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Immediate thoughts on the Shut ITT demonstration

October 16th, 2008 · post by Edd · Make a comment

Drizzle fell as about 350 people gathered outside Sussex university in Brighton. To begin with the mood was slightly confused, and dejected. The Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) were removing scarfs, hats and some masks having instated a section 60 on the area. Scuffles broke out as they took the masks, and arrested two people – for no reason that anyone could see.
The start of the EDO march near the University of Sussex
The start of the march near the University

Just after midday the mood changed though. A huge banner with “Shut ITT” painted across appeared out of nowhere, along with an upside-down “Bombs out of Brighton”. A call went out, ‘Get behind the banners’, and that was it, the march was on. Of course the police tried to stop it moving, but for whatever reason they eventually gave up and everyone streamed away from the university towards Home Farm road, and the EDO/ ITT bomb factory.

The march got into full verse pretty quickly with shouts of ‘Smash EDO’, and ‘EDO/ MBM it’s the end for the likes of them’. The police took a hands off approach – except for a fruitless attempt at keeping people off Lewes Road – and with the exception of more than ten evidence gathering FIT teams they kept their distance from the march.
Police lose control
Police lose control near Home Farm road

As soon as we arrived at Home Farm road if became obvious why. Close to a hundred police lined the hill up to the factory, with a further thirty or fifty blocking the road into Brighton. Without drawing breath people piled into the police lines trying to exert their right to free movement and expression. The police acted in a very ‘European’ way, bringing out batons, pepper spray and naked force to physically beat back anyone and everyone behind the banners. I saw at least three people were seriously pepper sprayed, whilst others got nasty bruises from the batons.

One of the pepper spray victims
One of the pepper spray victims receives treatment

At the same time this was happening half the march started climbing the hill behind Lewes Road and into the woods that go behind the EDO/ ITT factory. It was a slow start with many not knowing if there was a plan, or where we were all going. After a half an hour the police caught up with everyone, splitting the group into two. Half heading down hill and did manage to get to the rear of the EDO/ ITT factory, though only for a few minutes, whilst the other half headed up to the fields above the woods.

Police guarded the fence infront of the EDO/ MBM factory
Police behind the EDO/MBM factory

According to other reports these actions alone caused the factory to close down, which was a success in the eyes of many on the march. It was clear though the police had control of the woods, having brought in dogs – and in some cases setting them on protesters. People walked towards Moulsecoomb station to see if there was a weak link in the police lines. There wasn’t; despite it being a tiny footpath at least twenty police in riot gear blocked the way.

So, the only way left was the centre of town; a march to the Level where the march was due to end. Once again the police were caught off-guard with people again occupying the road and walking down into town. By the Level, and another hour later, it appeared to be all over but the march simply continued walking through the park onto London road because the police had forgotten to block everyone in. There was more running, and more shouting, as the cops lost control of the march again with the splinter group making their way to the main shopping centre. It finally stumbled to a stop half an hour later on Church street where the police put a cordon of riot police around the march.
The splinter group’s cordon on Church Street
The splinter group’s cordon on Church Street

Unsurprisingly the people of Brighton who walked past didn’t think much of the police actions ranging from a middle aged woman screaming they were fascists and bringing in a police state to the two teenagers who simply swore at them for being idiots. The stalemate in Church street lasted for nearly an hour until the police started to move everyone to the pier. The police still only maintained a limited control on the situation, and by the end of it it was still the marchers who stood their ground with the police retreating and leaving everyone to celebrate on the beach and in the sea.

The demonstration ends on the beach
The demonstration ends on the beach

The day, despite continued attempts by police to stifle the protest, was clearly a success for those involved with trying to shut down EDO. There was a mass of energy, determination and persistence, made even more impressive by attempts from the police to scare people away from the demonstration. The broadly positive reception from people who saw the march also suggested that the day EDO is forced to close may be sooner rather than later.

Other reports on the day can be found at www.indymedia.org.uk
There will be a fuller report, analysis, and audio & video from the demonstration uploaded onto Last Hours in the coming week.

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