ST | 05.07.2005 01:34 | G8 2005
Occasionally making rushes towards the crowd, screaming "Move back! Move back!" the area of containment was gradually reduced in size. Huge steel gates were erected at the entrance to Hanover Street, directly opposite the RSA, and no one was allowed to leave. Shortly before the gates were closed, more people, who had been watching from Hanover Street, were allowed into the containment area.
Once the area was closed off, the police continued to reduce the size of the area, forcing people to jump fences in Princes Street Gardens, where they were pursued by police weilding batons; I saw several people be smacked back by shields, including one man who was deilberately hit full in the face by a riot shied as he tried to get out of the way of the police, but got trapped by a tree. A number of people tried to shelter from the onslaught of police behind a bench - the bench was torn up by the police, and the people were battered back towards the containment area. I watched one boy climb over the Princes Street garden fence in a state of obvious panic and impale his foot on one of the fence spikes.
Once the gardens were emptied, the police began making rushes into the crowd to remove certain individuals; I watched as one bare-chested man who was shouting peacefully at the police, without making any violent gestures, was beaten with riot shields, knocked to the ground, and was stamped on by a riot boot by a policeman, leaving him with a four inch gash in the flesh of his back.
I watched as a 16 or 17 year old youth was battered to the ground by a group of 8 policemen, cuffed and dragged across the ground to an area behind the riot barrier. What had he done? Thrown a piece of plastic at a riot shield.
I watched as one peaceful protestor, sitting singing songs with others on the steps of the gallery was dragged through the crowd for no apparent reason, cuffed and arrested.
After a period of about half an hour of escalating tension and violence from the police, things simmered down. We were left standing watching the police watching us; the photographers and journalists probably matched the genuine protestors in number; most of the people causing trouble were local youths, school kids who had seen an opportunity for a bit of fun.
As the afternoon wore on, and the police drank from the bottles of water denied to the crowd they'd hemmed in, people gradually relaxed and sat down in the road. By about half past five, an announcement was made that people could leave the area, one by one, having been subject to a full search, being photographed, filmed, and giving full personal details to police.
This wasn't a riot - it was an attempt by a group of police to try and justify their presence in the city; if they had not actively provoked an otherwise entirely peaceful crowd, there would have been no trouble at all. Instead they chose to trap and taunt a group of peaceable people; the only trouble I saw was caused by local kids, not by protestors. There was no Black Bloc, there was no Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army - there was just a group of peaceful protestors, passers-by - and locals kids who wanted to cause trouble.
I left - having photographed scenes you normally only see in the pages of newspapers - absolutely disgusted.