It's come to my attention that I should probably make the following clear: I was not actually present at the demo/riot in Parliament Square on Thursday. Somehow in my blog post I managed to neglect any mention of the words
BBC News live stream, which might have made the whole thing significantly more clear.
It might also have been more clear for those of you who read me on the Twitters, on which I made comments like
@gominokouhai I got no work done today and BBC News is burned-in to the company monitor. Thanks for the economic stimulus, fuckos.However for those of you who only read the blog post I may have given the wrong impression.
I don't have the money to go down to That London for a demo. I went to That London for a holiday. I came back, and as soon as I'd done so, I watched the place burn on live TV. The content of the post is still 100% accurate: I saw all of those things happen, I just saw them happen through a browser window.
What's interesting, though, is the distinction between the live news stream and what was later shown, after editing, on the 8 o'clock news. I suppose that's why they call it a news
story. The BBC have a duty to provide balanced coverage, but sometimes I wonder if they take that duty too seriously: there's a difference between balanced and insipid. It's blatantly obvious from the raw footage that the Met instigated the violence. The march was peaceful and good-natured, and was proceeding along the agreed route until the demonstrators saw a kettle being formed ahead. We've all seen what happens in kettles, and it's entirely understandable that they might want to avoid it.
@PennyRed To avoid kettling, bits of the march are splitting off down sidestreets then rejoining. Benny Hill again!
I read another blog post (can't find the link right now, will edit if I see it again) that suggested that the agreed route was cordoned off. The marchers had nowhere else to go, so kept walking, and found themselves in Parliament Square. They weren't supposed to be there, but they hadn't been given a choice. The Met subsequently used the fact that they'd deviated from the agreed route as the sole justification for everything that followed.
Once inside the kettle, the police continued to deny that it was a kettle. Protestors who wanted to get out were sent to the opposite side of the square, where they were told they could exit; once there, they were sent back to the other side again. I watched Chief Superintendent Julia Pendry claim that no containment was taking place. At the same time I could watch the crowd trapped in the Square and read their Twitter streams: it must have felt very different to the demonstrators on the ground.
When you get 20,000 people in a small space, there is inevitably going to be some pushing and shoving. I watched it on the live stream. It looks like nothing more than a quiet crowd of people confined in a small area. Certainly there was nothing going on that warranted this mounted charge.
A lot has been made of the fact that a police officer was pulled off his horse and injured. We've got the footage of that too. There are no protestors anywhere near him; it looks like the horse gets spooked and he falls off because he's a crap rider. The BBC report suggested that the horse bolted because of a firecracker; not a very good police horse either if it can't deal with loud noises (Note: see expert commentary below), and besides this is a world away from
being dragged off police horses and beaten. Furthermore, behind the guy falling off his horse you can see two young women being whacked with a baton for no reason whatsoever. So the violence had already begun by this point, and it wasn't the students perpetrating it.
Newsnight last night was a fifteen-minute condemnation of the fact that some protestors brought snooker balls with them. The NUS spokeswoman, who hadn't brought snooker balls with her, spent the whole time being asked why she might have brought snooker balls with her. We have one single report of a snooker ball being thrown (and one of a golf ball), which rapidly snowballed into Chief Superintendent Julia Pendry announcing that her officers were
under constant attack with snooker balls. I would expect a senior police officer to at least be able to count to three, let alone one; it's the number of
'ellos they're supposed to say.
While we're at it, let's look at Charlie Gilmour. The kid's a prick, no question. What's important is that there was one of him, and let's be generous and say ten idiots who'd brought snooker balls. That leaves 19,989 people in the kettle who were not utter tosspots and who had no reason to be contained.
In any gathering of 100 people I fully expect 90 or 95 of them to be fucking morons. That's simple statistical expectation. The fact that we can only talk about two or three idiots in a throng of twenty thousand says a great deal about the majority who were there for peaceful reasons and who remained peaceful throughout, even while the batons rained down indiscriminately. The police, on the other hand, went to Whitehall spoiling for a fight. Not finding one, they created one to suit their purposes. While they did so, Julia Pendry was lying on national TV about
methods of last resort.
And now: linkdump! Here's just a selection of eyewitness reports.
- Laurie Penny's excellent piece: Inside the Parliament Square kettle
- This is what democracy smells like
- Jody McIntyre was dragged from his wheelchair and beaten; police later set about beating up the empty wheelchair
- Police claim they
showed restraintat student demo
- Here is a photo of a police officer laughing while hitting a 15 year old girl
- Lies, damned lies, and crowd control
While I'm here, this is an excellent summary of the reasons underlying the protests, and why it affects more than just students: What we're arguing against and what we're fighting for