But when the police decided to stop us, they didn't hesitate to be brutal. We were walking peacefully, at this point there was no violence or stone throwing of any kind, when the mounted police charged us. At the east end of princes street, directly outside Jenners, They charged at least three times, with batons unleashed on the final charge, and while this had been happening they boxed us all in with lines of riot police.
Trapped and panicked by the brutal tactics, things did escalate. I've been on many protests across scotland, and this was by far the most provocative and violent policing I have ever witnessed. They were using snatch squads and all the various techniques that Dissent had warned of. It was like we were miners in the '80s, the tactics were appaling. The officers that I spoke to were generally from London or Manchester, and didn't give the friendly responses that I'm used to from our scottish police (see report on Faslane Blockade to see the other method of policing large groups - I approve!). Violent protestors resisted, uprooting flowers, pulling memorial benches to use as blockades (come on guys, that's dedicated to someone's granny!) and generally making it hard for the police to distinguish between nonviolent protestors and the much smaller number of ruckus-seekers. Eventually, through charges with lines of riot police they trapped us inside Princes Street Gardens East. While this was going on, before the police had cleared the street through charging, I saw a steward pleading with a line of police officers to call an ambulance. There was a protestor unconscious and bleeding from the head, and the police absolutely refused to do anything. They had radios on them (of course), but this entire line of maybe 20/30 cops refused to help. This really sickened me. It fell to my friend to actually call 999 and try to get an ambulance, although they weren't exactly very helpful. I don't know what happened to that man, due to the swarms of riot police who drove us down into the Gardens (which are in a valley that slopes down from Princes Street). I managed to get out the other side before the stormtroopers had secured it, but many of my friends and comrades were trapped inside. The police were very hostile and threatening, barking at people to move arbitrarily from place to place, on what appeared to me to be filthy fascist power-tripping. While milling around, I met another friend, and we spoke to a couple of the good people from Action Medics. They told us how all of the medics have taken off their insignia, as snatch squads have been targeting them in a bid to take out the protestors support networks and infrastructure, all part of their plan to basically crush our protest. Nevertheless, they told us that if we needed help or saw people in need of medical attention to simply shout for a medic and they would come as soon as they were able. There were apparently many of them nearby
People were let out one at a time, with many being photographed and almost all having to provide names and addresses. This appeared to be a deliberate tactic on behalf of the police to take the wind from our sails and effectively contain us in the park.
It took around two hours for my friends to be released, after which we went to Bristo square where the (amazing, brilliant and fantastic) Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army and many others were having a party. This was a celebration, a creative and positive thing, and it was very much the kind of action I like to see. Music, dancing, drumming, singing, making new friends, and all in solidarity against the brutal exploitation of the capitalist system and the (fresh in our minds) brutal tactics of the police.
Around 6.30, a clown got a loudspeaker and announced that there was still trouble down Rose Street way, and that the police were being out of hand. A group of us headed down to witness the events/backup our friends, although this was made exceptionally difficult due to the 'sterile zone' that had been set up. We were greeted with the sight of the central part of princes street, from Jenners in the East to Frederick Street to the west, totally blocked up with literally hundreds of riot police standing in lines along it. Truly frightening to actually see in the peaceful town where I've grown up; it was like being under military occupation.
Eventually we made it to Rose Street, where at the St Andrews Square end there was indeed some serious trouble. There was a line of police officers about 20ft down from the square, and hordes of angry protestors, joined by local youths and flanked by the biggest number of photojournalists and media types I had seen all day. Now Rose Street is a cobbled street, and this appeared to be a tactical error on the part of the polis. Some more angry protestors (who had, admittedly, been brutalised earlier, and hence were considerably more militant by now than they might otherwise have been) started to dig individual bricks out of the street to use as weapons. This technique spread, leading to wide pelting of the police with bricks, and inciting them to charge forward. This was turning ugly, and as I'm against violent protest (because it makes us look like thugs, and because who's going to win in a physical fight, unarmed little me or heavily armored, trained and coordinated police officers? The battle is for people's minds, and for their hearts. Throwing a rock in a cops face doesn't help to achieve that) we decided to get out and head back to the peace-and-love vibe at bristo square.
Although the police response (described by the chief constable as 'robust and proprtionate' - I can assure you that, at least at first, it was out of all proportion) was heinous and made the entire carnival much more volatile, the day was still a powerful moment. The entire central part of town was closed off for most of the day, and many diverse people united to show their genuine opposition to the continuing neoliberal exploitation of our planet.
To all the people at Gleneagles today and taking part in any of the actions still to go, I salute you!
Peace and Solidarity,