Friday, 10 December 2010

On Sunday the 12th of December I will be around in the CHAT BOX from 7pm until 8pm. All welcome for questions / discussion or a nice cosy chat. Your agenda.
This will be a first so, I don't know how it will work out but I hope to see you there.

Kettled in Westminster

Yesterday I set out at 12.15pm to go to the Student demo in Parliament Square. The bus went as far as Lambeth Bridge where I got off and walked to Westminster Square.
I’d arrived at 1pm, as planned, just as the main body of the demo arrived. The assembled people in the square were well behaved and the so were the marchers as they arrived. I noticed that now the entrance at the junction of Whitehall to Westminster Bridge was blocked to pedestrians. At this time the access to Whitehall itself was open.

The police were very calm and had discussions with the protesters. The atmosphere was quite friendly. Word soon spread that now access out of the square into Great George St and Victoria St was closed. The atmosphere slowly changed as people began to realise they were kettled in Parliament Square. Now I was to learn first hand what this was all about. I couldn’t help think that there was something ironic about the venue for my first experience of the practice. At the Victoria end of the square protesters had pushed the police line, who were kettling, abaout 60 yards. Soon horse mounted police arrived and began to advance pushing back the protestors. Fireworks were employed by the protesters at this point and a police rider fell off his horse which then kicked him in the chest. The mounted police simply couldn’t cope and were forced to with draw. Eventually the riot cops held the line after some very heavy handed baton swinging. I remember wondering how the mounted police would feel after being so easily dismissed by a few hundred kids.
After an hour or so of wandering around chatting with folk from all over the UK and overseas students I decide to walk out of the square towards Whitehall and Trafalgar Square. The way was blocked so now we all knew the square was sealed off. We asked why? The answer was that other people were still trying to join the demo and that there were incidents happening nearby and our safety was important. When we further questioned this we were told they had their orders and even if they didn’t understand them they would obey. So they were asking thousands of intelligent young protesters to stay contained on the basis that it was all for their own benefit. We later found out that they didn’t want people to join with protesters in Trafalgar Square. It was not for our benefit but actually a tactical exercise.

Eventually we were allowed to proceed up Whitehall and then a line of police with full riot gear appeared barring our way and telling us we had to go back in the square where by now the police were under attack on all sides when ever they pushed people further into the square. The police in White hall were struggling to push us back because we did resist. All of my feelings about being subject to another’s will and being a prisoner in the streets of my hometown were coming to the surface. It was uncomfortable and new.

I thought the horse mounted police had come to get revenge for being driven back in Victoria St. I had wondered if they might. They pushed us back against the line of police vans blocking off the square. People were being crushed and one young lass next to me was hysterical. She was behaving perfectly lawfully. She was terrified. I admit I was very uneasy and I shouted at a police officer to slow down their advance. I told him there was nowhere to go and people were being crushed against the vans. He ignored all appeals for reason. The young women disappeared and I hoped she was not under the retreating protesters feet. By chance I saw her later and we had a chat. She told me she never would have believed the police would ever be so cold and indifferent.
Soon after a police officer began to push me directly, eyeball to eyeball. It was not pleasant. Like looking into the eyes of a low level robot. I only just managed to keep my footing at times. My personal rugby forward copper gave me a huge push and I still don’t why I did it but I turned round and round on the spot and he and the other officers kind of rolled by me leaving me safe and in space. Just after this it became clear to all that we were totally contained and all hell broke loose in my area. One officer leaned forward as a young guy passed and slashed him on the neck with his baton. Immediately the young guy karate kicked the officer under his visor and chin and he fell to the ground. His fellow officers tried to drag him back but the crowd held them off easily while the young man punched him a couple of times then disappeared. I saw a gap on the nearby low wall that ran to our right and I climbed up on it pulling up a couple of young guys who were as shaken as me by the whole affair. I have never seen young men so utterly unafraid to wade into the police lines when attacked but I never saw an unprovoked attack by a protester.

