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On the Ground: eye witness reports from Sack Parliament

Oscar Beard | 11.10.2006 22:17 | SOCPA | Anti-militarism | Repression | London | World

By Friday October 6 in this foul year of our Lord 2006 it was already labelled a riot across nearly every Rupert Murdoch freebee newspaper and every copy of the Evening Slander in the city. In the spirit of the war on terror fearful names were back in the mainstream headlines again. No, not Al Qaeda. Not even the IRA. Nor the Fathers for Justice gone rabid or militant pro-fox hunting farmers armed with fire works and tweed jackets. No. This time it was the Wombles. Violent anarchists. Masked anti-capitalists intent on destroying parliament and pulling the plug on UK democracy.

At least that is the way the press put it across. And probably that was what Commander Bob Broadhurst was thinking. Or at least expected: “We cannot take the risk of allowing people to disrupt the democratic process and we will be robust in dealing with them,” he said.

Indeed. And in the spirit of a free and democratic society, Broadhurst announced anyone protesting without permission from the very authority they were opposing would face 800 police and riot squads.

Police intelligence had been gathering evidence for weeks. Yet most of that intelligence gathering seemed to be grabbing posts from the UK Indymedia website. Were they really looking for people appearing from Westminster Tube station wearing white overalls, donning motorcycle helmets and taping mineral water bottles to themselves?

The Evening Slander reported the Wombles - White Overall Movement Building Liberations through Effective Struggle – were behind the trashing of the UK capital in the 2000 and 2001 Mayday protests, and “were among anarchists groups who ran riot on the first day of the G8 summit at Gleneagles”.

For this hack this comes as a strange comment to make, as I was there and did not see one white overall. In fact the anarchist contingent in Edinburgh and Auchterader was small in comparison with other previous protests against the G8 greedheads. And the only violence I saw was people in black hoodies being beaten by police with batons for carrying a large strip of carpet. The violence shocked, horrified and angered local Scottish people so much that it caused a second riot in the evening between Edinburgh locals and the London Metropolitan police.

But that is the past now. A long time ago. And it seems so much has changed since then. That much is true. But not that much.

So when I exited Westminster station around 11.30am to find people, many innocent bystanders, being searched and some already being carted off in police vans, it came as no surprise. Young kids, whose crime it was to wear a Che Guevara T-shirt or have long hair, were stopped, surrounded by groups of police and searched.

Hundreds of police were already positioned around Parliament Square, barriers were erected all around the palace of Westminster and it seemed every single Forward Intelligence Team in the city had been assigned to protect democracy. Every entrance to the square was a mini car park for police trooper transport vans.

Just after 1pm the protestors gathered, the ones who managed to get through the huge and highly expensive security operation that is.

Within minutes an officer yelled, “Hold the line, hold the line.”

A group of protestors tried to break through the police line between them and parliament and were stomped on and pushed back in seconds. The traffic didn’t even stop. Protestors fell left and right. One police officer grabbed veteran photojournalist Mark Vallée, who was some three metres from any sign of trouble, and threw him across the street. Vallée fell bad on the pavement and was seen to be visibly shaken when he was helped up. Minutes later he had collapsed with breathing difficulties and was rushed to hospital. It was about this time I received a telephone call saying riot police on horses had been spotted arming up in the parliament gardens.

From here on it was pretty much dictated by one side how this show was going to play out. And that side wasn’t holding banners. The police outnumbered the protesters somewhere in the region of six-to-one. After one further attempt to get past the growing wall of police the protest was completely surrounded.

Others on the square, even some who had nothing to do with the protest, were picked up, dragged, shoved and thrown into the police cordon. One man, as he was hauled across the green, could be heard laughing at the situation: “I’m just having a beer,” he said.

Then the snatch-and-grabs started, targeting very specific individuals inside the police bubble. A large team of police and FIT officers would enter the cordon, target the individual, make a grab and drag them out whilst the surrounding police pushed back anyone trying to interfere with the operation.

This tactic worked at least three times. Then a group of protestors attempted to block the grabs by linking arms and surrounding the next suspected target. This would have worked. But with the police capable of turning to physical force and violence at any time, and get away with it - any protestor acting in a similar manner would be immediately arrested for assault - the advantage clearly went to the yellow-coats.

They stormed in with no regard for health or safety of individuals, broke the protestors protection bubble, went straight for the target and could be seen pummelling the poor bastard to the ground. Like a chow-down scene in some low-budget zombie movie, while other officers violently shoved protestors and photojournalists out the way.

The snatch-and-grab was then dropped, as it was starting to fail and face increasing resistance from angered protestors. One officer on the edge of the cordon held aloft a megaphone and demanded, “The man with the beard, step forward now.”

