from the use of 150 officers to remove a small peaceful occupation camp from trafalgar square early in the morning, through the use of tsg officers to conduct targetted snatches, searches and dodgy arrests throughout the day, to the use of lines upon lines of police to clear the whitehall area later in the afternoon, the j30 protests were characterised by repressive, stupidly expensive, and unnecessary shows of force from the authorities.
from the eviction of trafalgar square onwards, it was clear the met believed their own hype, trumpeted in the evening standard the previous evening, that j30 would turn into riots, however despite continual provocation, it turned out a very relaxed and english affair, and of the 30 arrests reported, many were of children, some clearly unlawful, and most pointless.
an NUJ journo told me he'd watched a 14 year old boy being arrested for arguing with the police when his friend was pulled out of the crowd for wearing a hoodie. i spoke to another young man who had a bandana round his neck. it was stolen from him by police under the guise of section 60, even though he had at no point used it to cover his face. he was given no receipt or paperwork. because he was wearing black, a smart pair of jeans and a t-shirt, he had been stopped and searched on three occasions by mid-afternoon, and on one of those, taken down a side street and roughed up in the process.
as the march passed charing cross station on the strand, a team of tsg were pulling people from the crowd, mainly black and asian along with some white teenagers. a muslim girl was told to remove her religious face covering, and a 12 year old boy, on the protest with his mother, a teacher, was handcuffed and hauled away when a search found a small paint canister in his bag. as he was taken into the station, a crowd of concerned protestors (made up of a real cross-section of ordinary people) surrounded and shouted at the police. although this crowd was angry, their anger was vocal not physical, but it gave the excuse for some of the tsg thugs to become violent. i watched one in particular, constable webb, U3543, assault several people in succession, coming up from behind and without warning pushing people out of the way. when i tried to report the assaults to other police, i was of course met with stony silence, despite the fact that his actions were not dissimilar to those of pc simon harwood, now finally facing a manslaughter charge years after iain tomlinson died.
aside from the anti-cuts protest, a small group from avaaz.org were staging a protest outside the department of culture media and sport on the day the vulture secretary, jeremy cunt, was due to announce in favour of rupert murdoch's controversial bskyb monopoly bid.
meanwhile, down in parliament square, a squad of riot police in their silly blue baseball caps were busy conducting searches on passers-by, including a journalist with a press card, while a forward intelligence photographer took close up face shots of some of those searched, even though nothing incriminating was found.
outside the queen elizabeth conference centre, a spanish-style 'people's assembly' formed, and an open mike was made available to speakers, while uk uncut organised football and other games.
a group of black-clad anarchists marched past the centre and acted as pied pipers to some of the crowd who followed them up whitehall, where they pulled over the central line of metal barriers in a token act of defiance. dozens of police trotted along behind them, and inevitably at the trafalgar square end of the road they were met by a large police presence, and became cordoned in by the officers behind them.
there were a few scuffles at this point, and several overly-violent arrests. it really seemed as though the police were hyped-up for violent confrontation, and every attempt was made to inflame the situation, including tsg officers striking out at press photographers as they dragged their arrestees out of sight behind police lines across side streets.
i also saw a man snatched by plainclothes police who looked much like your average football hooligans. they used plastic wires to tightly restrain his wrists behind his back even though he appeared calm and offered no resistance.
in protest at all this violence, a small group of people, some of whom i recognised as part of an explicitly peaceful campaign group, staged a sit-down protest at the north end of whitehall. more people joined them, until around 30 were sitting in the road, despite a short wet rain shower. police numbers built up, tsg officers also moved in, and among the ensuing confrontations i again saw card-carrying press being pushed around and refused access, as the sitters were picked up and moved to the pavement.
then lines of police, sometimes 5 or 6 thick, began pushing people down whitehall, and then left down horseguards avenue to the embankment, leaving the upper end of whitehall clear of all except police.
as most of the protestors had left the area, i joined a small group, including several colourful clowns, who decided to stage a good-natured anti-cuts protest outside 'boots' and 'tesco' opposite westminster. their singing and banners managed to close the 'boots' store ten minutes early, and their boisterous song outside 'tesco' amused and interested many passers-by, several of whom agreed not to shop there after speaking to the protestors.
small shops across the nation, killed by tesco's monopolisation
small shops across the nation, killed by tesco's corporation
We joined the J30 Critical Mass at the Brixton Oval. Prior to that we had been for a while visiting the different pickets in the Brixton area, and we quickly realised that this strike wasn't going to be confined to a ritual Unions march in central London. We stood for a while in the Lambeth College picket in Brixton Hill where we noticed the constant shows of support by the honking cars passing by. In a way these early morning honks put sound to the widespread support this strike had from the 'british public', no matter what the corporate media try to put down our throats nor how the government and 'opposition' try to demonise it.