I have to say that most of the officers present behaved extremely well but I also saw how much damage can be done by the “bad apples”.I made my way back into the square and people were breaking into the Treasury Building while under the full glare of the police helicopter searchlight and police photographers who were with officers diverted to prevent occupation of
the building.

The kettling was a real mood changer and more and more of us began to sympathise with the more extreme protest tactics that followed it. I was angry. I remember one young woman weakly shouting "Whose streets"? I took over in full voice and was immediately gratified by the huge response of "Our streets". I suspect that for a while people were quite happy about the old guy with the big gob as they rested their tired voices.Later a little group of young women asked me if I was o.k. Bless them. Who knows what I looked like in that moment or what my face was saying. I asked them if they were ok and lovely beaming faces told me they were ok but they said that they were cold. I felt warmed by them and then a young guy asked me if I was cool. I was in that moment. We then chatted for some time and he introduced me to his friends who were very nice, ernest young students from Leeds.By now many people had wanted to leave the area for a long time. Many were not dressed for the cold evening or provisioned. We shared what we had. It was dark now and the kettling would last until around 7.45pm. Eventually some of us were allowed to leave our pen via Westminster Bridge where were told we would be decanted. Others were leaving via different routes. This was a lie and we were all held on the bridge for two hours in a biting easterly wind. Eventually we were let go into Waterloo in small groups. We were all captured on video close ups as we walked through a gauntlet of two lines of police from Westminster bridge exit to waterloo station. One officer said sarcastically “ Thanks for coming”. I looked him in the eye and told him - I will be here again but cuts are coming and you might not be. I’d had some ding dong arguments and banter with coppers before we were kettled and it was all taken in a good humoured way on both sides. In the face of chants- "We'll be back" a copper shouted - "Good I earned £400.00 today".
I was feeling very cold and I could hardly put one foot in front of the other after being made to stand for so long in a crowd. Some of us had asked the police guarding our rear to fall back a bit in order to leave a space for people to move around in and they did so but only after the decanting began. We had been held against our will for more than 7 hours. It was 11.15pm when I arrived at Waterloo Station.
I believe that almost all of the violence and damage caused by protesters yesterday was a measured response to police action. Cameron’s statement that “ The protestors were clearly there wanting to pursue violence and damage to property” is not true.In my opinion kettling caused most of the problems yesterday. It is counterproductive to peaceful protest and is probably illegal. No one I met seemed demoralised by the kettleing. Many discussed tactics for the next time. Most of them are really looking forward to Summer and better weather. I think it is evident that we are entering a period of civil unrest if the current underlying causes as well as the effects of cuts to come cannot be addressed. What ever you think about events yesterday ask yourself what great causes of real value to the people in our great democracy were ever achieved with out a fight? Standing in our pen with our jailors, the men and women in blue, I found myself pushing away images that were assembling in my head of the lines of faces peering out from behind the fencing of the nazi camps. It was an awful thing to be penned in only yards away from one of the so called great bastions of democracy and freedom. The times they are a changin’ but… you know what? THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT!

the atmosphere in parliament sq at 1.30 pm

On Sunday the 12th of December I will be around in the CHAT BOX from 7pm until 8pm. All welcome for questions / discussion or a nice cosy chat. Your agenda.

This will be a first so, I don't know how it will work out but I hope to see you there.



Anonymous said...

Hi Edgar
Thanks for the first hand account. For those of us reiant on the media and the interviews with student leaders, politicians and chief police officers it has been difficult to build a picture of what really happened. So it has started then!
The students are starting what I suggest is just the start of us deciding what kind of country we want to live in. Maybe some of the rest of us who are sitting around "tutting" about the dismantling of any form of fairness in our society need to put our heads above the parapet and join in next time. The way things are going I think it wont be too long before student fees are considered "the least" of our problems. What next? Welfare benefits?
Peace? (or not)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your graphic description of events. Well said mate. I will be there next time. Power to the people.

Anonymous said...

How many homeless people can you fit round your dining table? I have worked out I can manage 2.

I wonder what the students will be having for christmas dinner?

Priorites I say!


Anonymous said...

