Tag Archives: repression

Climate March and policing 7th March 2015

It is hard to understand why yesterday’s Climate March attracted many fewer than in Autumn, other than that the corporate media, owned by a handful of right-wing billionaires, is successfully misdirecting the public by continually ignoring or playing down the pressing scientific argument against the stranglehold of oil multi-nationals on national and international energy policy.

Still, several thousand angry folk gathered in Lincoln’s Inn Fields at lunchtime, before a bike bloc led the march towards Parliament.

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03 climate march

There was a pause for a sit-down on the Strand, lasting around ten minutes, and there was also a detour by an anarchist bloc which turned off Whitehall and looped back into the rear of Parliament Square to establish the #occupydemocracy gathering due to follow the climate rally.

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05 climate march

06 climate march

Prior to the march there was controversy over the Met’s demand that organisers pay for private road management – a position they retreated from later. In their original reasoning, they claimed that there was no need for any police presence because their core responsibility was “preventing and detecting crime, maintenance of the Queen’s Peace and protecting life and property”, and that because there the proposed march was “expected to be crime-free there was little requirement for it to provide a policing operation”.

So it was interesting that the event was not only fully policed, but that there was also a marked ramping-up of surveillance, with several FIT teams filming protesters, and a huge number of blue-tabarded “Liaison Officers”.

A smiley "liaison officer" from the National Domestic Extremist Special Operations branch

A smiley “liaison officer” from the National Domestic Extremist Special Operations branch

They seem to have given up any pretence that they are not gathering intelligence, with more and more of them sporting Public Order (CO) lapel badges, one Sergeant showing his SO (Domestic Extremist/Terrorist Specialist Operations), several Tactical Support Group officers (whose usual liaison with protesters involve shoving, punching or batoning them!), and out of their usual beat, several City of London police and some Detective Inspectors from Kent.

Perhaps this huge increase in intelligence gathering was a celebration of the Supreme Court’s ruling last week, in the John Catt case, that for the moment legitimises the wide-scale collection and retention of intelligence for “police purposes” that may include studying the “leadership, organisation, tactics and methods” as well as “links between protest groups”.

After the speeches and rally, one group of around a hundred activists headed off to block the steps of Tate Britain in protest at their sponsorship deals with BP, which provide huge amounts of greenwash and free advertising to the disgraced oil company in return for financial support which amounts to less than 1% of the Tate’s budget.

Another larger group, led by a ‘carbon bubble’ and huge dinosaur, took a stroll across Westminster Bridge and rallied outside the Shell HQ on the South Bank, where there were a few minor scuffles as TSG officers, protecting the corporation, tried to burst the bubble and snatch a few placards.

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08 climate march

After some speeches there, the several hundred protesters began to head back over the bridge to re-occupy Parliament Square, but suddenly things took a dark turn. The same group of TSG that had been observing protesters earlier in the Square, and who were involved in scuffles at Shell, suddenly decided in the middle of the bridge to snatch someone and arrest them on the strange premise that they had previously committed a Section 5 public order offence in Humberside. This character had been noisily playing a tambourine in Parliament Square during the afternoon, was very visible around the Shell protest, and was clearly heading back to the Square, so why the police chose to so publicly snatch him in the middle of the bridge is a mysterious lapse in judgement.

Inevitably, his arrest, and claims that the arrest was completely unfounded, led to the prisoner van being surrounded by protesters, with costumed polar bears staging a sit-in in front of the van.

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For the next 45 minutes, ever increasing numbers of police fought to clear a path for the van to exit, with many protesters receiving injuries in the process, despite the overwhelming majority acting peacefully.

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11 climate march

12 climate march

During the operation, another three people were arrested, including an NUJ journalist.

Even when the van finally made an escape along York Road, it got held up by traffic and some activists tried to halt its progress further, but in a terrifying few moments, the driver gradually built up speed, as protesters ran backwards with their hands on the bonnet, until eventually they realised he literally might kill them, and they span off to the side.

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14 climate march

Serious questions must be asked about whether the police were wise to attempt the original arrest in the middle of a large crowd in the middle of a bridge, and then whether their ensuing operation and escalating violence was proportionate in order to question someone about an historic alleged minor public order offence.

