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Some thoughts on the G20 police riot

Stay Free | 07.04.2009 17:20 | Policing | Repression | Social Struggles | World

As has been said numerous times now, we need to take stock of the police riot on April 1st 2009 during the G20 protests. Although none of the tactics were that new, the level of intimidation and repression of public protest was entirely something different. I suppose this is the way things will be from now on. With this is mind, it's a time of learning from the past and from the G20 protests.

The police laid the bait and the media ran with it. Where were the 1000's of anarchists (homegrown and from abroad) who would trash the city? The hype surrounding this event was out of this world surpassing even J18 in 1999, Maydays and G8 2005.
The inevitable 'riot' (essentially a pissed-off response to the kettle and antagonism from the police) was small fare. Despite this reality, it became the self-fulfilling prophecy of the media and thus the police. The trashing of RBS from within the kettle by people without any masks was a tragedy. Not because a bank is busted up but because it was an entirely spectacular act that served little tactical purpose. It seems these days that the police are happy to sacrifice a few windows as they seem to stand back and observe events, constantly photographing anything that happens to make arrests later (during raids and on later demos). This was already the case on some the rowdy Gaza demos of early 2009.

The break-outs from the kettles were far more inspiring acts of a protest that wants to defy the repressive logic and practice of the police. Here were friends, strangers etc working together in solidarity against that insistence that we must be the enemies of normality (normality now being recession, redundancies, bail-outs, continuous war and so forth). It was joyful to bust out and see in an instance the powerless of the police and their robotic acting of orders from above.

However, there were times especially early on where a single line of police held in numerous people in the kettle while outside looking in were crowds of 200, 300+. Sadly there was very little cohesion and solidarity from these crowds to realise the frailty of the kettle in these moments. It would have been easy to push them aside, with no possibility of arrest and to make a path to free those kettled behind. These acts are events that happen fairly spontaneously when an opportunity is seen. For those opportunites to arise however we must look out for them. The kettling tactic is getting more and more common and more and more debilitating to social movements in London. It should be realised that the police will attempt to kettle any anti-capitalist demo in the future. Unlike, J18 in 1999 when a large crowd split into 4 mobile marches, G20 was the reverse with the initiave of movement and energy lost by having 4 marches converge at one easily containable location. This was a mistake.

Maybe we need to rethink static demos. We are always subject to kettling and the increasing brutality of the police against anyone (passive or active) if we remain in one place. It makes far more sense for both multiple marches and for demos to stay mobile. With mobility, we keep the advantage of speed and location because the police on the ground have to rely on waiting for orders from above to react. Sometimes, the police are not in control of movement on the ground because they are not used to multiple locations and can't react quick enough to assessments and reports from officers in different locations.

Keeping mobile is something that needs some thought and practice.

As a follow on from the above point about the media hype, it was both amazing and depression to see how many people on the demo were content to take photos of anything and everything without actually contributing to the protest itself. Anytime a police line arrived, then photos were taken. If push and shove happened between a few people and the cops, then 100 people photographed it. You could not escape the point that whereas once you might be on the streets to take the space for ourselves, now people were content to merely own it by photographing it. For what point? To show friends, keep a memory, for Facebook, for Twitter? It was an utterly overwhelming experience to see people now content to only mediate their individual presence on the street instead of being there and feeling the power we had as a collective.

Things need to be re-leant once more. Some times photography on demos is useful. To document arrest or events leading up to arrest. To document police violence, police tactics, police numbers. However, it is totally UNACCEPTABLE to photograph people in the act of resisting the police or resisting the glossy violence of private property (trashing!). Since the Poll Tax riot of 1990 when the media published for the first time pictures of people they wanted to arrest, the presence of photographers has been a contested point. For a few years after this, anyone snapping rioters was seen as a potential aide to the police and told to fuck off or worse if they persisted. This must become standard again. We are talking about photos that will put people in prison.
If people post their images of 'rioters' to Indymedia, Twitter, blogs etc they will be used by the police to make an indentification case for those arrested or those they seek to arrest. The best defence for all is to stop people taking photos of anything that will put someone's liberty at risk.

If you are up for illegal stuff on demos then you have to be masked up. This means all the time unless you have a change of clothes.
Their are two ways to mask up:
1) The right way
2) And the wrong way!!

See photos!!

The anti-capitalist movements that culminated in J18 and Maydays were nearly a decade ago. There is a new movement being created and it's a younger one. The Gaza demos were the first signal that something radical is back on the streets. Yet even that had to learn when to fight back and when not too. i.e not in a police kettle where you have no way out!!
We have to begin talking to each other again. Learning from each other and looking after one and other. Things will be pretty heavy in the next few years and beyond. The G20 police riot shows that we are not living in some liberal democracy with free-flowing freedom of speech. The increasing crackdown on dissent (read: political protest not engaged in pointless marching and petition collecting) is real. We need to stand together and not be divided into 'good' and 'bad' protesters. The police attack on Climate Camp shows that we are all under attack. We need to be asking questions now in our movements and communities about what the police riot at the G2O means.

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Photos to article

07.04.2009 17:59

Graphic image of how mediated the 'riot' was
Graphic image of how mediated the 'riot' was

Photographers in the act of jailing protestor
Photographers in the act of jailing protestor

Kettle ready for breaking
Kettle ready for breaking

These people are anonymous!
These people are anonymous!

These people are not anonymous. They are posing!!
These people are not anonymous. They are posing!!

Photos did not appear. Here they are then.

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