At around 9.30am, the Critical Mass that had left the Elephant and Castle over an hour earlier, arrived at the Brixton Oval just opposite Lambeth Town Hall, where a picket was being set up as the preparations for a later rally were going on. The mass then left Brixton southbound down Coldharbour Lane in a detour of south London. It passed Camberwell, Peckham and eventually arrived at the picket at Deptford's Town Hall blocking the traffic for 30 minutes or so. The picket then turned into an impromptu demonstration with people on foot joining the cyclist's mass, which again, stopped the trafic of the New Cross area for quite a while. At this point several police vans turned up following closely the demonstration, and, from then on, sticking to the Critical Mass for the rest of the day.
The Mass then made its way towards central London with a 'police scort' of no less than 6 police vans, and eventually it joined the end of the main Unions demonstration. The mobile sound system kept playing a mixtiure of reggae, drum'n'bass, dubstep as well as pop, rock and punk tunes for the whole journey and until the batteries ran out as it got to Parliament Square.
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It was a nice day out, sun was shining on the strikers for most of the time. Except for the moment when the police decided to clear that sit in protest on Whitehall outside McDonald's (which had its own line of coppers). Section 60 was used as carte blanche to stop everyone who fulfilled a certain set of criteria: young, (mostly) male, dressed in black, (and apparently in a group with at least one person from BAME background - at least so it seems to your insignificant observer, but others have commented on this too). It was a clear tactic of intmidation, which hopefully won't work.
Generally the turn out was ok, the atmosphere was happy but unexcited, and everything was nice and colourful.
Police lines were also randomly selective about letting people leave the protest or not. If they liked your face, you were free to go where you please, if they didn't then your freedom to protest turned into the obligation to protest, whilst your freedom of movement was swiftly stripped. Obviously the coppers on the lines were asked to make a judgment and were helplessly overwhelmed. I wonder what kind of orders they get in situations like that? "You can let individuals through, but make sure the march stays on the route"? So if they decide you are "the march" you aren't allowed to pass? Or a more explicit: "You can let everyone through who wears a suit or has shopping bags, but if they look like protesters, make sure they stay in the designated protest area"? Or maybe the much simpler version (overheard at a police line on a different occasion) "Let them through if they're the right ones"?
There was a whole lot of stereotyping and profiling by coppers on the front line happening, and maybe it's time for some public enquiry into how they are trained to do - what exactly?Read more >>
Here's just a few of the snaps from today's london stop and searches and arrests. For sure the cops were really going for people with aggressive interventions and some rowdy push and shove when nothing at all had even happened, nothing. Best bit though was the solidarity shown by people at Charing Cross when they went for the young lads in the main march. Sure someone will have it on video - great solidarity. And a great day - biggest strike for years - c'mon people don't let the Daily Mail and co win the spin war.
+ Police PR (re-trumpeted by some shit tv stations) were also doing their best to say that everyone they were targeting were 'outsiders' not connected with the march. Huh. So like now if you're young or wearing a kafiya or wearing black you can't be concerned with the cuts and marching in solidarity with the strike!?
List of some of the tweets about stop and search and arrests:
We're all in this together...Read more >>
Late reporting from Whitehall and surroundings.
Arrived in Trafalgar Square in the early afternoon, then marched on Whitehall towards Parliament Square. Police were busy directing people where they wanted them to be. Barriers stood in the middle all along Whitehall and police seemed intent in making the march go only on one side of them.
Once in Parliament square, I ended up on the green outside Westminster Abbey. A sound system was on one corner and on another one, a banner with the words “Workers Assembly”. Next to it was a speaker that seemed to welcome anyone who wanted to speak. I could see lots of people with the same model of t-shirt: “Real Democracy Now”, the main demand of what seems to be known as “The Spanish Revolution”. A real assembly seemed to be happening right there. People raised their hands and waved them from time to time (a sign of agreement with what is said at that moment).
