Protests started at around 6.30ish in the evening for the dinner which was scheduled for 7pm. Around the same time a group of 25 cyclists made their way up Park Lane and then turned right at Marble Arch down Bayswater road toward the hotel. Though few in number this itself caused a huge traffic build up and hopefully would have delayed some of the delegates arrival.
They arrived at the hotel which is situated in the middle a huge traffic island and proceeded to do laps around this one way system. After a while the Samba Band dressed in pink and black marched out to join them and stopped right outside the front entrance. This was a mixture of Sheffield and London people I think. People danced and the atmosphere was great.
Then without any warning a line of black clad police charged the band and dancers ramming them up against the barriers they'd erected on the pavement. The cops were unhappy because the band was not in the designated protest area. This all seemed very unnecessary, not least because the road where the band played remainded closed.
The policing was very obviously aggressive. Talking to cops you could tell they weren't happy. Police photographers pointed cameras at everyone all evening to scare and intimidate people. What other point could there be to take photos of the same people over and over again. And then the government get all upset when people wear masks.
In the most violent incident I heard a woman on a bicycle was hit by batton and had to go to hospital with a probable broken arm.
All around the area van loads of cops clad in black obviously looking for a fight. Attempts to just talk to them were often met with pushing and shoving and general aggressive attitudes. I imagine this might have something to do with the massive success of yesterday with so few numbers - somewhat humilating for the police. After spending 2 million on policing (according to a local Newham paper) arms dealers were delayed, paint bombed and the East side of London was gridlocked for a while from the 'street party' if one could call it that. In addition the London Evening Standard's headline was something like 'massive security breach' which referred to around 8 activists who had got into the arms fair with fake passes. Very cool.
They've also been under attack from Liberty and others for invoking the Terrorism laws to search protesters. Ironic to say the least when one considers what the protests are about.
But despite the cops aggro-attitude the crowd remained non-violent throughout. At the attempts to scare and intimidate didn't work. Despite being outnumbered by the mammoth police presence the crowd remained calm and joyous.
I have to say the Samba band was absolutely great and played some great tunes keeping the atmophere really lively and happy. The band really shone out like a beacon of light and completely foiled the cops attempts to create a scary, dark and oppressive atmosphere.
What was perhaps most amazing last night was what can be achieved with so few numbers. We were around 350 at the most then dwindling to perhaps 150 later on.
By about 11pm everyone was ready to go and the cops did their usual trick of penning everyone in. It was a somewhat pointless - I guess they were worried we might go on huge riot or something. People were let out in dribs and drabs pretty quickly though with no searches and or photographing this time.
All in all a great evening that shows that some music and a defiant, unafraid attitude is more important than just pure numbers.