In 2005, the Anarchist Bookfair, held that year in Holloway Road, ended in a practical session of massive policing. The local Coronet pub, on police advice, suddenly refused to serve alcohol, and as hundreds of anarchists spilled out onto the dual carriageway, they were met with riot police geared up for local football matches. The ensuing clashes led to several arrests and injuries, although most if not all were acquitted of serious offences months down the line.
A full decade on, the bookfair today was held at the Granary Building occupied by the University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins. While on the one hand it’s an excellent space for the bookfair, with a large and airy open area for stalls, and lots of classrooms and lecture theatres for group events, on the other it is surrounded by lots of pseudo-public space, corporatised, controlled, and covered by private regulations rather than public rights – another example of the accelerating privatisation of public space in cities across the world.
Still, this year’s event was well attended, with packed lectures and workshops and a buzzing hall of stalls.
In solidarity with actions today in both Paris and Budapest, Calais Migrant Solidarity called a “No Borders” action to take place at the Eurostar terminal in nearby St Pancras station.
So, ten years on from the Holloway Road kerfuffle, clashes seemed likely again, as huge numbers of police waited at St Pancras and a group of a couple of hundred activists, intent on reaching the Eurostar, set off along private roads shortly after 6pm.
At one of the entrances to the station, they were met by a line of police, and with sheer weight of numbers, first one, and then dozens more, squeezed their way into the station before police reinforcements regained control, after deploying metal batons.
Suddenly, the group inside the station turned back to help their comrades, and at that point things got quite messy. Activists were grabbed and pushed back through the lines on to the pavement, with some injuries and a few arrests. Police began to kit themselves in full riot gear, and they also grabbed a large red banner and threw it aside.
All the while, train travellers and other members of the public watched through locked entrances.
Deeper inside the station, police were picking out people hanging around near the Eurostar entrance, and an entirely peaceful woman was forcibly removed, dragged much of the way on her knees, before police finally picked her up and carried her. Police claimed she was being removed to prevent a breach of the peace.
Despite the massive police operation, a group of around 30 women suddenly appeared in the concourse, chanting “No human is illegal” and “No borders”, and carrying large banners.
They set up right in front of the access point to the Eurostar departure lounge, and handed out leaflets while continuing their protest. Police Liaison Officers moved among them, and more than a dozen police soon arrived in full riot gear, but thankfully they thought better than to interfere, and the protest continued for a few more minutes before the group (who had other appointments) packed up and left.
This dignified and peaceful action was organised by ‘Global Women’s Strike’ (globalwomenstrike.net), and ‘All African Women’s Group’.
A small peaceful group of around a dozen protesters entered King’s Cross Station concourse, with a banner that said “people want to bring down the borders”.
They were confronted by several dozen police, many in riot gear, and then kettled for about an hour.
Police used Railway Bye-Laws – Sect 6 (8) – (no person shall molest or wilfully interfere with the comfort or convenience of any person on the railway), & Sect 23 – (anyone suspected of breach must give name and address), – to process, photograph and identify each protester before escorting them from the station with a 24 hour ban. A few were arrested during this time too.
Interestingly, there was an attempt before this process, for a station representative to make an announcement on a megaphone, but it wouldn’t work and no announcement was made – my feeling was that the announcement was meant to be part of a legal process and so it might be pertinent that it was never made.
One of the causes being championed by migrant solidarity groups is for the release of Abdul Rahman Haroun, a Sudanese man, who after walking through the Eurotunnel is being prosecuted under an obscure 1861 ‘Malicious Damages Act’ and has spent months in jail. Earlier this month, the same legislation was used to arrest two Iranian men in Folkestone after they had completed the 31-mile walk. Calais Migrant Solidarity are calling for the release from prison of the ‘Channel Tunnel 3’.
During the action in King’s Cross, the Harry Potter Hogwart’s platform was closed by police – surely a wilful interference with the convenience of excited Potter fans?