Threadneedle Street, April 1st 2009. Approximately 1pm.
An unprovoked attack by a police medic standing behind the safety of two rows of colleagues. He cannot know who he is attacking, and is in no danger himself. Another of his colleagues seeks to restrain him and only succeeds in knocking his hat off.
Violence by police medics surely breaches the Red Cross code, by which medics are allowed free passage because they do not bear arms, and thereby endangers other officers in the future.
Meanwhile, officers walked around with their numbers concealed:
The branch of the RBS on Threadneedle Street was surrendered by the police with surprisingly little resistance. As one officer near me explained:
"We'll let them let off steam for a bit."
In other words, RBS was the sacrificial lamb in this game of crowd control.
[Police escorting tents and protesters into RBS]
And given the hate campaign of the right wing press against bankers as a race, and the RBS in particular, it was obviously the easiest sacrifice to sell to middle England. A similar kind of thing happened in the famous trashing of the Whitehall MCDonalds on Mayday 2000, when police just stood back and watched. And then 'kettled' the crowd in Trafalgar Square for four hours.
While Daily Mail readers didn't hate McDonalds at all in 2000, they now hate Fred McShred and his ilk like poison, or so they say. So where were they on April 1st? And how can the Daily Mail and Telegraph and Times run the disgraceful character assassinations of Ian Tomlinson that they did?
It is as if the mainstream press is being torn between two neuroses. The automatic reflex to find a scapegoat for its own follies and vices, and the badly weaned infants' need to love and trust without question the nearest parental substitute, traditionally the police. Which is a familiar trait of the threatened middle classes throughout history. The middle classes (as represented in the pages of the newspapers they buy most) seem on the brink of demanding that bankers have large yellow dollar signs stitched prominently on their suits for all to see, while at the same time frothing at any practical demonstration of the anger they feel at their global, financial betrayal, and excusing any means of suppressing it. A crazy mixed-up social class to be sure. But none the less dangerous for that, as those falsely imprisoned in the city Kettle discovered.
Every time this tactic is used, more people will decide not to demonstrate, they will, in effect, revoke their right to protest, and so opposition is suppressed and a basic human right is debased. The clear intention of kettling is to polarise opposition and reduce demontrations to the so-called 'hard-core'. This frees the police to use more brutal tactics, as nobody loves the 'hard-core', and at the same time invite them to devise a counter-tactic to the kettle, which is not likely to be very peaceful. The result will be more violence and less protest.
The trouble is, that there is as much futile scapegoating by the 'hard-core' as in the pages of the Daily Mail. The hated bankers were simply obeying the laws of the market. If they hadn't grasped the short-term opportunities offered by the alchemy of risk management, with its claim to have discovered the financial elixir of eternal profit, then their competitors would have, and they would be out of a job. They are personally no more to blame than the famous 'Jewish Banking Conspiracy' of Nazi mythology was to blame for the depression of the 1930's. They really were only obeying orders. And furthemore, orders which the consumerist readers of the Daily Mail sanctioned with every purchase on their credit card and every repayment of their tracker mortgage. There were no complaints from them when the value of the houses they occupied rose, just as there were no complaints from the masses of Americans who inflated the 1920's share bubble, while it lasted.
Now that the property market is exposed for the updated sharecropping it is, people are naturally angry. But without property, what are they? When a culture in which identity is defined by property, wealth and power fails, a lot of people are left looking for an alternative source of status and being.
Some will naturally seek a semi-divine embodiment of uncompromising power, who will impose some idealised state of order and deliver a sense of dignity to those willing to follow. Others will reject the entire social project altogether and take to the woods. Others, hopefully the majority, will appreciate that we do now have the technology to do without competition as a way of feeding the world and delivering a reasonable standard of life. And that the anachronistic level of competition still in the system is more of a hindrance than the driver of innovation it once was when it was inventing the steam engine and requiring a more literate workforce and thereby making them aware enough of their rights to demand them.
So is the man who was in town on April Fool's Day, and who talked so enthuisiastically about the need for co-operation, able to satisfy both extremes? Or was that speech his April Fool's joke? After all, Obama is a nice middle class boy too.
In my experience, the level of police violence at Meltdown was not significantly different from anything experienced over the last twenty years, but only now is it causing any widespread outrage - now that professional journalists no longer have a monopoly on the evidence, and their proprietors no longer have a monopoly over distribution.
What does that say about their level of commitment to the truth in the past, given that they must have witnessed and photographed (and suppressed) much worse than what we've seen from Operation Glencoe? For all we know, there may be mouldering images in a draw in Wapping of Blair Peach being murdered.
And what do the lies told about Ian Tomlinson have in common with the lies told about the victims of Hillsborough, who were remembered yesterday? Initially, both sets of lies were told to cover up a breakdown of police tactics and discipline. Blaming the victim is a basic reflex of the British establishment.
During one of the more absurd police advances in Threadneedle Street, when we were yet again forced backwards into a mass of people, and against marble walls, I reminded one officer of the similarity with the tactics of Hillsborough. his response was a curt:
"Well stay at home then!".
That would solve everything, as far as he was concerned.
A much better photograph.