Voluntary Slave | 10.09.2003 15:19
Protesters were better prepared, armed with maps of the area and, unlike the death merchants, not ashamed of their profession, and happy to ask locals for directions. Flexibility (a few busses, a few trains) allowed protesters to arrive at the Excel cenre chilled, while delegates spent about an hour fuming on their static trains.
Flexibility was also key for the protestors participating in the 'Storm the Death Fair' action. The nominal meet-up point was heavily policed, but affinity groups roamd around the area with ease. Where a walkway was blocked, protestors found an alternative street or made their way through bushes, treating the attempts by the police to direct them towards a cordon as the mere inconvenience they were. About 100 protesters found their way to the road leading to the East entrance to Excel, preventing delegates in cars from using that entrance. A few delegates decided to walk to the arms fair, and were ushered into the Excel centre by lines of solicitous police. Protesters made delegates (and the police) aware of just how strongly they disapproved.
While keeping an eye out for arms dealers, protesters kept up their spirits by playing with some pink and silver balls. At some points, the police joined in the fun, discovering that the only way to move a one and a half metre inflatible pink ball from a road is to roll it, and that isn't easy when protesters are rolling from the other side. A game of basketball with a police motorcyclist was an unexpected event, although the police unsportingly soon broke the sports strict non-contact rules.
Policing, of course, is never a non-contact sport, and, after three brutal arrests, where protesters were pushed to the floor and hit (presumably police would say 'subdued') with fists or batons, some protesters decided to move away and regroup for more protesting. The crowd moved as a mass at first, walking slowly in front of police lines in order to keep the road blocked for as long as possible. When the road leading into the Excel centre was finally cleared, however, protesters changed tactics, dispersing into affinity groups to move to new opportunities. Groups slipped away into local estates(where the maze of small streets and closes connected by pedestrian walkways made protestors almost, but not quite, invisible), or confronted police lines (where they met with drawn batons and crowd barriers used as weapons by the police). As of 2.00, protesters were flexible and mobile, adopting diverse tactics to remain ready to take action again against the arms fair. The delegates stuck inside the stuffy conference centre don't know what they're missing.