Once things had calmed down, the crowd returned to Parliament Square, where, under intense further surveillance, a group of up to a hundred held a meeting and then enjoyed some conscious poet and music entertainment into the evening from the likes of David Willard, Pete the Temp, and Danny Chivers.

16 climate march

17 climate march

Occupy Democracy organised prisoner support at Charing Cross police station so that as people were released they were met with a friendly welcome and some food etc. It took the full 24 hours for the last of the four to be released.

Occupy Democracy have announced they will be in Parliament Square during the election period from 1st till 10th May, and Liberty have just had the go ahead to launch a judicial review on the legality of the GLA’s closing of the Square to protests.

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Occupy Democracy February – “Equality and Representation”

Last weekend, ‘Occupy Democracy’ returned to Parliament Square for a series of events around ‘Equality and Representation’. Despite an ongoing legal challenge against the GLA over previous repression, on Saturday they faced further arrests by police who appeared to be having difficulty providing a legal basis for their actions.

The afternoon began peacefully on the pavement by Churchill’s statue with a presentation on Islamaphobia, followed by a mock funeral for democracy at the foot of Mandela’s statue.

01 occupy democracy february

02 occupy democracy february

03 occupy democracy february

Then the activists walked on to the grass area and unfurled a huge tarpaulin, on which they continued debate, with an inspirational offering from Kerry-anne Mendoza (aka Scriptonite).

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05 occupy democracy february

Heritage Wardens and police kept interrupting proceedings and attempting to hand over pieces of paper and information to members of the group, but were mostly ignored. Police numbers were also building up, with TSG officers arriving on the scene, and suddenly a dozen or more officers bundled into the crowd, ignoring the shouts that there were elderly and infirm individuals present, and they made their first arrest of the evening, targeting Donnachadh McCarthy, author and media activist. The authorities clearly see him as some sort of focus, as this is the fourth arrest he has endured.

From then on, the evening descended into a petty legal farce and police actions which successfully disrupted the planned events. Superintendent Kohli, heading the police operation, began the evening in assured form claiming his conscience was clear, but as legal arguments ensued, he was heard arguing with CPS about whether CCTV was needed to support any charges, and later literally refused to speak with Bindman’s lawyers and drove away into the night. See the video.

Each of the several more arrests over the evening followed the same bizarre pantomime. A Heritage Warden, surrounded by a large group of TSG officers, would randomly select a member of the public on the grass and (if they didn’t run away), would ask them to leave the grass, without giving any reason for the request. He then claimed they were breaking a Bye-Law by not following a “reasonable direction”, but constant requests to be told the “reason” for the request were ignored. He then asked for a name and address, and if refused, police piled in to arrest the person targeted.

06 occupy democracy february

At one point, people in chorus (using the ‘mic check’ technique of call and response), described to the wardens and officers that some months ago, a Bindman’s solicitor had explained to the commanding Inspector why this exact same scenario was unlawful, and as a result he had withdrawn nearly 200 officers allowing the occupation to continue peacefully – this caused the police and wardens to withdraw and huddle for a while, but they returned for more arrests soon after.

The argument lies around whether a Warden can just issue a direction to leave (which clearly opens him/her up to the dangers of discrimination or infringement of human rights), or whether the “reasonable direction” has to have one of the reasons defined by the rest of the Bye-Laws.

The arrestees were released hours later, and all except Donnachadh, who is facing other charges, were told there would be ‘No Further Action’. Thus, the entire police operation seriously disrupted a peaceful and probably entirely lawful assembly by a few dozen people wishing to discuss the state of democracy in front of Parliament. It seems the occupy movement have a point.

They returned the next day and again held many of their workshops (with topics including ‘feeding the homeless’, ‘black activism’, ‘Greece and Syriza’) on the pavement next to Churchill’s statue.

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Romayne Phoenix

Romayne Phoenix

But when they peacefully moved to the grass, they faced further intimidation and harassment from wardens and police threatening further arrests.

05 occupy democracy february 15

04 occupy democracy february 15

They finished the day by holding a small rally in front of Parliament.

