So who won? In the run-up to the G20 everyone and anyone (including Last Hours) was making predictions about what would happen on Wednesday 1st April, and the days afterwards. Here, one of the writers for Last Hours gives their opinion on how all the figures add up?
The graffiti’s been cleaned up and the traffic’s flowing normally through the City of London. The leaders and their entourages have flown home, and the dust’s begun to settle after last week’s demonstrations in London. It’s now time for the post-match analysis.
One man died during the demonstrations, in circumstances which are not yet entirely clear. Ian Tomlinson, 47, a father of nine and reportedly a heavy drinker, collapsed outside the Pitcher and Piano pub on Cornhill on Wednesday evening. The indications point towards his death following a collision with the police, and not the heart attack which was widely claimed in the press. The police seem to have been swift off the mark to minimise the damage his tragic death may yet cause them. The Sun reports that his widow tore down some tributes to him left at Bank. If the facts are that Mr Tomlinson’s death was the result of a police attack on someone who wasn’t demonstrating, the implications will be – to say the least – interesting.
It’s no surprise that a man died in the course of the demonstrations.
It’s no surprise that a man died in the course of the demonstrations. For many years, bloody heads have been a regular feature of contentious demonstrations. Police guidelines state that officers should not crack heads, aiming rather at arms and shoulders. Yet the frequency with which demonstrators are whacked over the head lead to the conclusion that these guidelines are delivered with a nod and a wink. And it’s not as though people have to be fighting the police to get a beating. Reporters were attacked during the course of the last week, despite – in at least one instance – holding up a press card. Television pictures clearly showed large numbers of police lashing out at people who were obviously peaceful demonstrators. Orders must have come down from on high that the demonstrators were to be taught a lesson.
“Police guidelines state that officers should not crack heads… Yet the frequency with which demonstrators are whacked over the head lead to the conclusion that these guidelines are delivered with a nod and a wink.”
There is no other explanation for the police behaviour towards the Climate Camp. There is no other explanation for the police raid on the convergence centre on Earl Street, where taser use was at least threatened. Some of those inside the building feared that a police attack on the lines of the savage beatings meted out in Genoa in 2001 was imminent. This was by no means policing by consent, or the use of minimum force. This was the police with their gloves off. What violence, what property damage, there was from protesters in the City bears no comparison with that dealt out by the state.
Against this background, of a death, of over 100 arrests, of raids and reprisals, the anarchist and broader anti-capitalist movement must consider where to go.
« City police constable carrying a taser gun at Earl Street convergence centre
It would be a mistake to cry ‘police brutality’ and wait for the liberal media to take up the battle. Rather, to paraphrase Joe Hill, don’t moan, organise. There were successes during the week, yes, and failures. Some important lessons are there to be learned, should people be willing to consider the events, rather than to put them down to experience. We should not be afraid to say where we went wrong.
Tactically, we were inept. Those who had looked at the junction at Bank saw that there could easily be a kettle there. Where J18 started from Liverpool Street and then dispersed, we were led by an anthropologist to converge, with no plan for subsequent action. This was a fundamental error. We have only two advantages we can rely on, mobility and unpredictability. On Wednesday we squandered both. By concentrating when we should have divided, by having no ideas for what to do after reaching Bank, we played straight into the police’s hands.
Not even Bob Broadhurst could completely bugger up the opportunity with which he was presented. This is not to say that people out on the day weren’t brave, imaginative or in some cases successful. It is to say that the broader situation on the day did not permit wider imagination or success to prevail. People were constrained by the circumstances on the ground, circumstances prepared by the frankly pisspoor consideration which had gone into it from those who conceived the notion of converging marches.
Against the backdrop of scaremongering press coverage, it certainly took some guts to come out.
So, it is time to take a step back and see who’s who. As the famous saying goes, those who turned out were lions led by donkeys. Against the backdrop of scaremongering press coverage, it certainly took some guts to come out. Their courage did not deserve to be met by the sort of nonsense propagated by the likes of Chris Knight. The last thing we need, as anarchists or anti-capitalists, is to have such parvenus foist themselves upon us.
Then there’s the authoritarian left, who today (4 April) were happy to disregard the feelings of the demonstrators out last week. Following the tragic death of Ian Tomlinson, a large meeting decided to issue a press release, detailing witness accounts of what actually happened to him. It was also decided to hold a march against police brutality from Bank to Bethnal Green police station.
The meeting’s feeling was clearly against making any sort of repugnant political capital from his death. The Socialist Workers Party, represented at the meeting, decided not to abide by this, and festooned the demonstration with their banners and handed out leaflets which aimed to capitalise upon the tragedy for their own ends. These parasites have preyed on protest and discontent for decades, but even for them this marks a new low.
We can well do without their party, which hinders rather than helps the causes it affects to promote. If anger against the people responsible for the economic crisis and its effects is to translate into positive action, we cannot harbour scum like the SWP, who seek to divert that fury into ineffective or offensive channels which help organisations at the expense of achieving anything.
The current climate should see anti-capitalism flourish. However, unless we display greater discipline, organisation or imagination we are our own worst enemies. It’s tempting to insist on another outing as soon as possible – as Ian Bone’s said, “%he anarchist movement’s on the streets, or it’s nothing”. But, although tempting, these things take time. Victories beget victories, while a real, crushing defeat would push us back years.
It’s time to regroup, to support those injured and arrested, and to engage with Mr Tomlinson’s family on their terms should that be acceptable to them.
We’re in a good position, despite the downbeat analysis above. It’s time to regroup, to support those injured and arrested, and to engage with Mr Tomlinson’s family on their terms should that be acceptable to them. And time to look to the future. The spreading wave of sit-ins and factory occupations must be supported. A fun-filled trip to Brighton on 4 May beckons. Other events will come up in the next few months. But the main lesson from last week is that we can’t organise a victory in a couple of months. The good work done by organisations like Whitechapel Anarchist Group in such a short space of time shows that we’re considerably advanced since the late ‘90s.
Nonetheless, it’s time to work within our communities, to build our support, and to get ready for the next time. It’s time to begin countering bailiffs and repossessions. It’s time to confront the BNP and their fellow travellers in the British People’s Party and NF. And it’s time to turn our attention to the June elections, in which the BNP expect to make large gains, to the general election next year and to the Jubilee year, 2012.
The Olympics, which embody so much we oppose, will undoubtedly be linked into Elizabeth Windsor’s Diamond Jubilee. Sport and politics mix very well – on the state’s terms – and it’s going to present a large number of opportunities. Issues around the Olympics include anti-capitalism, gentrification, anti-monarchy, environmentalism and repression – something there for everyone! The experience of organising against the G20 shows that the longer the run-up, the more success we can expect. 2012 offers the prospect of a ‘spectacular’ to look forward to, which can crown our efforts in other spheres over the next three years.
Last week’s demonstrations show that there certainly is potential, that we have the state rattled, that they – at least – see the danger we pose.
The next three years should be ones in which we aim to set the agenda. Last week’s demonstrations show that there certainly is potential, that we have the state rattled, that they – at least – see the danger we pose. Otherwise they wouldn’t have put quite the effort into stymieing us. We didn’t lose last week, and neither did the police gain quite the victory they claim. But they did show their hand, and it’s a hand which can be trumped. With some subtle alterations, last week’s plans could have easily been a second J18, a huge embarrassment for the government and police, and a victory for us which would have provided great momentum for David Hartshorn’s ‘summer of rage’. So we’re not exactly where we wanted to be. But we’re certainly not run ragged, and we’re definitely not finished. It’s nearly the summer, and, as Mr Micawber said, something will doubtless turn up.