There was a large police presence outside the Sheraton hotel this morning. A line of yellow coated police blocked the front of festival square. West approach road was blocked by vans and police at the junction with Lothian Road.
A few police with small metal barriers had the junction of the Morrison Link road and West approach road blocked, apparently only to stop traffic from entering West Approach road.
From the bridge carrying Morrison Street over West Approach road, a considerable line of police, supported by a video team, could be seen. They where blocking West Approach Road, facing south west, and just to the south west of the exit from a covered car park.
When a group of around 30-40 protestors moved slowly along Morrision Street, they were initally able to enter the exit road of a car park (which is around 10-20 yards west of the junction of Morrison Street and Semple Street). The police quickly deployed around 20 short shield, and a few yellow jackets, a camera team and some blue and yellow jackets. The group of around 10 protestors retreated from the exit road to the car park after a few minutes, and the police quickly moved to block it off. It is not clear how concerned the police where about allowing the protestors to continue into the car park, they made no attempt to stop them from doing so. They also made no attempt to block the protestors in the exit road, but this may have been because around 20 more protestors where standing around the junction of the exit road and Morrison Street.
The police then continued to deploy until all of the entrances to the Sheraton Hotel Complex from Morrison Street where heavily blocked.
All of the walkways into the Sheraton Hotel Complex had police stationed on them, who appeared only to be letting employees with passes through.
Several Roads on the north west side of West Approach Road had been blocked with mobile road blocking equipment. The Equipment consisted of a trailer carrying a high foldout metal fence, towed by a landrover type vehical. One of the blocked roads was Canning Street at position just to the South East of Atholl Cresent lane. Only a very small number of police where present at this block, varying between 3 and 5 at different times between 6am and 9am (however, this reporter has been unable to find out if anyone was able to observer this block durring the periods when delegates where actually being moved).
At just after 6am a blue bus was seen parked on Lothian Road next to festival square. Observers at the time supposed that this was a decoy bus, placed by police to make it appear that delegates would try to leave via the heavily defended (around 15 police vans, some white, some blue, at this time) front entrance. It is belived by this reporter that the blue bus was taken along west approach road into the Sheraton Hotel's car park sometime between 6:15am and 6:45am
Several National Express buses, with the destinations of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and possibly other destinations, where seen entering West Approach Road from Lothian Road - police vans moved out of the way to allow this. The buses entered West Approach Road between just before 7am and around 8:45am. It seems that they entered one at a time, at spread out intervals although this reporter only observered some of them directly.
Several people in the area reported that the National Express Buses drove down West Approach Road and entered the Sheraton's covered car park.
It seems that either one or two National Express buses where able to leave the Car Park bettween about 7am and 7:45am.
Observers belived that one of the buses contained delegates. It is possible that the other national express bus, observed around that time did not leave from the Sheraton.
At just before 8:00am, by observing the behavior of a bus, a small group of protesters managed to run and position themselves at the corner of Torphichen Place and Morrison Street. Approximately 4 protestors blocked a national express bus which was travelling west on Morrison Street and 2 protestors managed to block a national express bus heading south on Torphichen Place.
The buses had reached the junction at the same time. The bus traveling west on Morrison Street had only a small number of people in it. It is unclear if they where delegates. The bus traveling south on Torphichen Steet was full of what appeared to be delegates.
There where a large number of yellow and black jacketed policemen occupying (hiding in) a shuttered grey building on the north east corner of the junction of Torphichen Place and Morrison Street. The West End Police Station, Divisional Headquarters is located at 3-5 Torphicen Place, its carpark is on Dewar Place Lane. This is very close (20-30 yards) from the junction of Torphichen Place and Morrison Street. There where clearly alot of police resources stationed, but hidden around this area.
The road was cleared relatively quickly, this reporter was not present when the blocking of the buses started, and had to take a slightly roundabout route to reach the location - due to patrols of police stopping and searching anyone who was running or dressed in black or with any kind of face covering. A local protestor who helped me find a back way to avoid the patrols was himself stopped and searched while attempting to get to the block. This reporter saw at least two other people stopped in the short amount of time that the block was in place. It seems that this tactic was succsesful in stopping any more protesters getting to the block in time to help.