06 occupy democracy february 15

Superintendent Kohli certainly had CCTV covered on the Sunday, with a crew of four mysterious figures observing and filming from an overlooking window, and an unmarked green van sporting a powerful surveillance camera just behind the gates of Westminster.

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01 surveillance

Occupy Democracy return to the Square on the day of the massive Climate March next month on the 7th.

03 occupy democracy february 15

Occupy Democracy in Parliament Square Sat. 24th Jan 2015

Occupy have held several events in Parliament Square over the last few months (covered in previous blogs). Their attempts to hold democratic peaceful meetings in front of the so-called ‘Mother of Democracy’ Parliamentary buildings, have been met with repression ranging from petty and laughable jobsworthism to full-blown police aggression. The Mayor of London has spent huge amounts (according to FoI requests more than a quarter of a million pounds of public money last October alone) putting up huge ugly fencing in the name of protecting the grass and the area’s “heritage” for tourists. Interestingly, the word ‘heritage’ was until very recently purely about inheritance, possession and ownership, rather than its currently implied connection with culture, so perhaps Boris is being at least etymologically honest.

At the weekend, there was a large anti-Trident protest near Parliament, so ‘Occupy’ called for a follow-on assembly in Parliament Square discussing and highlighting the corporate connections and influence on Government policy around the issues of arms sales, war, and nuclear weapons.

As the Trident protest ended in Old Palace Yard, a couple of hundred activists marched on to Parliament Square, ignoring a “Heritage Warden” who tried to repel them, and setting up some large banners and making themselves comfortable for an afternoon of debate, speakers, and occasional music.

01 occupy democracy

05 occupy democracy

The “Heritage Wardens” were originally meant to stop pigeon-feeders, anti-social behaviour, and illegal trading, but their powers were extended dramatically by new Bye-Laws based on the contentious PRASRA law which was written as a direct response to Brian Haw’s continued successful 10-year peace vigil, and the threat of Occupy encampments following the St.Paul’s protest in solidarity with Wall Street.

So now, these wardens work for a small private security business managed by an ex-soldier who served in Afghanistan. Perhaps you remember that one of the reasons the corporate media told us we had to fight the Taliban was that they didn’t allow anyone to play musical instruments? We were apparently going to bring the Afghan people freedom from such draconian repression. How ironic then, that this veteran now has his private troop of jumped-up caretakers running after a gentle acoustic guitarist, as they did on Saturday, and as they can be seen doing on a regular basis in Trafalgar Square, warning that the playing of musical instruments is prohibited.

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Watched by police Forward Intelligence Teams, with more than half a dozen police vans parked round the Square, and listened in to by several more intelligence officers dressed as Police Liaison in their baby-blue, a group of around a hundred stayed well into the evening.

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04 occupy democracy

06 occupy democracy

In defiance of the Bye-Laws and the past police violence and arrests, they held their ground for several hours into the cold night, and handed round a tiny megaphone, while sitting on tarpaulin (both acts banned by the Bye-Laws), as they discussed what ‘Occupy’ stands for, what its demands are, and how to counter the corporate control of Government and develop a true democracy based on the will of and acting for the good of ordinary people.

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This tiny and completely peaceful act of defiance (hardly noticed by the corporate media or the world at large) showed up the insanity of previous expensive and pointless repression and symbolised how disobedience can win small battles, and as we know from history, can eventually create vast changes.

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‘Occupy’ have launched a Judicial Review against the Mayor of London over the previous fencing and repression (https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/news/press-releases/liberty-launches-judicial-review-fencing-around-parliament-square-gardens), and have announced their return for a weekend occupation of the Square beginning on 14th February, with the fitting theme of love, equality and representation.


