Since Wednesday more and more reports from eye witnesses have been appearing online about the overwhelming violence that police used against protesters on April 1st.
Pulling together the different threads it becomes clear these weren’t random acts of violence by individual police officers (though those did also occur) but rather a pre-meditated and sustained strategy by the police to maintain order through weight of force.
Above: Video by Rikki Indymedia showing the police attack on Climate Camp. It exhibits, from above, the police tactic of surge and attack that they used throughout the day.
The most visceral examples of the police tactics were seen after 7pm at the Climate Camp on Bishopsgate. A demonstration that had been completely unconfrontational throughout the day suddenly found itself, at nightfall, hemmed on all sides by the police. People were unable to leave, placed in a confined space, and then the police attacked.
As James Lloyd, legal adviser for the camp, explained to the Guardian, “There was no announcement, the riot police just started moving forward very quickly from the south. They were pushing everyone back, pushing forward very quickly. They caused panic, people were screaming and shouting…”
The goal was to clear the road at any cost. But the obstruction caused by Climate Camp was, on the grand scale of things, a fairly minor thing. The junctions at Cornhill and London Wall were both clear allowing for a diversion to be created for the remaining 12 hours of the camp. But as one person asked me the next day, “What’s a five minute diversion when you can crack some skulls?”
The police violence didn’t start at Climate Camp. Nor, in fact, if you include their actions on April 2nd did it end there. No they bought their ‘kettle’ to boil much earlier in the day.
The tactic of the day was to try and hem the four processions into as tight a space as possible in Exchange Square once they four horses arrived, and if anyone tried to leave let the batons do the talking. Not content with keeping everyone contained, the police had also decided to seperate different elements from one another. So at midday those who had come with the Black horse were seperated by two lines of police from the Silver horse.
The Black horse procession, pushed between two lines of police, a granite wall and riot barriers quickly had nowhere to go but through the police and into the rest of the crowd.
A predictable surge occurred – just as it had two months earlier outside the Israeli Embassy on January 10th – causing police to lash out with fists and batons before the day was even an hour old. As one poster on Indymedia put it, “At Bank I witnessed people being beaten around with batons being ordered to move when they had nowhere to go – We were already being crushed in a police kettle.”
The same story followed throughout the day with only a brief respite when RBS had some of it’s windows smashed. Police pushed, harassed and shouted at protesters throughout the day. And as nightfell it got worse.
I was taking photos on Cornhill hoping to leave when the final police surge started. They used a similar tactic as can be seen in the video above. Deliberately pushing people off their feet; using their shields as weapons to hit people in their face and neck; and randomly swiping with their batons if anyone has the audacity to not move fast enough. As Peter Hogan, another writer on Last Hours, succinctly put it in one of his articles, “This was the police with their gloves off.”
Reports today, Sunday 5th April, suggest that the police taking their gloves off may be partially to blame for the death of a 47 year old man. Witnesses, speaking to today’s Observer, who saw Ian Tomlinson before he collapsed report that he was both rushed, thrown and hit by the police moments before his death. As photographer Anna Branthwaite says, “I can remember seeing Ian Tomlinson. He was rushed from beind by a riot officer with a helmet and shield two or three minutes before he collapsed.”
Another protester, who has given evidence to the IPCC, but doesn’t wish to be named said, “I saw a man violently propelled forward, as though he’d been flung by the arm, and fall forward on his head. He hit the top front area of his head on the pavement.” The person continued, “I noticed his fall particularly because it struck me as a horrifically forceful push by a policeman and an especially hard fall; it made me wince”
The police continued their attacks into the following day. They launched raids against two squatted social centres and back at Exchange Square hundreds of protesters were pushed along narrow pavements alongside moving traffic.
The two raids were launched by the police to catch the ‘ring-leaders’ of the ‘violent disorder’ that had happened the day before. Those staying in the two squats were reportedly threatened with taser guns and batons. At RampART social centre there was a report that the police let off a taser that fortunately missed it’s intended target. At Earl Street people were bought out onto the street, where their hands were bound with plastic cable. One of those detained called out to people behind the police cordone, ‘Torture! Torture!’ and explained how he had been harasser and refused medical attention. He continued talking until the police dragged him into an open garage where people couldn’t see or hear him.
The raids were a farce; a way to scare and intimidate people. Of the 50 people in the building only two were subsequently taken for questioning. It was again policing without the gloves on.
People who witnessed anything that is relevant to the death of Ian Tomlinson are being encouraged to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For people who were arrested or attacked by police there is information at the Legal Defence and Monitoring website: www.ldmg.org.uk/ or the Climate Camp legal defence team www.climatecamp.org.uk/node/455.