On the way back to Trafalgar Square, I saw a small group in the distance, between the Square itself and the McDonalds restaurant, that seemed to be kettled, or in the process of being kettled. Heard reports of snatch squads and seemingly random arrest. People had seen police with “snatch cards” on their hands.
Noticed a police line being formed on one of the side streets. They allowed people to get through the line but at a given point, they stopped allowing anyone through. Before I could figure what was going on, a noise of running came from a few yards back. Three very big guys, bully thugs style, were running very close together. They were carrying a smaller guy between the three of them, clearly against his will. I then realised that the guy being carried in this way had his hands tied up behind his back. He did not have handcuffs, but one of those plastic bands used to hold cables together. His hands were placed in a very ackward and obviously painful position.
Now, these big guys in plain normal clothing carrying this other guy “were” allowed through this police cordon. Then the cordon eased off to allow a van in. After some talking and lots of note-taking by the thuggy guys and uniformed police officers, the guy with his hands on his back was put into the police van.
The incident just described is what is known as “snatch squad arrest”, where police in plain clothes choose one person from the crowd and quickly, by surprise and without any warning or even any word, they immobilise him/her and they quickly take him/her into police custody. I saw another person being taken into a police van in this very same way up in Trafalgar Square too.
Saw another, smaller march also in Trafalgar Square. People dancing to a samba band and with banners about Congo and Sudan marched towards Whitehall. They were escorted and surrounded by police, various big vehicles and other hired workers. Some of the workers picked up traffic cones in front of the march, from one of the big vehicles, leaving them there as the march passed next to them. Other workers put a white tape between the cones, in a way that made the march enclosed by police and by white tape too. Then a last worker removed the tape and put the cones on a last vehicle moving slowly behind the march.
When this small march went on to Whitehall, police had made sure the Strike march was out of the way from the smaller march. So both marches were never mixed up.
Thursday 30th June saw the first attempt to a General Strike in Britain for more than 80 years, although it was primarily a Public Sector workers' strike.
As part of the support for the strike from people who are not necessarily public sector workers, a Critical Mass happened in South London, visiting the picket lines that had been announced and showing support.
We met at about eight in the morning in Burgess Park. About 50 people on bikes set off at about half past eight, with more and more people joining as we biked.
The first drivers showed their solidarity by tooting, and soon we reached Elephant and Castle, where we greeted the picket outside the London College of Communication. After two rounds to the roundabout, the Mass continued towards Brixton, on the way meeting another picket line. We stayed with the workers for a few minutes while the mobile sound system got fixed, and we had music from then on.
Once in Brixton Oval (the public open space where Reclaim Your Food used to give away food every Sunday) we also joined some workers demonstrating there for a few minutes, and then what look like a hundred-strong crowd appeared at the door of Lambeth Town Hall.
After a brief spell up Brixton Hill we headed East again, towards Camberwell and on to New Cross. Up to that point the cyclists had managed to deal with the traffic by doing things like corking (staying static at junctions while the mass passed safely unrammed by cars and bigger vehicles). From New Cross on we had the kind help of Police (seven vans at one point) which made a difference in terms of respect showed by motorists. Amazing what the mere presence of a well-marked police vehicle can do to motorists' behaviour. On the occasions when we lost sight of them and then they appeared behind us again, all yelling at us, insulting and generally threatening behaviour from drivers on four wheels dissapeared. So in that sense their presence had a positive effect except on one occasion when a driver almost knocked off one of the bikers and a police officer just threatened to arrest both the aggressor and the victim.
When the mass arrived outside Deptford Town Hall, at about ten, it joined the demonstration that was taking place there. Lots of flags and a banner of South London Solidarity Federation were the landmark of a brief street party interrupted by the forces of law and order. The joint demonstration became a march towards Deptford and once there, the march and the mass went their own separate ways.
Police did not seem to realise it though, and a line of police on foot started to follow the critical mass. When it was obvious they would not keep up with the bikers, they were picked up – and apparently seven vans were needed for the picking up operation.
Critical Mass then made its way to Whitehall and Parliament Square, where it melted itself in the crowd.