Love Activists – how the law can bend and sway and bend again

07 #loveactivists Cavell House, 2a Charing Cross Road is a five-storey building opposite the National Gallery, with secure vaults, large entertainment and conference rooms, and a top floor penthouse suite with great views across London. Last occupied by Royal Bank of Scotland, the building has lain empty for over a year, and squatters moved in late on Friday evening. The new occupiers received notice of civil proceedings to take place on 29th December. These proceedings were instigated by a company called Greencap Ltd. which claimed to own the building, but which is an offshore shell company that paid no tax last year, seems to have dissolved, and has a value of £9. With good press coverage, the occupiers, calling themselves the “Love Activists” announced their intention to use the building over the Xmas period to provide shelter for homeless people and to cook a Christmas dinner. They attracted several hundred pounds in donations from the public to do so. However, Greencap secretly went to court and applied for an emergency injunction. This was served by unidentified bailiffs early this morning, who aided by police, managed to evict all but two protesters. The two, known as Danny and Mouse, went over a balcony and sat precariously on a ledge, refusing to move and causing police to set up a cordoned area on the pavement below. 10 #loveactivists 08 #loveactivists As supporters gathered outside the National Portrait Gallery throughout the day, legal advice, hard to come by with aid cuts in 2014, and even harder to find on Christmas Eve, eventually led to one of the activists, Pete Phoenix, putting together an ‘out of hours’ application to the High Court to vary or discharge the injunction that had been served this morning. 06 #loveactivists While people waited for a judgement from the High Court, various officers talked to Danny and Mouse trying to persuade them to come down, but despite the wind and cold, and the need for a toilet, they stayed put, only allowing police to put some rubber wire harnesses round them to prevent a fall. 05 #loveactivists Finally, the activists heard back from Mrs. Justice Andrews, and she ruled a variation to the injunction in their favour, that “nothing shall prevent entry to the premises in order to prepare for and provide a Christmas dinner for the homeless”, and that for the avoidance of any doubt, the original order could not be used to evict or prevent from entering, anyone involved in the preparation and provision of that dinner. This was an unequivocal victory and was met by celebration and cheering. 04 #loveactivists 03 #loveactivists But the officer in charge, Inspector Evans, refused to read the ruling at first, because it was on a mobile phone (which clearly showed the sending address as the high court), demanding a print copy instead. An internet cafe was found and the document printed, but the Inspector had done a runner. It took nearly an hour before he was next sighted, and a Superintendent who arrived was no help either.

a Sergeant takes a look at injunction

a Sergeant takes a look at the new court order

Evans promised to return “in a minute”, but this turned into another half hour, during which time, the balcony activists were persuaded into the building on the basis that the injunction had been overturned. But they were then arrested “on suspicion of criminal damage”, and only after they were removed from the building, the Inspector finally spoke to activists about the new ruling. He said the police had been “trying to establish if the ruling was genuine” but had been unable to do so. He also said that even if it was, since the activists no longer had possession of the building, (thanks to Danny and Mouse’s arrest), they would need to have it enforced by High Court bailiffs, and couldn’t just walk back in. He claimed that the police were only there to prevent any breach of the peace and that it was a purely civil matter, and that not even they could effect entry to the building – he wouldn’t answer under what legal basis he and at least a dozen other police had been entering and leaving all afternoon and evening. Apparently satisfied that his work was done, he disappeared off into the night, leaving two officers at the main door. Although several Gurka security guards were now inside the building, the balcony was empty and all the lights were off. 01 #loveactivists So it seems the law can bend one way for the rich, and another for the poor. When the offshore shell company got its emergency injunction, with no notice to the defendants, giving a telephone number that is unobtainable, bailiffs were accompanied at 8am this morning by more than a dozen police to effect what turns out to be an unlawful eviction based on a document filed by a dissolved company that doesn’t pay any taxes. But when the High Court rules that a dinner for the homeless should be allowed to go ahead, and that the original injunction cannot be construed to stop people from doing so, the police question the veracity of the ruling and continue to guard the building, all paid for by our taxes. Some good news to end the evening however. The secure basement in the building has tonight been retaken by activists, and the Christmas dinner WILL go ahead there at least. Any further attempt at eviction will undoubtedly be completely unlawful. And Danny and Mouse have been released around midnight without charge – so the arrest really does look like a deliberate ploy by the police to side with an offshore company against the homeless and even to subvert the ruling of a High Court Judge.