Hey Anon
Good point about homeless at Christmas...........but a totally seperate one. There are loads of homeless organisations could do with help so why not sign up for this christmas.

Meanwhile we are all having our rights erroded and our liberty deminished by the current regime. The students are making their point by legally protesting.


Anonymous said...

Why? Isn't it possible to support the students and the homeless. I am.
You might not like it but the era of mass discontent is here and it will be a battle. Today govt announced that it will be perfectly ok to cut more than half of UK Coastguard centers. Now either these guys have been wasting their lives manning the phones or govt has decided that balancing the books is more important than health and safety. Does this ring a bell with YOU?
The students are the vanguard for what is to come. They are testing and being tested. They are learning how to protest AND survive on the streets and the police are trying to stop them.
We will need them and sooner than later if things proceed at this pace. As previously stated in the original post most great political struggles did not gain momentum with out a fight. This fight is not just about students and I don't care what they have for Christmas dinner. I say have your fill folks and be ready to do battle.
Wake up and join!
Mary and Bob

Anonymous said...

Seems to me like a lot of middle class people are coming out on the side of students and if not whole heartedly for them definitely against kettling.
This is just the beginning and I fear you were right Edgar about how this might unfold going way back.

sorbus said...

Hey Edgar I`ve Just Proposed to Facebook we Make Out Demons Out
The Christmas Number One
I loved Your Quote

"we were told they had their orders and even if they didn’t understand them they would obey"

Keep The Blog Going
BTW I first Saw You Doing Demons in the Glasgow Maryland

Anonymous said...

An ounce of action is worth more than a ton of talk!

Yes lets fight for the students as after all if you get a degree in philosophy you can chat even more about homelessness. Or a Maths degree perhaps then you could work out the percentage of the population that are homeless. Or an English degree then you could write grammatically correct essays about the homeless and so on.

I know it is a seperate issue but thanks non the less for your patronising comments. But you see if you do not have a fixed address you cannot go to university and as your life could be cut short from living on the streets its not even like you could plan for a future at university.

Thanks for suggesting I look at homeless charities to get involved but what I asked was how many homeless people could you fit round your dining table for christmas dinner? I would also be most interested to know what any of you are actually DOING to help the students or anybody. Not what you are talking about but what are you doing. Oh the protest well that went well didn't it - changed a whole lot still it gives people a sense of being part of a group and joining in the party but what in reality are you doing about anything? Who of you can actually say they get down and get their hands dirty?

Mary and Bob you say you are supporting the students and the homeless by doing what? What are you doing? Or are you armchair supporters?

Anyway when I get blocked from posting comments on here that will prove my point.

Jingle all the Way!

Anonymous said...

"An ounce of action is worth more than a ton of talk!" WOW!
How come you talk longest on here? What do you DO that is so special?

Bob and me were at the demo as was Edgar. I am working with homeless people over Christmas so I will be sitting at their table.

Perhaps the person, who you rudely called patronising, suggested you work in a shelter over the holiday because possibly, it would be much better than your planned soiree for three. For all we know you are a lonely soul who is gonna bore the arses off two innocent homeless people at Christmas.
I doubt Edgar will kick you off here though even though we are all probably a little bored with your assumptive and repetitive sermons.

So, don't judge us. You don't know any thing about us.
I wonder why do you think any of us should be answerable to you?
Mary and Bob

Anonymous said...

"But you see if you do not have a fixed address you cannot go to university and as your life could be cut short from living on the streets its not even like you could plan for a future at university".
Patronising guff. We do see. WE KNEW THAT!
Ok Ruth so you are fixated on the homeless. All very laudable but some of us have to be broader than that because we work with other needy groups. You have no right or mandate to lecture any one here about how they should prioritise their charitable action. For example with me it's NSPCC not RSPCA.
Finally re "Anyway when I get blocked from posting comments on here that will prove my point".
Would you like that? I don't think thats how it works here. Like Mary I'll bet Edgar doesn't kick you off. I think you are rude and arrogant and worse, dismissive of people you know nothing about.


Anonymous said...

