A personal account of police tactics on November 9th Student protest by Tyler Perkin.
On the lead up to Wednesday’s vibrant Student march, the police were not preparing for violence, they were preparing to be violent.
The day before the protest, I received an odd surprise, a letter from the Metropolitan police warning me not to be “violent” or “anti-social” and if I were to, they would “at the earliest opportunity arrest and place me before court”. Why? On March 26th I was arrested together with 145 activists at Fortnum and Mason following a peaceful occupation against their tax avoidance and illegal donations to the Conservative party. Even though my charge has since been dropped, the police feel I still deserve a space on their alarming protester database, in fact, the letters were sent to anyone arrested in connection to anti-austerity protest offences even if they were later cleared or charges were dropped.
This was a disgusting and horrible attempt by the Met to scare people out of our supposed democratic right to protest and I can proudly say it backfired, it only urged me on to attend the demonstration and secured further embarrassment for the Met. After all, we have to remind ourselves that the same people who sent this letter are prepared to shoot children with rubber bullets, which in my eyes makes the letter invalid. Unfortunately a return address wasn’t attached to the letter, otherwise I would’ve returned it to Commander Simon Pountain, kindly suggesting he should distribute it within the force.
As I approached the student demonstration yesterday, I was greeted by thousands of protesters, all determined to get our point across and all undeterred by the police. The atmosphere and vibe was out of this world, drums were playing, spirits were high and the defiant chants echoed though the streets of Bloomsbury as loud as they’d ever been. The amazing sight of placards and pure intent amongst protesters was a total contrast to the police, who had come out in disproportionate force. As we marched along the route, the police were out in their thousands, lining almost every single road and building with a strong line of police, we were in a moving kettle, lead by police horses at the front and trapped by riot vans at the back.
What I particularly found worrying is that the police had decided to kettle Sparks electrician workers protesting over pay cuts when their companies are making record profits. This news quickly spread around the march, thousands tried to reach the kettle but we were blocked off with lines of police, police horses, riot vans and even crowd control barriers. Shortly after this moment, I witnessed a scuffle, it seemed the police randomly snatched a protester (this happened many times throughout the day) as I tried to picture it, officer LX 102 decided it was appropriate to drag me away and almost push me to the floor, he also grabbed a girl standing next to me and reduced her to tears, he did not care, with the likes of the IPCC, he wouldn’t get punished for it anyway.
As we approached the end of the march at Moorgate, where police had already put in place a ‘open’ containment, it seemed they had set up a temporary museum of intimidation, with police dogs and horses blocking one side and riot police blocking the other. As I was listening to speeches within the containment, I noticed some drama in the corner of my eye, undercover police officers separated from a crowd of protesters and snatched a guy, seemingly for wearing black. I tried to take pictures but riot police rushed in and created unneeded panic. I managed to keep an eye on where they walked off to, and spotted them next to a riot van located behind a line of police. I reached for my camera, but the four officers in front of me realised what I was doing, they were blocking my view and kept on telling me to get the camera away, I reminded them that I’m allowed to take pictures, they didn’t accept this. “I’m warning you get the camera out of my face” shouted one, I kindly reminded him that I was allowed pictures and I was standing about two foot back, no where near his face, I also suggested that it all could be prevented if they didn’t send in undercover officers.
After struggling for about one minute, I finally managed to get the photos, the officers in front of me seemed to get extremely agitated. One warned me not to post pictures “all over the internet” as it would “infringe their job”. I decided to ignore his warning, if police want to use extreme tactics to crush our protests, I, and many others will do whatever it takes to expose them. You can see the pictures I took here, they show undercover officers, one wearing a scarf/balaclava changing into police uniform.
The police are going to extraordinary lengths to scare us off the streets, but I want to send a clear message to them. No matter how much you try to suppress us, we will never be silenced, we will never be stopped and we will continue to expose your true colours in whatever way possible. Any attack on our right to protest is a much bigger crime than any protester will ever be convicted for.
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