UPDATE 1am Xmas Morning The mysterious Greencap Ltd company are seriously determined to stop the planned homeless Christmas dinner and have paid for yet another court order, very late on Christmas Eve that overturns Mrs Justice Andrews’ amendment made at tea-time. So once again, police (who actively interfered with the successful implementation of the previous court order and expressed disbelief that it was a genuine document) are happy to run to the aid of private owners and their security goons to evict the Love Activists on the basis of a new document. They’ve failed to provide a stamped copy to the activists however. Eviction is in progress.

No austerity at Parliament Square

Earlier this evening, up to a hundred people gathered at Parliament Square for the start of a weekend of workshops, conversations, talks, music, entertainment and planning. The ‘occupy’ movement found that Boris’s GLA fences have been extended even further, so the whole square is now out of bounds to the public.

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Despite the announcement that 12% of police jobs are under threat due to austerity cuts, it seemed no expense was spared to protect the grass from spontaneous democracy tonight, with around 60 police spread out a few feet apart entirely encircling the perimeter fences, as well as the “heritage wardens” keeping guard inside, and police photographers and their intelligent-gathering ‘police liaison officers’ mingling with the crowd and journalists on the thin strip of pavement at the front.

00 occupy N21

02 occupy N21

Despite threats of arrest, there is still no law against gathering or even protesting, only a set of restrictions that make it very difficult, so the occupation goes on, and after some marching , the group later found a safer space with more room behind the square in front of the Supreme Court.

One person was arrested near the Nelson Mandela statue after a good-natured attempt to break through one of the fences.

There’s some great coverage with live video feeds, but check out the programme of events and join in if you can.  occupydemocracy.org.uk

Students’ national march against fees and cuts – report and pics

On November 10th 2010, the Tory HQ at Millbank was left virtually unprotected by police, despite a passing march by thousands of students angry over government plans to massively raise tuition fees.

Most readers will no doubt know that as a result, a mass occupation and serious damage took place that afternoon. Whether the lack of police was a plan or a cock-up, it led to later student marches being met with a series of police traps, mass kettles, extreme provocation and violence, and severe injuries, in what appeared to be large scale indiscriminate extra-judicial punishment against any students daring to raise their democratic voices. This was backed up with a mainstream media campaign of lies and demonisation. (Links to my reports at the time N24/1, N24/2, N24/3, N30/1, N30/2).

Four years on, a similar scenario unfolded yesterday afternoon over hours rather than weeks – the inexplicably hands-off policing at Parliament Square and the new Tory HQ in Matthew Parker Street turned later into arbitrary violence and arrests as riot police chased, attacked and dispersed a large breakaway group of students around Westminster and Victoria.

The protest began in Malet Street, where, despite the National Union of Students officially pulling out due to “safety concerns”, several thousand student activists still gathered for the march to Parliament which was co-organised and now promoted by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC).

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

There were Forward Intelligence Officers as well as many ‘Police Liaison Officers’ (who also feedback intelligence), among the crowd, and given that there were dozens of ‘Blac Bloc’ overtly carrying a large banner that read “Millbank Everything”, it would take a high degree of stupidity, or some ulterior motive, for police commanders not to protect the new Tory HQ if nowhere else.

The main march was largely uneventful apart from a couple of stops at anti-capitalist targets such as Topshop and Starbucks, entrances briefly blocked by students chanting “Pay Your Taxes”.

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

Given the ridiculous fencing around Parliament Square (which was guarded by a hundred or more police on the recent Million Mask March), it was odd that fewer than a dozen officers were deployed there yesterday. And when the march arrived at the Square, those officers first looked on as people climbed over the double barriers, and then they briefly fought some masked protesters who were staring to dismantle the inner fences.

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

Meanwhile, behind the scuffling cops, other students easily pulled down the fences, and soon hundreds streamed on to the square, re-enacting the occupation that took place last time students challenged Boris’s democracy-bashing enclosure of the publicly-funded privately-owned grass of Parliament Square. The handful of police withdrew, one of them muttering “this was a fuck-up”.

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

And while more students ensured the double-barriers were also opened up for free access, and others danced and drummed on the grass in front of Parliament, the only police presence was distant and mainly comprised of surveillance.

