Student activists had called a May Day Carnival for this evening to celebrate a year in which students and workers united in campaigns against University bosses, gaining some victories but facing intimidation, lies and violence in return.
The action was due to begin at 6pm with a parade to an unknown destination at 7.30.
By chance, the same day, MP David Willetts, the minister for Universities and Science, was giving a speech about capital funding in the UCL Darwin Building. So some students arrived early, and a few even got in to the building in an attempt to interrupt the event, before violent security henchmen forced them back, and taser-armed police arrived to secure the building.
The Carnival itself, plagued by constant rain, wasn’t looking too lively, and even with the appearance of a samba band at around 7.20, the gathered crowd was small, and spirits seemed dampened.
Suddenly though, a few people carrying red and black flags headed off north, and others followed. It seemed they had a destination in mind, and just a few minutes later we were at the north east corner of Gordon Square, where a line of University security men surrounded a black Jaguar car, while students blocked the road in front. They’d found Mr. Willetts leaving his event, and he was trapped.
As word spread, more students arrived, and peacefully blockaded the path of the Jag for several minutes before sirens were finally heard and several riot vans steamed up behind. As police poured out of the vans, they started aggressively pushing people out of the road, shouting about ‘Obstruction of the Highway’, and then tried to clear a path for the vehicle to start moving.
However, the students weren’t fazed, and they kept running ahead and blocking the road, attempting sit-downs and standing in front of the vehicle despite some pushing, dragging, and even some punching from the police.
Eventually police managed to get a riot van in front of Willetts’ car, but even this kept being stopped by determined protestors.
It took a full ten minutes after the arrival of police before, at Euston Road, the car was finally free to speed away north while a police line blocked students from any further action.
In all, the Minister’s car was delayed by at least 15 mins, and notably, at the start of the blockade, there was no sign of any police for at least 5 minutes, giving time for students to arrive from Malet Street.