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Protest 2010: Into the Spectacle

KID | 22.12.2010 15:59 | G20 London Summit | Analysis | Policing | Public sector cuts | Repression

The use of agent provocateurs at the London Student Demonstrations 2010, and the key photo ops that came out of it. The Hammer Gang, and others, not only attacked innocent demonstrators with hammers, but lead 1] right-wing newspaper photo-ops 2] a campaign of entrapment. Time to fight back!

The London Student Protests of 2010 were great events in the protest calendar; real moments of inspiration, ingenuity and energy which haven’t been seen since the 1990’s, and the progressing in a series which started with the London G20. However, what these protests have also revealed is the devious nature of the Spectacle (from Guy DeBord’s Society of the Spectacle), and its very control of the images and events that have been broadcast out to the masses of people at home. And these images and events, in some cases, have been engineered and constructed using agent provocateurs, to create those “perfect protest images”, the anger, the smashed glass, the hooded figures. Their purpose has been to orchestrated to undermine, sensationalise and win some crucial political points for more attacks on our civil liberties in the new year. Welcome to Protest 2010.

Image One: Attack on Tory HQ
What would have been just another march, turned out to be a little more exciting, when some anarchists stormed the Millbank Centre, taking the roof and flying the good-old Red and Black. A buzz of excitement was created which channeled the crowd to break away from the prescribed route and enjoy the free-space created by the disorder. However, the police commanders must have been ready for some sort of commotion, because the fantastic photo-genic window-breakers arrived on the scene to please the press. Remember G20 and the RBS window, the great photo op, with the pressing semi-circle of press photographers and the series of “protesters” (read agent provocateurs) throwing things into glass window, which saw a number of unwary people getting nicked for the offence (eg Mindaugus Lenartavicius []). Now look at the Tory HQ window smashing episode – note: 1] the semi-circle of press photographers while a line of police look on in the background; 2] the exact same image is used on all the front pages of the newspapers, never mind some of the more interesting ones which came out of the protest. Check the link:

Image Two: The Mysterious Police Van
The mysterious rusty old police van was abandoned in the middle of the Whitehall kettle, which is left alone by the majority of the crowd, until an enterprising bunch of hooded figures emerges to take on their new media prop. They start bullying the people around the van, pushing those who are protecting it and threatening violence on anyone getting in their way. Call over the press, and hey presto, a riot scene for the approved-violence paparazzi snappers; later a ring of savvy school-girls form a human chain round the van to protect it from the morose machismo of the agent provocateurs. Check out Peter Marshall’s “Riot Girls?” blog and photos:

“I was threatened while taking pictures like this one that I had better move away or they would smash my camera. I had my suspicions that at least one of this group might be an agent provocateur, one of a number of student and ex-student protesters in the pay of the police. There is at least one such young man who I regularly see at protests, but I couldn’t see him. Another who had deceived all his friends for years and encouraged vandalism and illegal acts at a number of protests was unmasked a couple of months ago, and there are almost certainly others still in most activist groups.” Ref: Peter Marshall [] “Riot Girls?”

The Hammer Gang
Reports keep surfacing about a Hammer Gang during the main London demo on the 9th December. A group of hooded youths, who attack protesters and independent TV crews during the demo, while the police watch on; their attacks are violent as they attack one person after another, including pulling out a hammer and hitting people with it. This is a new low for the Met police and their agent provocateurs, and demonstrates a new strategy of inflicting violence from within, while the police batter people from the outside. This new tactic is both disgusting and dangerous; remember Ian Tomlinson, who was killed during the G20, by the mighty posturing of the TSG (the elite riot squads who maximize human damage). This physical attack on protestors is certainly not any anarchist group, and the chain of events which the Hammer Gang participate, show themselves to be a planned group, not a bunch of “feral youths” suggested by some. Their purpose: 1] Make life unpleasant for the protesters using fear and violence; 2] Provide some enduring images for the right-wing press; 3] A means of entrapment, by drawing in unwary, angry people and inciting them to damage property or attack the police. Here are some accounts:

1] Make life unpleasant for the protesters using fear and violence

“Not much later another gang of youths appeared but this time there were about twenty of them. They were picking people out and beating them with sticks. When there victim fell to the ground they continued to kick them. They only stopped for three reasons. 1) Their victim escaped 2) their victim had stopped moving or 3) someone had tried to stop them and had then become their new target. These weren’t protesters. They were animals looking to hurt the weaker. If they were brave men they would have fought the police on the frontline. But no, they attack their peers instead, the people they’re meant to be united with. I witnessed them do this to five people, including two people that I know. It was distressful and one of the most shocking and upsetting things I have ever seen.” [Ayden -]


“When the kettle had gone into effect my friends and I wandered aimlessly. Suddenly a commotion erupted nearby. Youths wearing ski-masks and raised hoods were attacking a reporting crew. We watched as they threw a cameraman to the floor, where he received kicks and blows. Believing the attackers simply to be angry protestors, I confronted one youth. He was not wearing a ski mask, but his mouth and nose were covered. He was about 15, and a lot smaller than me. He shot me a look that sent a shiver down by spine. But he weighed his options, and backed off. I got lucky. As other protestors confronted the remaining youths, there was a sudden palpable rush of fear. We all saw the hammer come out. Everybody took a step backward. For a few terrible seconds, I thought I was about to witness a murder. Mercifully, the situation defused as quickly as it began. Somebody with a leveller and braver head than mine calmly shouted to “put the hammer away, mate” – and away it went. The gang ran off, to another part of the kettle.” [Paul Sagar:]


The press tv crew were attacked by men wearing ski masks .What is interesting is at the beginning of this video they point out that about 20 people in ski masks are given free reign to attack students in parliament square . Part of the same crew of government agents involved in the staged attack no doubt . ... _embedded#!