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

Many students carried on to the rally point and listened to various speakers, but several hundred formed the breakaway group around the Square, who after a while decided to move off towards Victoria Street.

As I ran ahead to the Tory HQ, their obvious target, I was surprised to find fewer than a dozen police there, who seemed oblivious to the impending crowd of hundreds of angry activists. Despite the students’ anger and their numerical advantage there was actually only one half-hearted attempt to breach the thin blue line when a handful of students ran forward pushing a wheelie bin. As police raised batons and tried to grab the rammers, two people were arrested.

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

There were no serious attempts at de-arrest and the crowd moved on rather aimlessly into Green Park, and then in a circle via Parliament Square, to the Dept for Business, Innovation and Skills, where again, just a handful of officers stood between the crowd and the entrance, with some mild pushing and noisy chants, and two paint bombs made from sucked and refilled eggs.

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

It was here though, that things began to change as first TSG officers moved in pushing people aggressively, and then vans of police in full riot gear turned up.

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts
The students quickly moved on up Victoria Street away from the police, and then there was a stand-off as dozens of TSG officers rushed to guard a Starbucks outlet which then became the target of another couple of paint-bombs.

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

It all started to get quite messy as police tactics seemed to turn to aggression, random lines across the road, and then some running chases. During one of these, I was pushed from behind, Tomlinson style, without warning, despite doing nothing other than photographing all afternoon, and I saw one running protester have his legs kicked out from under him by a thug in uniform. Unsurprisingly, some further scuffles ensued, and there were some seemingly arbitrary arrests.

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

As more TSG started chasing groups of students anxious to avoid violence, kettling, or arrest, the march dispersed widely.

From the ludicrously unprepared policing of earlier afternoon, to the widespread intimidation and violence of later, took just 90 minutes resulting in 11 arrests, including affray and assaulting police, as well as several injuries.

A few students and a small samba band reconvened in Parliament Square, but when, after around 20 minutes, six riot vans turned up, people dispersed quietly. Then a group of a hundred or so arrived who had ended up marching via Buckingham Palace earlier, but dozens of police lined the precious grass, and protest was safely prohibited once more.

19th nov 2014 student's national march against fees and cuts

NCAFC have claimed today that all arrestees were later released without a single charge, but the Met haven’t confirmed this yet, and some may have been bailed of course.

Quite how long the GLA intend to keep up the eyesore of fences around our “national heritage” site is anyone’s guess, but they face their next challenge tomorrow when ‘Occupy’ are planning another weekend of events in the Square starting 6pm.

#Anonymous #millionmaskmarch London Nov 5th – pics and report

The battle lines were drawn when the media announced that the Metropolitan Police had imposed a Section 60A around Westminster, giving them the power to forcibly remove masks, and the Met also erected a digital notice board in Parliament Square with a long list of things people mustn’t do, which included lighting fires or setting off fireworks.

So, no masks, fires, or fireworks for the million mask march on bonfire night then!

Oh, and in case you thought you might at least enjoy yourself with some beats, the digital sign, a list of proscribed activities, included amplified music too, before signing off by thanking people for their “coperation”, which might have been a spelling mistake or perhaps just a final insult.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

As the march arrived in Parliament Square at around 7pm, the thousands of activists, masked and unmasked, were met not just by the GLA’s pathetic wire fences and their pompous “Heritage Wardens” ensuring nobody tried to protest on the grass in front of Parliament, but also by hundreds of riot police guarding that fence, themselves ensconsed behind double barriers weighed down by sandbags.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

Some of the marchers began immediately dismantling the barriers, and then, despite the ‘anonymous’ call-out not to engage with police, a small minority immediately escalated the tension with some physical engagement, leading to batons drawn, full riot gear, and some flashes of violence.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

However, despite this momentary flashpoint, most of the crowd was peaceful, Russell Brand spoke to the cameras, Vivienne Westwood arrived with her Climate Revolution crew, and one of the main stated aims of the march, to bring gridlock to London, got underway, with all roads into Parliament Square either closed or at a standstill.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

Like last year, rather than stand around in the Square watched by hundreds of police, the crowd soon moved off, overturning most of the hundreds of crowd barriers and using them to obstruct roads.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