Watch live broadcasts from all over London, from the point of view of a cyclist! Follow live broadcasts from the critical mass cyslists who set off early this morning to ride around London to give support and encouragement to public section workers who are striking today. Brixton, Peckham, New Cross are some of the areas they will be passing.
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Uk Uncut activists cooking full English for striking workers outside HMRC building Euston Tower.
Responding to the call out on the UK Uncut site "Picket lines will form on the morning of the 30th. Join those on strike, bring them a mug of tea and a breakfast butty, and show them that we’re all in it together against the government." activists will be out in force today bring sustinance in solidarity.Read more >>
Across the capital most schools, colleges and local authority staff join 750.000 UK workers on a one day strike to warn the govenment and capital to stay away from their pensions and wages. Pickets were established early this morning in every corner of London being fed with home made food by UK Uncut's 'Big Society breakfast'. Everyone out to show solidarity.
Critical Mass will also be touring the picket lines in support this morning starting out at Burgess Park near Elephant and Castle. A mass trade union march will be starting at 11am, meeting at Lincoln Inn Fields, on which there will be a J30 Strikers’ Assembly Bloc. The main march will end at Westminster Central Hall at 1pm where there is a call for a People's Assembly
More reports and thoughts as they come in.
There are People’s Assemblies called for that will have no leaders, so every voice counts, ensuring equality for all. Occupying streets and city squares is a natural expression of our power: real democracy now. One such Strikers’ Assembly will congregate near Westminster Central Hall at 1pm. Find them under the “People’s Assembly” banner.
Critical Mass will set off from Elephant and Castle at 8am for a fun packed glide around the capital supporting pickets and engaging with the public.
UK Uncut are supporting with a day of action stating; "The protests will highlight that the strikes by the unions are another form of direct action against the cuts being taken by people in towns and cities across the country. It’s predicted that strike action will grow rapidly towards the autumn and UK Uncut are vowing to support and build on the strike action with more direct action protest against tax avoiders and the banking system. The government are making everyone else pay for a crisis caused by the bankers. They’ve targeted students, pensioners, people with disabilities, the unemployed, NHS workers and patients, and now they are attacking teachers and other civil servants."
The PCS union states: "We have continually argued that if the £120 billion that is ‘lost’ evaded or avoided in tax every year was collected, there would be no economic crisis. That argument can now be heard across the trade unions and campaigning groups like UK Uncut have become one of the most popular movements in Britain." This is why the unions are saying enough is enough and walking out.
Further info: June 30th website | UK Uncut | Afed statement on the strikes | The Commune on the march
Other Union statements of action: NUT (National Union of Teachers) | UCU (Universitiy and College Union) | PCS (Public and Commercial Services Union) | ATL (Association of Teachers and Lecturers)
The nation wide strike action on June 30th by over 750,000 public sector workers is the biggest threat yet to this government’s plan to make public sector workers pay for the economic crisis. While the banking sector has returned to enjoying the fruits of our labour, we are told that there is no alternative but to cut the services we depend on. For updates see the J30 site launched the other day provides links and call outs across the country.
In London there are "Big Society Breakfast" of local pickets outside schools, college and other public sector building followed by a mass trade union march at 11am, Lincoln Inn Fields. On which there will be a J30 Strikers’ Assembly Bloc on the trade union march.
There are People’s Assemblies called for that have no leaders, so every voice counts, ensuring equality for all. Occupying streets and city squares is a natural expression of our power: real democracy now. One such Strikers’ Assembly will congregate near Westminster Central Hall. Find us under the “People’s Assembly” banner.
Critical Mass will set off from Elephant and Castle at 8am for a fun packed glide around the capital supporting pickets and engaging with the public.
UKuncut are supporting call with a day of action stating "The protests will highlight that the strikes by the unions are another form of direct action against the cuts being taken by people in towns and cities across the country. It’s predicted that strike action will grow rapidly towards the autumn and UK Uncut are vowing to support and build on the strike action with more direct action protest against tax avoiders and the banking system.
The PCS union states: "We have continually argued that if the £120 billion that is ‘lost’ evaded or avoided in tax every year was collected, there would be no economic crisis. That argument can now be heard across the trade unions and campaigning groups like UK Uncut have become one of the most popular movements in Britain." This is why the unions are saying enough is enough and walking out.Read more >>
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Public sector cuts