This reporter belives that a further National Express bus was able to enter and leave the Sheraton using the same route, between 8:40am and 9:00am. This reporter observed the bus entering West Approach Road, but unfortunately - due to the number of foot patrols in the area and the lines of police in Lothian Road and Morrison Sreet - was delayed in reaching Torphichen Place.
Although the area was observed for some time, it seemd this reporter was too late to see the bus leave. It is also possible that the bus remained in the car park (perhaps to use later, for a diversion when getting the delegates back home).
At about 9:10am the traffic lights at the junction of Torphichen Place and Morrison Street were turned back on. Shortly afterwards, the block at the junction of Morrison Link road and West approach road was removed. West Approach road was completely open again by 9:30am
The police where using traffic wardens to control traffic so that the buses would have a clear route through Torphichen Street and Morrison Street. They did this by taking advantage of the one way system in that area. Traffic can only enter the Torphichen Place, Morrison Street, Torphichen Street, Dewar Place sqaure from Canning Street or Shandwick Place/West Maitland Street. The Canning Street route was blocked by the police road blocking equipment. This reporter is unsure of how or if the traffic at Shandwick Place/West Maitland street was being controlled.
The traffic lights had been disabled at the junction of Torphichen Place and Morrison Street, and traffic wardens were being used.
From the evidence and observations it is possible to sumise how the police where getting the buses out of the Sheraton hotel.
It seems that the buses where leaving from the car park onto west approach road. Driving north along it and then the wrong way down Canning Street. Turing left (and south west) onto Canning Street (Canning Street is an unusual T shape). Then driving to the junction of Canning Street and Torphichen street where they turned right (west) the wrong way down Torphichen street. Then they took a left (south) down Torphichen Place, and a right (west) onto Morrison Street. This reporter does not have any information about which of Haymarket and Dairy Road the bus then left the area by.
The importaint points of the police tactics where:
Very heavy police presence at the front, east, of the Hotel. The presence of the decoy bus outside might indicate that the size of the police presence was a diversionary tactic, although it might also have been associated with getting the national express buses into West Approach road. After the withdrawl of the diversionary bus the police may have had the option to use it should any of the national express buses been unable to enter West Approach Road.
Heavy presence at the south of the hotel. This may have been due to the presence of protestors. The presence was along the east (Lothian Road) end of Morrison street and consited of blocking all of the access to the Sheraton complex.
Very light policing of the blocked roads on north west side of West Approach road. Between about 9:20am and 9:50am considerable numbers of police appeared to emerged in smaller groups from the hotel to get in the vans at the front of the hotel, and more vans arrived to pick them up. It is not clear if these police where withdrawing from Morrison Street, or where hidden else where.
Protestors seemed to ignore the roads blocked by the mobile road blocking equipment. Possibly becuase it looks like the kind of equipment that no one wants to be standing to close to, and becuase there where very few visible police supporting it.
Disabled traffic lights and traffic wardens at key junctions on or around the route of the buses. Almost no visible police presence at the key junctions, but very heavy, well hidden police presence.
Use of aggresive police patroling and Section 60 searches to restrict the rate that protestors could move around at. Especially after the main body of protesters had dispersed (seemingly beliving that the delegates had already been moved). This reporer is
unsure if this was a co-incidence, or if the police waited for the demostrators to disperse. It seems that most of the delegates where removed after the bulk of protestors had left the area.
The police almost totally outwitted the protestors. All the evidence was there, but by the time protestors had pieced together what was happening, most of the protestors in the area had left and police where able to patrol safely in small (2-3) person teams and use section 60 searches to prevent the remaining protestors getting to the site and blocking the buses.
It is interesting to consider what the police backup plans would have been had protestors blocked the route that they used, and what alternate tactics could have been employed.