Soon there were a thousand or more people outside Buckingham Palace, and again there were a few skirmishes over the double-barriers, but otherwise, it was a mostly peaceful crowd with a wide range of home-made banners, a few fireworks, and some famous faces.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

On a mini-megaphone, political rapper, Lowkey, received a warm welcome as he performed.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

After a while, and sensing police numbers building up, the march moved off again, heading up through Green Park onto Piccadilly, completely filling the road, and passing the Ritz, which was guarded by police in full riot gear.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

Moving quite quickly, via Piccadilly Circus and up Regent Street, the next target was the BBC, where an occupation was only just held off by a thin line of baton-wielding police until re-inforcements came.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

Like similar large protests at the BBC before, this one, with hundreds of anonymous protestors thronging the courtyard and dozens of cops in full riot gear clearing the area, was hardly reported, getting just one sentence on the local news website and no national coverage from the national broadcaster.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

Not waiting for police to catch up, the protesters headed off west along Oxford Street, and then spread out across Park Lane. There, the authorities attempted a blockade which at first looked like a possible kettle, but then seemed to turn into a disruption/splitting tactic, which was partially successful, but at the cost of blocking the major road in both directions with police lines and vans, thus causing more gridlock. Meanwhile, many demonstrators passed the police lines by jumping over the fences into Hyde Park, while others just sat on the banks watching the police blockade the traffic for them.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

While one quite large group marched through Mayfair and back down to Piccadilly, word seemed to spread for all the various splinters to reconvene back at Parliament, and there, by around 10.30, there were hundreds of protesters again blocking the approach roads. Once more, police seemed to be forming lines to potentially kettle people, and there were some skirmishes as people broke through a line of riot police on Bridge Street.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london
They continued on to Westminster Bridge, where a sit-down protest began.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across londonAs police formed new lines, some in full riot gear, and pushed more people on to the bridge, I had memories of the students kettled there for hours in the freezing cold a few years ago, but tonight, there were no police squeezing from the south side. Police were stopping anyone from leaving north over the bridge, and one person who tried ended up getting some unusual treatment from a police medic.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

Groups of mouthy cops were forcibly pushing anyone who looked like they might be a protester onto the bridge.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london

The Met later announced there were 11 arrests on the night, with one de-arrested later. Most were for obstruction or public order offences, with three alleged police assaults, one fireworks offence, and one more serious ‘attempted GBH’.

Anonymous is a strange beast, able to mobilise quite a large and defiant crowd, with no real aim other than disruption and gridlock. It represents a huge range of political views and motives, loosely linked by disaffection with current systems and the corruption, injustice, inequality and increasing control that characterises them.

Among the crowd were right-wing elements, anarchists, NGOs and professional campaigners, disaffected youths, lefties, celebs, agents provocateur, campaigners for the NHS, and those against corruption and paedophile cover-ups in Westminster, internet freedom groups, 9/11 truthers, privacy activists, and some party animals. There were some fireworks but no large sound systems. There were people tearing down barriers and overturning bins, but there were others clearing up the bins after them. While a small number of people threw objects and fought with police, others tried to engage them in political discourse.

Apart from Westminster and the Palace, the only other notable target for protest was the BBC, and as the cops guarded the Ritz, just a few steps further on the protesters filed past a wide-open Fortnum and Masons, also ignoring all the usual anti-capitalist targets such as mega tax-avoiders Vodafone, MacDonalds, Boots, and Top Man, with just a handful taking part in what was effectively just low-level looting for food and drink at a couple of Sainsbury branches.

Given the scale of disruption and gridlock, and the level of sporadic violence, the arrest numbers were low, the police clearly on orders to defend Parliament and the grass with their sheer weight of numbers (so much for austerity), while de-escalating and disengaging at several points throughout the evening. The press coverage, despite right-wing scaremongering from the usual suspects before the event, was quite muted and sparse after it, even though this was quite an impressive world-wide phenomenon – Anonymous claiming nearly 500 events worldwide on November 5th, with huge rallies in many major cities.

You can’t arrest an idea, especially an idea as nebulous as this one.

5th november 2014 anonymous million mask march across london