Thursday, April 16, 2009

More Met Madness

The Metropolitan Police have now told some Austrian tourists to delete photos of buses "to prevent terrorism.

See here for full story. The Austrian father and son had their passport and hotel details recorded.

These days the Met seems to be going out of its way to offend as many people as possible.

As has been noted elsewhere, there is more than enough material on "Google Street view" to plan a terrorist attack anywhere in London. There is no need to go out and draw attention to yourself by taking photos. What is more, if past form is anything to go by the next terrorist attack will come from British born terrorists or failing that Pakistanis. Austrians are one of the least likely terrorist groupings.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ian Tomlinson Memorial March

This Saturday I attended a protest march from Bethnal Green Police Station to the Bank of England. The aim of the march was both to remember Ian Tomlinson who died after being pushed over and apparently hit by police during the G20 protests last week and to protest against the tactics of the Police that increasingly undermine Britain's status as a democracy that values the right of protest and free speech.

While it is safe to say that many of those on the march today were not my natural bedfellows, I found it a peaceful, dignified and rather moving event. The Police, to their credit, were low key and respectful and there was absolutely no trouble. Maybe something good can yet come out of these tragic events.

However the message from today was that a protestor is not a criminal and the right to peacefully protest in an unhindered manner is under threat in Britain. If this erosion of liberty goes unchallenged all Britons are on the road to living in a more repressive country. It may not be "your issue" to protest on today but in a country, and in fact a world, where decisions are increasingly made by executive order, it will probably not be long before each and everyone of us have an issue on which we want to protest on. While street protest is not everyone's style the increasing limitations of democracy (heavily controlled parliaments and legislatures that do not want to rock the boat) means that often it is only after a significant protest that the government actually sits up and listens.

May the right to peaceful protest and free speech once again be respected and better valued in this country.


One of the "dreaded" Police medics made infamous by this Flickr photo which yesterday made it to a national newspapers.

Press pack and amateurs stand outside Bethnal Green tube station as the protestors set off. The "citizen photographer" has lead the way on the whole issue of Police conduct and the attack on Ian Tomlinson. Without the widespread proliferation of mobile phone cameras and affordable digital cameras, the whole incident could have been swept under the carpet. These days a photo can be taken by a private individual and made freely available on the internet within minutes. When Ian Tomlinson died, the official version was he had collapsed and died of a heart attack but had had no contact with Police whatsoever. Alarmingly all mainstream media outlets (newspapers and TV) accepted this without challenge. Only when photos, written accounts and ultimately video emerged from private citizens did the mainstream media bother to investigate.

Market traders and locals await the protestors on Bethnal Green road. This is the heart of the East End and one of the most ethnically mixed areas in London.

Professor Chris Knight, one of the organisers of the original G-20 meltdown protests head the march. He strikes a slightly theatrical pose wearing a black top hat. The flowers are to lay at the spot Ian Tomlinson died.

The junction of Royal Exchange Passage and Cornhill where Ian Tomlinson was pushed to the ground by Police on 1st April.

Protestors in Cornill mingling near the spot Ian Tomlinson died.

The Police kept a respectful distance most of the time.

One strained moment occured when a two minutes silence was held. Officer CW 2553 (pictured) had a rather noisy Police radio and the chap in the football wooly hat told him to turn it down. Officer CW 2553 didn't like this and a tense exchange followed to be calmed by fellow protestors and police.

This sign on Cornhill, in the heart of the City of London, is just above the spot where Ian Tomlinson died.

Officers stand on Cornhill in front of Royal Exchange Passage. Their respectful calm behaviour is in great contrast to the riot gear wearing bullies who had walked down this passage with dogs just over a week before.

Where it all started last week, the Bank of England.

Police vans line up outside the RBS branch briefly attacked by anarchists on 1st April. The banking crisis is the underlying background to all this. People at large feel frustrated that there is no effective way to make their voices heard. The bail out is a fait accompli with no democratic vote on it. Taxpayers in Britain and the world over are funding the failures of bankers. There is a palpable sense of anger when people whose jobs and homes are at risk see bank bonuses and vast pensions subsidised by their taxes. No other bank has come to symbolise this injustice more than RBS, once a greatly respected Scottish institution.

Police motorcyclists on Threadneedle Street.

Protestors on Bishopsgate. "Socialist Worker" seems to have a monopoly on the banners supplied. I think it is a shame that no one other than an extreme left group can distribute good quality printed banners. After all, liberty is an issue that should attract the support of those on "the right" as well.

Protestors enter the City of London. The contrast between Bethnal Green and the City is immense. However they are really just neighbours and one stop on the underground.

