Well, I was in London yesterday, so I decided to potter along and see if the police were, indeed, revolting.
I got into Victoria around 1pm; going by the schedule put out by the Police Federation I figured I’d catch the middle of the march going by as it headed to Millbank. But all was quiet around Victoria, so I took a wander along the route to see what sort of level of policing would be applied to a protest by the polis, before cutting back to find the march.
Except I found the tail of the march, all the way down Victoria Street at (I think) Artillery Row. They were all wearing those white baseball caps, some of them clutching their little yellow goodie bags, and proper motoring along. It was pretty much silent – no cheers, chants, singing, excitement, anger or any expression of anything. No banners, placards or signs at that point – just white baseball caps and yellow carrier bags. Most odd!
So having found the march I figured on sticking with it and following it to Millbank. However, being on my own I felt distinctly vulnerable, so I stuck to observation, IYKWIM 😉 As I crossed the (empty) road though, I did get called “You cunt!” by a uniformed (and presumably on-duty) copper in a van tailgating the march. Charming!
Also around the junction of Victoria Street and Artillery Row was a videography team interviewing crushers. They weren’t ‘proper’ TV, but neither did they look like IndyMedia types. Even at the time they looked, well, a little odd. In retrospect I wonder whether they may have been the BNP-TV team mentioned by Richard Barnbrook.
I stuck with the march all the way to Millbank, and one of the things that struck me was the almost complete lack of interaction with the public. I saw only a single placard the whole way down until the roundabout by Lambeth Bridge, where I think there were a few more as the march ended. Another noteworthy aspect was the sheer briskness of it. It was like some kind of pensioners’ speedwalking event, like they were determined to get through it all, back on the coaches as soon as possible and get home in time for Countdown and a hot mug of Ovaltine.
When the march passed by a magistrates’ court was the only time there was any noise of note; a woman in civilian clothes outside the building clapped, and shouted out something along the lines of “Good on you”. A small number of uniformed officers and security guards from the court joined here, and there was a small cheer from the marchers in response. However, the sound of a single person clapping in a traffic-deserted street as several people walk by in near-silence is a new one on me. It was like bad conceptual art.
Of course, not all the marchers did that much marching. By the time I caught up with the back of it – about halfway along – I’d already passed dozens of them wandering the other way, in many cases with caps in hands or pockets, like they were embarrassed. There were scores more ensconced in the various pubs along the way. As I worked my way along the procession, every single pub was full of whitebread suburban types in smart/casual, whilst outside phalanxes of white hat-wearing pot-bellied young men stood jabbering staccato-style into their mobiles with inflated estimates of attendance figures (the highest I heard was 35,000).
And, erm, that was that. For the next couple of hours you’d see the odd knot of white caps across central London, but essentially it was all done by lunchtime. Reports of looting at Dunkin’ Donuts have not been confirmed.
Some interesting reports on the day:
- Space Hijackers and their ‘professional protest stall’ on IndyMedia (the Evening Standard appears to have mistaken the ‘Jackers for genuine jacks!)
- FITwatch has posted plenty of pics
- Ian Bone on the Class War presence
- BlueLou from Bristol has pictures from inside the march
- The Bristol Blogger has a dig at the Evening Post for its coverage of the march