“What are they doing?” I asked.
“Well, they just got their batons out and started hitting people. But some people did throw bottles at them,” said the voice as calm as Buddha.
Ten minutes later I was bribing the taxi driver to break the speed limit, listening to him rant about the sick society we lived in London and the UK, and arrived in front of the police road blockades fifteen minutes later minus most of my three-month electricity bill.
Holloway Road, one of the main routes north out of London was deserted. Police cars and vans blocked every road in and out of the area. Not even pedestrians were allowed to walk the back streets. One man, who came along the deserted street, said he had to walk nearly a mile to travel 200 metres.
“They’ve commandeered trucks down there,” he said pointing to the southern side of the road block. “They’re using them to stop the traffic. And now there’s no night buses. I can’t get home. I have to walk five miles.”
Once I entered the area the police were on me immediately. No respect for the press card. Welcome back to London I thought. Not two weeks back in the country and it was back to normal. Pushed, shoved, denied the right to access areas where the public roamed free, my camera being shoved out the way. It’s not criminal damage, I didn’t damage it. Same old same in the big smoke.
Within two hours of filming the police finally pulled out. But that was more to do with the sound systems being removed from the squatted building.
Earlier I bumped into another Indymedia journalist, who was merrier than most and verbally abusing police officers in his drunken manner.
“I called him a cunt and he did nothing,” he said, laughing. “That’s never happened to me before.”
“You should come to Ireland,” I said. “You get away with punching them there and they still don’t arrest you.”
But despite the screwed up method of the other journalist he had caught on to something important. A conversation between the high-ranking officers. They were going to use the ruse of seizing the sound systems in order to raid the party. But when the sound systems were removed they had no reason to storm the building.
Around 2.30am on Sunday morning the last remaining of 14 riot vans and the CCTV van, that had spent the entire day monitoring the numbers of people entering the derelict building, finally moved out.
There were no night buses home. I was stuck. No money, no Oyster monitoring card to get me home and record the journey. Another taxi would cost me another three month’s electricity. I was screwed. So, nothing better to do than go into the party and have a beer and hope something was still going on.
And sure enough there was. I got stinking stunk and woke sometime on Sunday afternoon, slumped in an office chair with no idea of how I got there or why. The only thing I remembered was one bearded hardcore hippy puking into a glass bowl in front of me, spouting off in-between bursts of brown vomit: “Oscar, we need you here…Barf…in case they come back…you know they’ll try it, just to try and grab someone with a joint coming out of the place and call it a successful drug raid.”
He filled the bowl then, with amazing skill, pulled tea mugs and coffee jugs just at the right moment to catch the last bursts of stinking half-digested brown ale.
“Well,” I said, slumped in a chair in a glass office, that lost a window when a drunk punk fell backwards and crashed through the plate glass window, “you’ve convinced me. But I need to stay awake. And I’m ready to drop now.”
“Don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of coffee.”
But they never came back. A few arrests and that was it.
I returned to the squat on Monday afternoon and heard the accounts of several of the organisers.
There were a lot of pissed off people. The bailiffs had just served a nine-day notice. According to the notice they were trespassing. Again a sign of recent times. Every time a squatted social centre appeared, the authorities were on them in a matter of days and they were evicted in a matter of weeks.
But what I heard from several of the organiser’s disturbed me.
“I was here to make a party happen,” said one, as he chain-smoked roll-up cigarettes and opened the last of the organic lager. “I was out there trying to make sure the police didn’t raid the place and batter everyone. And there were these few fucking idiots throwing bottles at the cops from behind the rows of people at the gate.
“Now, I’m up for a riot if need be, if there is no other way, but if these fucking idiots want to throw bottles then have some guts and do it outside, in front of the cops. What they did was cowardly. A bunch of fucking idiots that could have got a lot of innocent people hurt.”
After some discussion the whole police operation came down to one simple issue, the music at the back of the venue was too loud and local residents had complained.
But even when the music was turned down and the largest sound systems were removed, the police still persisted in trying to shut down the party and arrested people who tried to leave.
And I had to agree with that comment. If you want to fight the state do it on the front line, not hiding behind 200 people who don’t want trouble. Get organised and do it properly, with some guts.
Now to the truth of the matter. A few things need to be said here, and it looks like it has come down to me, Oscar Beard, to say it, with the backing of a few anonymous people to back me up.
This latest issue of throwing bottles only surmises the bravado of the hardcore activist movement in London and the UK in a greater sphere. There are no guts left, only cowardly acts. I have been covering this shit long enough to know what I’m talking about.
Our movements have become divided and splintered. Stop The War are happy to have the anarchists on their marches, but when the anarchists call them to action, they denounce the action, like the bunch of mediocre lefty bought-out fools they are.
Some may say that is organised and deliberate, and I’d probably tend to agree with them. But who is paying off who here?
But when an independent journalist works his damn ass off to try and keep people informed of what’s really going on, in the process leading himself to physical and mental destruction, taking so many beatings that his own doctor in recent weeks has stated he will be crippled within two years, it makes me wonder what the fuck I’m doing.
All movements have become lame and stale, with too few decent actions that mean anything. It’s demoralising and forms a sense of defeat and total hopelessness.
In the 1980’s Hunter S. Thompson referred to us as “the doomed”, and believe me we are starting to look like it these days. It’s time for a change, something new, and if we intend to ride out this wave of vicious crush of dissent we need to do something now, before it’s too late.
In meeting these good and fine people tonight, one of whom I’ve only met in the last few months, another I have known for several years, it came up that this is a damn serious issue, especially with an opportunity like the 2007 Mayday coming, and the German G8. I would go further afield than that and say look to South and Central America. Out there they are doing it. Here we seem to be playing at opposition. And nothing changes.
I am no problem solver, but I have been around enough to know that standing in the back a throwing a few bottles does nothing but get the innocent beaten by vicious state-backed thugs. If you want to do that, then stand in the front and take beating yourself. Don't let the innocent take the brunt for your actions.
People wrote in and phoned the RTF people yesterday and today: “We need a demonstration outside the police stations where the arrested are. Why aren’t you organising it?”
That is the mentality. A bunch of lazy fence-hugging armchair anarchists, not willing to take the initiative themselves. And I have seen this too many times. People complaining that "someone" did not organise a mailing list when I returned from Mexico. Pal, I'd just been cahsed around by machete-wielding fuckers fro two weeks, you think I have time to send out mailing lists. Do it yourself if no one else is, you dig.
It’s pathetic and sad to see we have devolved to this. And it leaves no hope for the future.
There are a few of us out there that fund ourselves to risk our lives to give you the news that no one else is giving you.
And if anyone wants to directly attack my statements on this, then please do. Truth hurts, fuckers. When I see you next to me, when paramilitaries are threatening to kill me within 24-hours, or when police are punching, kicking and using batons on my legs, or you are in the same interrogation room when Russian or Italian secret service have cornered me, then maybe I’ll listen to you.
If that's not enough, get your leg blown off, beaten into a coma by vicious cops, shot in the chest by paramilitaries, shot in the leg trying to save kids.
Until then, don’t take it personally. Just do something about it. Sure, get angry, but use your anger positively to move forwards and do something.
Don’t let more Indymedia people die in vain or suffer serious injury just so you can sit comfortably in your home and watch yet another hour of riot porn.
Make it worth it. Make the change.
But to say I'm fucked off would be an understatement.