bank of England. 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 < 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 < 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 < 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 < 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 < 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 ( 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.

John Walton

Choosing Our Words Carefully

Writing about web page

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.

Chris Browne

We Watch The Watchmen

Writing about web page

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.

Sami Wannell

Useful links (updated May 22nd 09)

Given that the situation is changing every other day, here is a link of relevant news articles to back up the article We Watch The Watchmen


Feb 23rd
Britain faces summer of rage - police

March 21st
£7m to police G20 summit: 'We have to be innovative to match protesters,' says officer in charge

March 23rd
Police 'heavy-handed at protests'

March 26th
G20 anarchists use Google Streetview to target the City
G20 rioters to hang banker effigies from lampposts as city staff are told to wear disguises

March 28th
G20 demonstrators march in London
'Politics should be about people, not profit'
'This is another nail in coffin of capitalism'
Government 'using fear as a weapon to erode civil liberties'

March 29th
35,000 protesters turn out for G20 march in London ... but police arrest just one

March 30th
The challenge of policing the G20
Five held over suspected plot to disrupt G20 summit with explosives stunt

March 31st
G20 summit and protests: live blog
The City prepares for this week's G20 protests (14 pictures)

April 1st
Live: G20 Summit Build-up
Police clash with G20 protesters
Police stop armoured car in London
G20 Summit Protests in London
G20 protests: riot police clash with demonstrators
G20 protests erupt in London (39 pictures)
G20 summit in London: interactive map
G20 protests: Riot police, or rioting police?
G20 Protests: Police, Demonstrators Clash Outside The Bank Of England
Massive Security Steels for G20 Protests
The G20 Protesters
G20 summit in London: interactive map

April 2nd
G20 April 2nd: Raids and Remembrance
The G20 Summit
Man who died during G20 protest was walking home from work
G20 protests: police behaviour "disproportionate and provocative"
G20 protests: 'I don't know who is being protected here'
G20 demo: getting the kettle on
G20 summit: the front pages (24 pictures)
Man dies during G20 protests in London
G20: Questions need to be asked about 'kettling'
G20: The upside of 'kettling'
London G20 Live: As-it-happened

April 3rd
I predict a riot cop
Press release from G20 witnesses to Ian Tomlinson death
UK 'kettling' tactic sparks anger
Protests at the G20 summit
Riot police storm G20 protesters' squats ... as violence spreads to France
Baton charges and kettling: police's G20 crowd control tactics under fire

April 4th
Statement G20 witnesses at Bank demo
G20 death man 'had heart attack'
Police 'assaulted' bystander who died during G20 protests
Pictured: The man who died in G20 violence as he returned home from work

April 5th
G20 activists want public inquiry
Police 'assaulted' bystander who died during G20 protests

April 6th
Police watchdog probing G20 death
Another Death in the City, Another "Misadventure"?
G20: Police question witness to alleged assault on man who died during protests

April 7th
De Menezes taught the Met nothing
Footage shows G20 death man push
Ian Tomlinson death: Guardian video reveals police attack on man who died at G20 protest
G20 police assault revealed in video

April 8th
‘BBC refused Guardian G20 protest vid’ - too much of a London story?
G20 probe officer comes forward
G20 video 'concerns' police chief
G20 London report: Meltdown in the City
G20 death: 41 seconds of video that raise serious questions for police
Ian Tomlinson's G20 death: Now it's time for justice, says family
Ian Tomlinson death: Police officer comes forward to IPCC
Ian Tomlinson death: IPCC takes over inquiry from G20 protests police force

April 9th
G20 police officer is suspended
G20 death: Met police officer breaks cover
G20 assault: how Metropolitan police tried to manage a death
Inquest opens into G20 death of Ian Tomlinson
G20 death: 'Police have failed to learn the lessons of the De Menezes case'
G20 death: Police officer suspended
Inquest opens into G20 death of Ian Tomlinson

April 10th
Ian Tomlinson death: G20 riot officer in footage has not been interviewed
Questions Asked Over Choice of Dr. In G20 Death

April 11th
Pathologist in Ian Tomlinson G20 death case was reprimanded over conduct

April 12th
Ian Tomlinson: three-year wait for G20 death verdict

April 13th

April 14th
Watchdog wrong in G20 CCTV claim
Riddle of missing CCTV as pictures reveal there WERE cameras near G20 death
Police watchdog chief wrong to say no CCTV in area of Ian Tomlinson assault
Police to probe 'woman assault'

April 15th
Met suspends G20 footage officer
The limits of Boris the libertarian
G20 protest videos: Growing catalogue of evidence against police
Metropolitan police officer suspended over attack at G20 death vigil
Met chief orders review of public order policing after G20 protest
Witness describes police 'violence'

April 16th
G20 police receive 145 complaints
New Ian Tomlinson photos show police contact before video clash
Police delete London tourists' photos 'to prevent terrorism'
Police 'kettle' tactic feels the heat

April 17th
G20 officer quizzed over death
Man Knocked Down During G-20 Protest Died of Internal Bleeding, New Autopsy Says
Officer in manslaughter probe over G20 death
Tomlinson: pathology of the truth
Injured G20 protester compares police treatment to Taliban whipping
Tomlinson officer questioned on suspicion of manslaughter
Family seek 'truth' on G20 death

April 18th
G20 death post mortem: IPCC barred
G20 officer 'hit me across face'
New video shows G20 protest clash
G20 death: 'This might have been swept under the rug' - eyewitness
G20 death: Met police officer may face manslaughter charge
Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate third G20 protests incident
Third G20 protests incident referred to Independent Police Complaints Commission
Ian Tomlinson G20 protests death: police officer faces manslaughter charge
G20 policing: how events unfolded

