Police try to persuade man to remove mask
Police grab man when he fails to remove mask
Police search man who they allege punched police
Terrorism is the Police in our Street
And now I'm on video again
When I arrived at Dalston Kingsland around 2.30pm there were already around 50 demonstrators there, mainly those connected with Greek students and workers, but also some anarchists with several banners. They were rather outnumbered by police and community support workers and were simply waiting for the march to start, causing no problems, not even obstructing the pavement or the access to the Overground station.
Had the march been allowed to start, they and the other couple of hundred who turned up would probably have caused little trouble, other than a relatively small amount of disruption to traffic as they made their way along to the peace mural. After possibly a few speeches and rather a lot of chanting and shouting, everyone would probably have dispersed without further trouble and we would all have been on our way home before it got dark.
What completely changed the course of events was a decision by the police present to take action against people wearing scarves across their faces. This is of course a part of the anarchist 'uniform', and it does frustrate the police in their attempts to keep photographic tabs on all demonstrators (that database again.)
Section 60(4A) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, Act gives the police powers to require the removal of face coverings that an officer is satisfied is worn wholly or mainly to conceal identity, provided that an officer of or above the rank of inspector has given an authorisation for such action within a given area for a period of up to 24 hours.
Assuming that the police were following the law, the decision to take such action was made in advance. But although such powers were available it surely made no sense to use them before any trouble had occurred, when doing so was almost bound to provoke it.
A small team of officers approached one of the men holding a banner and told him to remove his scarf. A lengthy argument ensued, which ended with the man being manhandled away. At this point there was a bit of a scuffle, and police allege that another man punched a policeman (or possibly a CSW) and he was dragged onto the pavement, handcuffed and searched.
Demonstrators who had remained on the pavement outside the station while this was happening - mainly Greeks and others who had wanted to keep out of any trouble – and a few others who had returned there were then penned in by police (at around 2.43pm.)
A rather larger group of the anarchists had sensibly gone over to the other side of the street before this happened, and there were soon several hundred people watching from across the road. And things stayed more or less this way, with a few more arrests and minor skirmishes and large police reinforcements until I went home around 4.15pm when those not detained were noticeably thinning. I'm told the police held those they had penned until some time after 5pm.
What would have probably have been a short and relatively peaceful event causing short and minor disruption became a major problem, closing Dalston Kingsland station and severely affecting traffic in north London. Several shops nearby closed early. When I left Kingsland High Street - a "Red Route" - was closed to northbound traffic.
As well as the frustration of a legitimate protest, the police activity resulted in considerable inconvenience for many people not taking part, as well as costing us a small fortune in police pay. At best it was a small display of police macho, and I can't see there was any positive outcome from it at all. But perhaps it is some kind of political charade organised to increase public support for increasing surveillance and repressive legislation.
Quite a few more pictures on My London Diary http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2008/12/dec.htm/greece shortly.
Discussions with police inside the pen
A woman argues with the inspector (who retires very shortly.)
Inside the pen
It takes three to put on the handcuffs
A baton comes into use
Chanting opposite the pen