For a second I thought he meant me. The laughing could probably be heard inside the reconvening parliament. People were shouting I’m Spartacus, no, I’m Spartacus.

The afternoon descended into a dull masquerade of police lines, new cordons that were dismantled by senior officers as soon as they organised them, and mind-numbingly boring procedure of taking names and addresses of the corralled people, a good few of who turned out to be registered photo and video journalists. More arrests occurred, but now the arrests were quiet and peaceful, completely in the control of the police.

The now infamous Superintendent Terry spent most the afternoon in a loudspeaker van barking out legislation, after his attempts at being on the ground failed miserably because of the Parliament Square peace-Rottweiller Brian Haw chasing him around every second with questions, legal quotes and friendly advice about his alleged keenness to condone the assault of women.

But then it spiralled down into trouble again. As police frog-marched one arrestee with his arms tightly behind his back to a waiting van, already half-bowing for mercy, another young man in a woolly hat next to the rear of the van disappeared under the bodies of three huge Russian-style officers of the law. He reappeared seconds later with the wind visibly forced from his lungs and lips red from blood.

Some asked, “what did he do?”

The answer came back, “Tried to let the tyres down.”

Sure, if that really was what he was doing, it was stupid. But did it really need three wild bear thugs, probably a combined weight of 40 stone, to jump on his back and crush him to the point the kid squeezed juice?

Yes indeed. Democracy did prosper that day for about 16 minutes. But the prosperity was lost under the boots of over 300 of her Majesty’s finest. The police won this one hands down, but still managed to look pretty damn stupid doing it. Violent too.

The open-roof tour buses must have made a killing on Monday 9 October. There’s a riot going on outside parliament, £20 a ticket. Let’s go.

As for the riot police, they never appeared. After Marc Vallée was injured the policing took a visible change. As visible as the Roman and medieval, almost Gladiator, battle tactics used in the snatch-and-grab attacks on the surrounded protestors. Had the police really been issued with Russell Crop movies to study in some freakish manner?

No, the mounted contingent in parliament’s garden never materialised. Nor did any other riot police. But one group was spotted, looking somewhat lost, patrolling up and down along the Whitehall exit into Trafalgar Square with shields, helmets, body armour and batons.

Democracy was protected. Protected by halting a relatively peaceful protest of 150 to 200 people that demanded something to change in the course the governing forces had set for all of us, at that moment in geo-political history.

But this hack can put it down right here, as the authorities already know I have a rapidly declining opinion of authority in this country – it’s up there in my file right next to the facial recognition data – I do not believe, nor ever will, that peaceful protest should ever ask for permission. Especially from those the protesters are against so restrictions of size and time limit can be imposed on the opposition. The point of protest is to halt the on-going process and make the population aware of what ids going on and why. But that cannot happen when you are surrounded by 300 yellow-coats.

No, for now, the horizon looks bad in the UK. Parliament reconvened and went back to business as usual. They started working immediately on the Legislative Reform Bill and Police and Justice Bill. The Bicycle Registration Bill slipped in there too. And today an emergency convening over the North Korea nuclear test massed at 3.30pm.

Things did not look good. But it was always known to get worse before it got better. As one protestor on that doomed day of 9 October 2006 said: “You have war abroad you have war at home.”

Oscar Beard
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I am the king of the fools

12.10.2006 00:18

That stupid young man, was me. and I am ashamed to say this was not one o the cleverest things i have ever done, quite likely the dumbest.
I saw a protester carried head down by two police officers, in a really violent manner, They threw him in the van, and went to grub some other people.
I felt i had to do something and quick to show my frustration, In a time period of about a second, two things went threw my mind, one was to give a great strong kick to the van, the other was to take the cap of the wheel, I chose the latter for reasons i still cannot understand.
I have learnt that in situations like these, where I have act without thinking, I really don't think. I am writing this with my head hanging low of shame, although i have learned a valuable lesson about myself, I am an idiot!
From when i got to the van, to when i was released, I constantly asked to see a medic, to record my injury, I did not get to see one, although I did get a chance to record it on the form for medical conditions...
When i did speak to one of the officers in front of a desk, I've told him about it. he asked how did it happen, i replied that 3 police officers jumped on me, to which he said that i was resisting arrest, “No 3 officers jumped on me” I said, but he heard something about being jammed in a gate!
Also to anyone being charged with organising the event:
when i was in the station I've heard how the due process was followed by police man CX44, He was talking about how to match protester with a charge in a really hasty manner, something like we'll do this with organising and this with something else, I can't for the life of me remember the word he used but is was almost like saying he's going to stitch people up.
Also If anyone has footage of me doing this, i would appreciate if he masked my face up, or even cut the stupid bit off and throw it down the memory hole.

Someone who is too ashamed to even use his nick name