April 19th
IPCC chief to face MPs over G20
IPCC urges crowd control debate
Caught on video... another G20 policeman lashes out at protester
IPCC chief slams tactics of G20 police at demo
New G20 video shows police hitting protesters

April 20th
Police chiefs defend G20 tactics
Police threatened G20 activists with tasers as ex-yard chief blames 'leadership crisis' for aggression
At the core of this policing crisis is a leadership failure
G20 videos won't change the Met
MPs to examine G20 police tactics as new claims emerge
G20 officer ‘pointed Taser at protesters’
G20 protests: Red faces for police over stolen equipment worth £12k
G20 policing: Dee Doocey's motion for MPA
Bishopsgate police officer refuses to give ID number

April 21st
Police removal of ID numbers 'unacceptable', says top watchdog
G20 police action 'unacceptable'
New G20 death post-mortem sought
Minister is 'proud' of G20 police
New G20 death post-mortem agreed
IPCC leader criticised by police
IPCC leader criticised by police
Judge rejects G20 footage ban bid
NUJ to widen legal challenge over G20 police's treatment of journalists
New G20 protests footage exposes police aggression as poll reveals public opposition to tactics
G20 police: A death changes everything

April 22nd
G20 protest footage shows moment Ian Tomlinson's head hit the pavement
Ian Tomlinson G20 death: coroner grants request for third postmortem
Met chief praises police for their 'professional job' at G20 protests

April 23rd
Clean coal push marks reversal of UK energy policy
Miliband's coal decision is cynical and meaningless
Boris Johnson condemns media response to G20 policing
G20 policing: a letter to the Standard

April 24th
G20 policing: Jenny Jones on the MPA's duty to Londoners
G20 policing: Mayor and Met seek to claw back credibility
Bank seeks £40,000 compensation from teenage G20 protester
G20 policing: Stephenson on "intrusive supervision"
G20 policing: Tomlinson's head wound
G20 policing: Labour's MPA motion

April 25th
Editorial... Police and protest: failure of intelligence

April 26th
G20 police blog boasts about a 'good kicking'
Police violence and death: an old story

May 1st
Police officer who posted sick online message about man who died in G20 protest resigns

May 5th
So you think young people don't care about politics?

May 10th
G20 police 'used undercover men to incite crowds'

May 12th
Video: from Home Affairs Select Committee, on the G20 protests

May 13th
Police chief rejects G20 protest 'trial by press'

May 15th
Police G20 media response probed
Police complaints body launches new inquiry into Tomlinson death
IPCC begins inquiry into Ian Tomlinson death during G20 protests
liberty central's civil liberties hero of the week: The Lib Dems' G20 observers
Timeline: the death of Ian Tomlinson

May 18th
Dee Doocey AM on G20 policing and 2012 Olympics legacy

May 19th
Met commissioner admits concerns over G20 policing

May 22nd
You Are Being Watched

May 28th
G20 policing: frustration at the MPA

General stuff:

flickr pics
Twitter stuff on the g20: part one / part two / general overview of most relevant comments / pictures
Climate Camp legal docs
Have Your Say on the police
Kettle the Met (Facebook)
Police brutality and BBC negligence (Facebook)
United Campaign Against Police Violence / United Campaign Against Police Violence (Facebook)
Defend Peaceful Protest / Defend Peaceful Protest (Facebook)
Blog for the violence people saw on the day
g20 Meltdown
Bill Maloney gives the BBC what for (on police distraction techniques, the BBC misreporting, how the rich leech off the poor, and being able to say "cunt" on TV)
Fitwatch (containing the quote "We were doing our job, we were doing what we were told and we were getting on with it and we were doing exactly what we were trained to do. If you don't agree with the training then fine, but don't try and persecute us for doing what we are trained to do just because you don't like how it looks")
Police message board
Injury and Injustice – A report on protest policing at the London G20 (compiled by Defend Peaceful Protest)
Petition to stop kettling

Attack of the mutant, post–modern kettles of death

Writing about web page

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” ( BBC para. 11), the police physically ‘kettled’ protesters into a carefully controlled, ‘sterile’ area. In the same way, but more efficiently, the rolling news channels ‘short-circuiting’ the representation the protesters are trying to achieve until “it is the event of news coverage that substitutes itself for coverage of the event” (Baudrillard 2005, 133). The continued coverage of police brutality and abuse of power against the protesters (whilst in itself important) only adds to the impression that the ‘story’ was that of protesters vs. police, or at best free speech vs. censorship. The tragedy is that this kind of legitimisation of protest (whether through putting protesters in pens or writing them into pigeon-holes) is a much more effective form of censorship than a secret police would ever achieve.

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.

Timothy Halpin

Works Cited

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, BBC News 20 March 2009. 10 April 2009.

Most recent comments

  • Insightful piece. I'm sorry you were lef feeling pretty traumatised by it, i don't blame you. Appara… by no NWO on this entry
  • [contd from above] If this is accepted as the case, we will have shifted the terrain of our discussi… by Michael Levinson on this entry
  • [contd from above] 3. "There is no problem with people having peaceful protests, but some of those a… by Michael Levinson on this entry
  • [contd from above] 2. "Some individual policemen might have lashed out, but basically most of them w… by Michael Levinson on this entry
  • In the weeks since the G20 demonstrations on April 1, I often had the feeling that my discussions ab… by Michael Levinson on this entry

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