Into the City.

Professor Chris Knight on the steps of Bethnal Green Police station where many of those arrested during the G20 summit were taken. This was not a part of London that Messrs. Obama, Sarkozy and co included on their itinerary !

Police Behaviour: Protest Today at Bethnal Green Police Station

In case anyone is looking for it, a protest is being held at Bethnal Green Police Station followed by a procession to the Bank of England to commemerate the death of Ian Tomlinson.

I feel it is important that people who disagree with the recent Police tactics and behaviour do make their voices known. After all, even those amongst us who are not "climate campers" and "anti-capitalists", will probably one day have things to protest about.

If every protest is to be "kettled" into an enclosed area surrounded by batton wielding riot police who beat anyone trying to get out, I would have to conclude that we no longer really live in a democracy that supports free speech and the right to protest.

Bethnal Green Police station can be found at the following address:

12 Victoria Park Square Tower Hamlets London E2 9NZ
Getting there: Tube station: Bethnal Green (Central)Main line : Cambridge Heath Railway

The protest is assembling at 11.30am following by a procession to the Bank of England at 12 noon. The procession is expected to take around an hour.

Further details can be found at:

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Police State ?

More evidence that the Metropolitan Police approach last week was far from cricket. The advise given to businesses in the City last week was the "Climate Camp" had permission to stay overnight. Obviously the Metropolitan Police had other ideas and in the clip below launch into a mixed crowd of men and women expecting to camp overnight. The police have battons and riot shields. The prospective campers do not:

"I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it"


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Metropolitan Police running riot

The death of Ian Tomlinson outside the Bank of England during the G20 protests has taken on a significantly darker feel this evening.

A film taken by a visitor from New York shows Mr. Tomlinson in a rather unsteady, even pathetic state, being beaten from behind by a riot policeman. He falls to the ground and is apparently dazed. A short while later he died.

The policeman who attacked Mr. Tomlinson was part of a larger group of police with dogs, shields and battons. The police in no way seem threatened and the attack on man from behind seems completely unjustified.

Were a member of the public to attack someone from behind, that person to fall and hit their head and subsequently die, the attacker would face a murder charge. With a good lawyer and fair wind he might be lucky to get off with manslaughter.

The whole episode of Mr. Tomlinson's death has been covered up and distorted from the start. Initially he was said to have no contact with the police and police who tried to revive him after his collapse had come under attack from demonstrators. None of this now seems to have been true. It has taken a foreign visitor in the right place at the right time to take a video showing the truth.

It is sad that in an age intolerant of free speech and protest that the worst violence last week came not from hippies, not from students, not even from anarchists. The police are seen using violence on a vulnerable individual and it was this violence that lead to the only death on the day.

Please watch this video to form your own opinion.

Here is a photo of a "police-medic" at last week's protests. A future Dr. Shipman possibly !

Monday, April 06, 2009

"Kettling": Another step on road to ending free speech

The BBC and other news channels are now reporting that the man who died during last week's protests during the G20 summit had "contact" with the police before he died close to the Bank of England.

This had previously been denied. It was claimed that he had just got caught up in the protest and then died of an unrelated heart attack.

Whatever is ultimately proved (or for that matter denied) the death of Ian Tomlinson highlights the recent police practice during large scale demonstrations of "kettling". "Kettling" is the term applied to the practice of blocking all protestors into an enclosed area so that they become exhausted. During their time in the "kettle" they have no opportunity to eat, drink, go to the lavatory or anything else that anyone would normally expect to be free to do.

Kettling can go on for many hours and last Wednesday protestors were kettled for at least 8 or 9 hours.

The aim of kettling is superficially understandable. It is used when the Police expect crowd disorder and is seen as more desirable than having potentially violent protestors running free in a city or built up area.

The trouble with kettling is it is being increasingly used for all large scale demonstrations and many people just wanting to make their voice heard get trapped for hours on end.

While I have little common cause with many of the protestors who turned out last week, they were in most cases relatively harmless. From what I saw they were generally either students or hippies. The anarchist "black bloc" who threatened violence were tiny in number.

Ironically the only serious piece of violence, the attack on the Royal Bank of Scotland branch, happened inside the kettle when Police couldn't reach those breaking windows at the Bank due to the fact there were so many trapped peaceful protestors between them and the handful of window breakers.

The Police increasingly seem to see large scale protests as a nuisance to be contained and thwarted wherever possible. There seems little appreciation that the right to protest, to speak out on an issue you feel strongly about is a democratic right.