2] Provide some enduring images for the right-wing press

So while the main body of the demonstration is kettled at Parliament Square, a breakaway group forms, made up off pissed off protesters cut off from the main demo, and a bloc of the agent provocateurs, including the Hammer Gang. They rampage through Oxford Street, and smash in the windows of TopShop. What is interesting is that not a lot of images have come out on this incident. But a friend was in Topshop at the time, shopping (as you do), and saw the commotion; they also took a few photos of the damaged windows and the protest group. The Topshop windows were well and truly smashed, and scrawled over one window was “Pay Your Tax”, and on other windows appeared A4 paper signs which read: “Tax Dodgers”, and the like seen at recent peaceful UK Uncut demos. What’s interesting is that demonstrators from the student demo would conveniently have Uncut propaganda on them, ready for a strike on the West End. Secondly, some of the smashes in the window have a nice perfectly round hole in the centre of them, not the usual break seen with the old rubbish bin lob; the implement? You guessed it, probably the good old Hammer. My friend states that a ton of riot police vans turn up, shields and batons ready, and form an orderly line, while the “feral youth” and protestors shout and break things. This is certainly more respect than shown to the peaceful demonstrators down the road, who have been battoned, horse-charged, kept in a concentration-camp-style kettle. The police outnumber the “protesters” but nothing is done, just a little moving back and forth.

Charles and Camilla – Long live the King!
So a marauding group of agents and their unwitting prey are on the move in the West End. Que the Royal motorcade, with Charles and Camilla wishing all a Merry Christmas. They approach the mob, and slow down, their royal guard nowhere to be seen, and Camilla opens her window, just what I’d do if I was a Royal. Some great in-depth commentary on the event on the Aangirfan blog: (

However the Met rent-a-mob are the key perpetrators again, the Hammer Gang. They are not your average band of protestors, more like football hooligans or EDL-types, as noted by Aangirfan: “The chants of 'off with their heads' as the 'incident' took place actually sounded more like the Bullingdon Club 'scoundrels' than protest movement activists to me...”

And another reference comes from the Vigilant Citizen discussion board:

“It's not the Royal family that organised this attack, it will be the shadow faction at work.
Check out the comparison video. Here's a few of the 20 agent provocateurs being caught filmed in Parliament Sq, they are in black and grey fleece/hoodies. They clearly don't want to be filmed and attack the film crew who will have the best quality camera's, considering they are wearing ski-masks why bother attacking the TV crew if they're just regular demonstrators or anarchists, what have they got to hide? Now the footage of the car attack, you will notice there are a few in, you guessed it, black and grey hoods/fleeces. [ ... erges.html]”

So What?

So, many of us are well aware of the devious nature of the State and its agents, and Capitalism’s mouthpiece, the press. However, orchestrated attacks from within demonstrations are a new way of weakening the right to assemble and make a demonstration a fearful place, which it should never be. I suggest a number of ways that we should counter this threat:

1] Solidarity: that is our strength in demonstrations and in the accounts shows how effective it can be in deterring violent agent provocateurs. Everyone should rush to help, and be ready to neutralize the threat they pose to fellow demonstrators.
2] Intelligence: It would be good to know who this “demo squad” are. Intelligence about these agent provocateurs should be circulated (on confidential notice-boards) and action taken to ensure that they do not attend future demonstrations, or are identified when they do.
3] Counter: anarchist affinity groups should have strategies for taking on such Gangs in the future; our job is to protect those attending demonstration against State violence (eg Book Bloc), as well as taking strategic actions, such as shutting down “press-friendly” photo-shoots. This new threat is something which needs consideration in countering.
4] BE-AWARE: Those attending demonstrations be careful of setups, they could land you with lots of unwanted attention. Much like the current FBI operations in terrorist entrapment, the agent provocateurs are there to set up patsy’s, who the police will film, arrest, prosecute and harass. Stick to affinity groups for actions, and beware of being sucked into “angry mobs”.

The media frenzy has now turned its attention to the “feral youth” at the demonstration as the police have started to push through new legislation which will allow them to arrest youth who wear any “gang colours” in certain areas. Their case will not go to court, but they will go straight to jail, simply for wearing a type of hat, colour. It’s the latest in a series of moves to attack our civil liberties and criminalise youth in general. And their pretext is a perfectly orchestrated “riot”.

Take care out there. Unity is Strength, and Solidarity with all on the streets.