I am not rude I am just working class but anyway I will not post anymore on here and I apologise if you thought I was being rude but I also thought you all were being rude. Maybe I worded things inappropriately but I guess i believe in freedom of speech and never meant to offend I was merely asking maybe not very politely but I have had so much dealings with protests and socialists etc and I just wanted to find a group of people who practice what they preach maybe you guys do but I wasn't to know unless I asked. What do I do I am a youth worker which is not always easy. I spoke to some of the kids I work with about the whole student thing and they said, mainly, there was no point trying to get to Uni as there were no jobs at the end of it. I found this very sad that they felt they were cast of lifes rubbish heap and hopefully i changed a few of their minds. I even said to them they could do what I did as there was a great need and who better than those who had been a part of it.

edgar broughton said...

Hi Ruth and all
As a former part time youth and community worker I still keep up with what is going on out there. It is unlikely there will be much of a youth service left or any at all in some areas after the final cut. Norfolk is scrapping it's youth service entirely.
Even now much of the current practice is only about an Orwellian style monitoring of young people.
Ruth people here are genuine in my experience. I have met many of them. As a socialist I say let's be fellow travellers together in unity. Getting agreement, among us, as how to proceed and prioritise our energies has always been difficult.
No need for you to stop contributing. Give people a chance and let us find the common ground together. We need to do it now. Time is running. We need to hear the others point of view but lets respect each other.
For the record I have never kicked any one off here except on one occasion when a person used this space to promote and advertise their very personal bias and opposition towards me on their own blog.
So enjoin and keep the comments coming.

And for all of us ....

An obsessive need to be ‘right’ is irrational, but, sadly, very common. For instance, what makes one believe that our neighbours are incompetent to think for themselves and need to be ‘saved’ by our own brand of religion?


Anonymous said...

We are with you Ruth and know how frustrating it all can be. Some times there is a fine line between our perceptions of being challenged and being attacked. I guess we all struggle with this at times.

For my sins I have sometimes worked with police forces and the military. My role was to help assess the suitabilty of shortlisted candidates for high profile top level jobs. I can't say more. I like to think I have been useful there and I am sure I was part of a process that increasingly tries weed out unsuitable personalities. We do what we can lol.
How ever, the mere mention of water cannon and " A more robust approach to protesters" is very disturbing as it indicates a change of mind set and a hardening of broad tactical aims. They have some egg on their faces and they don't like it.
Lets not squabble among ourselves. Lets stand together against at least some of the worst excesses of this Condem regime. I fear worse is to come. Wether we support the uni students or younger students regarding the EMA cuts, the disabled, homeless, the mentally unwell or the multitudes of other vulnerable groups it is the same struggle. If they march we should unite behind all of them and it's healthy to get out in the fresh air.

Anonymous said...

YES ! PAX!!!!
Hugs to Ruth.
Mary and Bob

Anonymous said...

All good. Air it all.
By the way we should all remember not every one is able to say they went on the march for various reasons and not every one can tell us about other political stuff they are involved in.
Hey Sorbus - nice one.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bob & Mary no hard feelings we are all on the same side. I guess christmas always makes it more raw with regard to the homeless.

Thank you Edgar for your kind words I was hoping you would comment. A friend of mine got me in to the whole Edgar Broughton thing I apologise but I had not heard of you before.

Angela I liked your comment about fresh air being good for you it made me laugh amidst all the politics what a refreshing comment cause yes fresh air is good and none of us get enough of it though from what I have read about the demo the air was left with a nasty smell in it. Maybe we should just hold a regular demo and just call it the "We, the people, are not happy with things." It would get attention regarding many issues and maybe I dunno if we all dressed up make it a fun positive thing then more and more people would come forward then who knows what we might achieve.

Yeah I have sometimes worked with the police for my sins mainly doing personality profiles of young offenders - quite harrowing at times but I have had a lot of experience in these matters so it becomes a little like it must be for nurses seeing people die.

Anyway I am on the same side as you guys but I will tone it down a bit. Apologies if I offended anyone. I probably won't be about much as my passion for issues I feel strongly about tends to offend people as I can be quite blunt.