Friday, 3 April 2009




After spending about an hour and a half at Excel, where there was a small STW demo, but not much sign of further protest, I joined the solidarity vigil outside Bank at 1pm this afternoon in memory of the fallen comrade who lost his life last night.

The vigil was quite an emotional occasion. I met up with some comrades who had been at climate camp last night and had witnessed first hand the events as they unfolded. Their stories I hope will be told, as they underline our worst fears about the oppressive and provocative tactics of the police. I salute the bravery and resolution of the climate campers, their courage should be an inspiration for us all. I heard emotional accounts of what really happened leading up to the tragic death last night. The story not told by the press or the police was that the protester was being chased by police dogs, fell and cracked his head. My thoughts are with his family and friends, and also with those who had witnessed the tragedy.

The vigil was well attended with a good few hundred people paying their respects, and placing personal messages on the boarding placed around a piece of architecture(?) outside the Bank. There was also a bit of a feeding frenzy of press and photographers, obviously looking for another bloody story and maybe some more confrontation between protesters and police. Eventually it appeared that the police might be looking for the same - their response was, like the previous day and in particular in the context of why we had gathered there today, wholly inappropriate.

A minutes silence was held, well observed by all who sat down, downed flags and removed hats to remember the fallen comrade; during the 'silence' the air was punctuated by the sound of police sirens and a helicopter hovering overhead. This was a sign of things to come.

Soon we were kettled in as police encircled the gathering. Police cossacks appeared in a show of force, but left after a while. Some mourners were becoming agitated, and there were chants of 'shame on you' aimed at the police. But there was no violence. However, eventually the police dogs were brought out as an intimidatory tactic, walked around the kettle for a bit then vanned off again. I could later hear them further up the road so I can only assume that other protesters were being harassed elsewhere.

Eventually some protesters decided to leave, but were being searched by the police as they left. The police closed in the kettle as people left and a few of us were left in a small space as the majority succumbed to the search in order to leave. 20 of us remained and sat down refusing to have to be searched. We calmly and peacefully discussed what we would all want to happen, a consensus was reached that we would all refuse to leave if we were to be searched and that we would be prepared to ba arrested. By this time we were just encircled by City of London Police, whose 'superior officer' was invited into the circle to address us. He informed us that a section 60 was in force in the City until 6am. After further discussion we decided that we would all be prepared to stay there until 6am. Further negotiation was attempted to allow us water and toilet facilities, but the request was refused.

By this time a small crowd was beginning to form around us and some people lobbed in some food for us, which was gratefully passed around. It was approaching half past five by now, and more people were gathering outside us, and a few pictures were being taken - the press vultures were still circling (apologies if anyone finds that description speciesist). Bemused city workers leaving work were curiously looking in, and taking a few of their own snaps for the family album. Then, all of a sudden the head copper came and told us that the police were going to let us go without being searched. Just like that. The police dispersed. We cheered and hugged one another as we realised that we had won. We gathered for a group photo and a wall of cameras recorded our joy for posterity. My fear is that this story of peaceful demonstration will be less than a footnote to the last couple of days as the press don't seem to want anything other than bloody anarchy and violence to scream out from their headlines.

But we will not forget. As we will not forget the fallen comrade to whom we dedicate this small victory for the right to peaceful protest without intimidation and fear of reprisal, violence and infringement of civil liberties. In what some still call a democracy. The tactics of the police seem to be increasingly aggressive and antagonistic and must be challenged. And let us not forget that the struggle goes on, the neoliberal overlords whom the police are defending are still making imperialistic decisions which affect all of our lives, for the worse, and that the mortal threat of climate change hangs heavy over us all. We should all take heart and courage and build momentum, to carry on the struggle, in memory of he who gave his life last night defending the right to protest, for a better future, and for all the countless forgotten victims across the globe who suffer and perish at the hands of capitalism each and every day.

Hasta la victoria siempre


Andy is a member of the Green Party Regional Council.

No comments: