Of course a police van was already waiting for us and it felt like as time passed by more and more police gathered to “guard” us, FIT included.
At 10.30am a policeman came to the group out of the group and started harassing one of the bikers. He had entered the pedestrian section of the Oval through a prohibited route half an hour ago, he claimed. As usual, other policemen came to harass the other bikers so as to prevent us from witnessing the intimidation the first cop was exercising - “your bike is blocking the way to passers by” (no passers by to be seen), “just move away, I'm a policeman”, etc.
After empty – and illegal – threats to the first biker, the policemen left us alone although we felt just as harassed by the FIT photo camera continuously pointing at us, making us feel like criminals when we're not.
A few people who were taking the bus to Croydon just a few meters from us were also harassed by FIT. Some of those people took a banner out to prevent the Forward Intelligence Team from taking pictures of people who were simply taking a bus on their way to a protest. They showed their usual arrogance, calling people who had been previously arrested (legally or not, still to be seen) by their names, generally warning people of what “could happen” if they did not “behave”. In the end, at least a van followed the bus until the group got off.
The bike ride left Brixton at about 11am, with one van following us all the way to Croydon. Admittedly the ride felt a lot safer with this uninvited police presence. Unlike other occasions, motorists would not angrily toot at us or abuse us from their cars when our more human speed would delay their speedy journey by one or two seconds, dangerously missing a fatal accident by just a few inches ... this time drivers would patiently wait behind the police van until they could safely and legally over take us.
Once in Croydon we encountered yet again more policemen than demonstrators but in the shopping area the atmosphere was great, specially when the Samba Band took over with their unique music.
After about an hour of very positive interactions with shoppers and passers by, the Samba Band and its followers proceeded to Lunar House, a 20-storey office block at 40 Wellesley Road, headquarters of the UK Border Agency, and Electric House, Croydon's regional reporting centre, where people subject to immigration controls report at given intervals (mostly weekly nowadays). When their applications have been refused, they can be detained for removal when reporting to the centre. People detained elsewhere in the region, including families 'snatched' from their homes in dawn raids, could also be brought to Electric House by the 'snatch squads', which are based at Electric House too.
The demonstration was only allowed to march on the pavement, so as not obstruct traffic – something that, some people noted, does not happen in any other European country. Only in Britain demonstrations are not allowed to march on the road.
The police shoved demonstrators at different points in the march. At one point one of the marchers was taking away from the crowd to be threatened with arrest and questioned. When his friends approached him to show him support they were also harassed by other policemen to prevent any witnessing of illegal behaviour by police. It seemed they were considering arresting the one marcher for “breach of the peace”, but when he requested the “breach of the peace” that he was posing to be explained to him, the police was at a loss and could not come with a coherent answer, so he was allowed to walk free and re-join the march because he was showing to be “calm and reasonable”. By coincidence, or not, the man threatened with arrest had been trying to prevent the FIT photographer from taking pictures from peaceful demonstrators so as to guard their right not to be photographed without their consent. FIT considers that people do not have such a right.
Throughout the march, police continued to generally harass, and occasionally shout at people, shove and push them, and conversations like: “more away!” “why do we have to move away” “because I'm telling you, and I'm a policeman!”; or, “why are you pushing/shoving me” “because I'm a policeman!” were heard a worrying number of times.
The demonstration demanded an end to the borders policies dictated and carried out specially by the richest countries in the world (namely the G8, others too...) and freedom to protest without the insane harassment the police, specially “teams” like FIT inflict in rightful protesters.