Friday, April 03, 2009
On being kettled
Here is a report from Andy, a Green Party member, on a vigil yesterday (April 2nd), called to remember Ian Tomlinson. It gives us an idea of what it is like to be kettled. It is noticable that police dogs were deployed, although the demonstrators were entirely passive. On April 1st, the riot squad marched at intervals through similarly passive demonstrators. There can only be one reason for this police behaviour: intimidation. And possibly, provocation. This report, and the picture, is copied from Another Green World - thanks Derek.
The vigil was well attended with a good few hundred people paying their respects, and placing personal messages on the boarding placed around a piece of architecture(?) outside the Bank. There was also a bit of a feeding frenzy of press and photographers, obviously looking for another bloody story and maybe some more confrontation between protesters and police. Eventually it appeared that the police might be looking for the same - their response was, like the previous day and in particular in the context of why we had gathered there today, wholly inappropriate.
A minutes silence was held, well observed by all who sat down, downed flags and removed hats to remember the fallen comrade; during the 'silence' the air was punctuated by the sound of police sirens and a helicopter hovering overhead. This was a sign of things to come.
Soon we were kettled in as police encircled the gathering. Police cossacks appeared in a show of force, but left after a while. Some mourners were becoming agitated, and there were chants of 'shame on you' aimed at the police. But there was no violence. However, eventually the police dogs were brought out as an intimidatory tactic, walked around the kettle for a bit then vanned off again. I could later hear them further up the road so I can only assume that other protesters were being harassed elsewhere.
Eventually some protesters decided to leave, but were being searched by the police as they left. The police closed in the kettle as people left and a few of us were left in a small space as the majority succumbed to the search in order to leave. 20 of us remained and sat down refusing to have to be searched. We calmly and peacefully discussed what we would all want to happen, a consensus was reached that we would all refuse to leave if we were to be searched and that we would be prepared to ba arrested. By this time we were just encircled by City of London Police, whose 'superior officer' was invited into the circle to address us. He informed us that a section 60 was in force in the City until 6am. After further discussion we decided that we would all be prepared to stay there until 6am. Further negotiation was attempted to allow us water and toilet facilities, but the request was refused.
By this time a small crowd was beginning to form around us and some people lobbed in some food for us, which was gratefully passed around. It was approaching half past five by now, and more people were gathering outside us, and a few pictures were being taken - the press vultures were still circling (apologies if anyone finds that description speciesist). Bemused city workers leaving work were curiously looking in, and taking a few of their own snaps for the family album. Then, all of a sudden the head copper came and told us that the police were going to let us go without being searched. Just like that. The police dispersed. We cheered and hugged one another as we realised that we had won. We gathered for a group photo and a wall of cameras recorded our joy for posterity. My fear is that this story of peaceful demonstration will be less than a footnote to the last couple of days as the press don't seem to want anything other than bloody anarchy and violence to scream out from their headlines.