In fact many of the wider population, also seem to look with a mixture of bemusement and contempt at protestors. They are written off as "work shy" or "troublemakers". This vast over-generalisation misses the point that most real political change (whether for better or worse) has come about only after campaigns that have involved a degree of public protest.

For protest to be increasingly limited on grounds of "public order" is a dangerous step on the road to a police state. The use of the "kettle" as a standard police response to any major public protest is a gross assault on liberty and the right to protest and speak out.

It can only be hoped that the death of an innocent man causes the Police to pause for thought the next time they kettle a large crowd into a confined space for hours on end, beating those who attempt to get out.

The widescale use of riot gear at last week's protests also highlights a hardening in the police approach. The protestors are seen as a threat to be controlled, beaten and frustrated wherever possible. While the minority bent on violence should be controlled and stopped, the great majority of peaceful protestors of whatever views should be respected when exercising their democratic right to protest.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

G20 Day in the City of London

A Bank of England "heavy" stands at the steps to an entrance on Threadneedle Street.
Four female protestors discuss the day's events.

A statue boarded up had become an unofficial shrine to a man who died outside the Bank of England on Wednesday night. His cause of death remains unclear but many have questioned the controversial Metropolitan Police practice of "kettling" where protestors are herded into an enclosed placed for hours on end in order to exhaust them in a situation where they have no access to food, water, lavatories etc.

The Bank of England in the closing stages of the two days of protests. A few miles away in Docklands, the G20 leaders had just agreed a $ 1 Trillion stimulus package (I don't think I have ever needed to write "trillion" before)

The Duke of Wellington's statue with the addition of a a red flag. It is unclear what we can (yes) do !

Thoughtful graffiti on the Bank of England. Although not always true the statements are difficult to reject out of hand. Do the rich laugh though ?

City of London Police take a breather at the front of the Royal Exchange. They have been racking up the overtime this week.

Protestors and Police winding down.

The scene at the front of the Bank of England, Thurday April 2nd.

Winding down Police

Traffic had started flowing past the Bank of England by Thursday afternoon.

Shielded and helmeted riot police prepare to get a few teenagers out of an empty building near the City of London.
"Move along there. There's nothing to see !" Police block the road while their highly protected colleagues gather a few teenagers up.
"Older Bill"

The dark blue vehicle behind the police is more Amoured Personnel Carrier than Police Car. Who thought these would be necessary in London ? After all their effort the police have finally located a rather bemused looking teenager in a squat in Earl Street, EC2.

Commuters pass graffiti on the Bank of England on their way to work.

Pictures of April 1st City of London

Below is a selection of photos from the protests in the City of London yesterday. As I was at work during most of the day, these were taken in the evening. The low quality is due to the fact they were taken on a mobile phone camera. Nonetheless I think they give a flavour of the scenes around the City yesteray.

Protestors gather in Poultry, City of London

Crowded scene outside the Bank of England, 5.30pm Wednesday 1st April. Two hours later a man died in this area.

"Castle Greyskull" aka RBS HQ in Bishopsgate, City of London.

Anarchists and Police face each other in the approach to the Bank of England.

Police "centurion" overlooks the crowd near the Bank of England.

"Climate Campers" underneath Tower 42 (formerly the Natwest Tower).

A line of riot police. Anarchists wanted !

Chit chat. The lady on the left is dressed identically to her male colleague.

Not so much "bobbies on the beat" as "bobbies ready to beat". The uniform is both intimidating and dehumanising. British Police increasingly "don riotgear" when so much as a papercup gets thrown. While it can save lives, the use of riot gear should be proportionate to prevent ordinary people becoming alienated.

THe much reviled RBS is protected by a line of police. This very branch had been attacked round the corner by anarchists a few hours earlier.

A crowd is "kettled" (blocked in) outside the Bank of England.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"G20- Meltdown"

The world comes to London today. The leaders of 20 nations from the US President, King of Saudia Arabia, French President and many others are in town.

"Obamamania" means he is the focus.

Today it is billed as the day of protestors. Anarchists, class-warriors, enviromentalists and many others are forming unlikely alliances.

The City of London has lost its pinstripe suits in favour of jeans as no one wants to be mistaken for a banker and attacked. Jewellers and electrical shops are closed. Banks are half-closed but Starbucks is still open.

At 10.15 all is fairly quiet in Moorgate. I saw no protestors at 8am when I walked from Cannon Street. I did however see some mysterious middle-aged men with rucksacks and a long bag near the Bank of England. They had short hair in a miliatary style cut and "sensible" shoes. They were otherwise casually dressed. Were these police "snipers" getting in position that the Times mentioned this morning ?

It looks like it will be a memorable day.