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We Pledge Not To Riot

Winston being useful.

All the usual predictable lying idiocies being wheeled out again I see. Are earthquakes and floods 'justifiable'? The truth is that yesterday's violence was inevitable, and not so much because of the usual petty barbarisms by the police, but because of the massive lies and vandalism of this so-called government.
If Braindead Boris Johnson and the Blustering Classes are furious at a few broken windows, just how incandecent do they get are wars which kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people to boost oil-company profits, and which cost fortunes which could be spent securing the future of society? Not very, it seems. Their 'opinions' can be ignored with confidence. 
All civilised societies have long accepted that education benefits all, not just the student, and so my degree was paid for by everyone, and so I was happy to become a taxpayer afterwards. My generation felt a moral obligation to repay what others had done for us. 'Felt', not calculated, or granted, or submitted to. It was a natural, cultural convention which helped include us in something which was recognisable as a society. If this government truly believes what it preaches, the logical conclusion is to privatise all education, making parents pay for the best education they can afford. In fact, why not repeal the 1870 Education Act and be done with it? The Market will Provide.
The theory that only graduates benefit from their degrees inevitably leads to the conclusion that they should bear all the cost, and therefore that they should keep all the rewards. The result, more tax-exiles at one end of the scale, and more subversives at the other, and more resentment all round. The gross wanton Vandalism of the Condems is breeding the next generation of tax-avoiders and sociopaths. 

Last night's Newsnight featured batty Prof David Starkey claiming that this level of insurrection hadn't been seen since The Chartists, which is probably untrue. He failed to mention that the Chartists' inevitable attitude to violence was as follows:
'By moral force if we may. By physical force if we must.' And eventually that logical approach won most men the vote, as it did for women later on when the Suffragettes bombed and smashed their way through Whitehall and Oxford Street.
The vast peaceful impotent protest against the Iraq war, and the decade long candlelit vigil against Apartheid show just how much contempt governments feel for actions which don't express true anger. They have proved over and over that violence is the only language they understand.
Inevitability cuts both ways, of course, and all protestors need to understand that. It was inevitable that the police were going to prevent an invasion of Parliament. And that they would use violence to do so. Being crushed against barriers in Parliament Square, and hit from behind by police batons (twice) was not fun. But the prospect of being hung with £30,000 of life-crippling debt at the age of 18 must be far less fun.  And the destruction of further education,  and the atomisation of society into millions of squalid penny-pinching micro-businesses, all indifferent to anything but their own wealth makes violence on the streets far more inevitable. People are not accountants. And further education is not a glorified Gradgrind apprenticeship, existing merely to Gerrajob!
If yesterday seemed like violence, wait until those whose homes are threatened by the Condem's mad, vindictive housing vandalism take to the streets. If demonstrations are still allowed, that is. They will definitely pledge not to riot. But we all know what pledges mean these days, the Fib-Dems have taught us that, at least.

The Day In Pictures
At Trafalgar Square, things were confused, with much to-ing and fro-ing, but some structure. 
Then the police blocked Whitehall, and seemed about to kettle everyone in Trafalgar Square, as they have done before. That was when the people decided to go down the Mall and turn left to Parliament Square, singing 'Who ate all the pies?' to the flabby plods trying desperately to keep up (and failing). 
The Kettle has spawned a much more mobile protest strategy, which is beyond the control of anyone, creating chaos. Ask Prince Charles - though it didn't get as ugly for him and Camilla as it did for poor Alfie Meadows.

'Cut Your Nose Off To Spite Your Face - This is Going to Get Ugly'
The Grateful British Public.
The first sign of trouble at Parliament Square. A reporter notes the number of an officer who attacked a protester, to dismayed cries of 'What's he doing?' from his fellow officers. So they do know who the rogue elements are in their ranks. The unfortunate violent minority who come along just to cause trouble.
 The crowd still stayed overwhelmingly peaceful. With a wide range of protest on display.
R.I.P. Education 9/10/2010
 'Debt Is Not The Answer To Debt - Nick Clegg 21:04'
The Education Maintenance Allowance is vital to countless working class students. Soon it will be gone, and instead of going to college, young people will have to scrape by in the jungle of the streets. Cottage-industry dope-dealing has a reasonable profit margin, apparently - given a modest and unambitious lifestyle.

The fences around the square couldn't last. There simply wasn't enough room on the streets for all the people who wanted to be there. If the square had been made accessible in a civilised fashion, as for the Lebanon demonstration in 2006, the situation could have been defused. But the police and London Authority have decided that this shabby patch is sacred. That to damage it with the feet of dissent would be a betrayal of their curatoship of a glorious national treasure. Property is sacred. 
After this, the standoff in front of Parliament was bound to be ugly, as was the rest of the day.
15.07. The first significant bit of defiance gains access to the square for the huge crowd, which was probably much the safer option for all. 

Reclaiming Parliament Square for free expression. One concrete achievement.
15.16. We Are Not Your Slaves

'Hands off now!' was the command. Anyone touching the barrier could be batoned.

15.30. 'Hit me, hit me. HIT ME!'
Not long after this, I was batoned to the head, and later to the shoulder blade. Both from behind. A new experience for me. More uncomfortable was being crushed against the barrier with a steel rail against my chest at one point. Which was inevitable, but not a good idea. As the people at the front kept suggesting: 'Pull the barriers back! Don't give them back to them!' But the natural direction of a crowd is always forward.
It became obvious that the barriers were never going to be breached. Storming Parliament is not really going to be allowed, and everyone knew that, though it is always a gesture which has to be made.
After it got very cold indeed, and the bonfires had started on the square, the crowd in Victoria Street were Kettled by police and horses.

 Damaged protester being dragged from the scene.
 The Kettle tightens its grip, with predictable results.
 Protester being arrested for escaping the kettle, and separated from her little friend (or relative).
By this point, my body was giving out, as was the light, and I quit while still ahead - and while out of the Kettle. I knew that leaving was a mistake, but this kind of demonstration is definitely for the young and very fit.
The first use of riotshields on the British mainland was in Lewisham in 1977. Perhaps this year will see the first use of riot gas or baton rounds to protect the listed windows of the Courts of Justice. But since the protest can now be spread across the entire city, targeting the tax-dodgers of Vodaphone and Topshop and other feral Consumerist troublemakers, it is hard to see how the police can control the resistance now possible via the mobile phone - unless there is some kind of blanket ban, which will cause ten times more violence.
The question nobody stops to ask is why are there so many young people who are so alienated from society that they want to burn it down. The answer is simple. Every edition of every tabloid rag and every hour of shock-jock talk-radio is a licence to insult, vilify and persecute young people. ASBOS, Mosquitos, hoodie-bans, curfews.. the list of paedophobia goes on and on. This is a culture which deeply hates and resents kids. And now their hopes of enlarging their minds, and of lives with some degree of spontaneity are about to be wrecked. From now on, every 18 year old will be expected to have his or her life mapped out as clearly as any Victorian apprentice or Eton schoolboy, or Michael Heseltine. And central to that plan will be massive amounts of personal debt. Not the £9,000 of government lies, but more like £30,000 after living expenses. Add to that the now-obligatory mortgage, and the chains begin to weigh like Jacob Marley's.


  1. Renae6:28 pm

    Great photos, nice to see some balance to the lamestream media who seem obsessed with charles&camilla as the only thing that happened yesterday.

  2. Anonymous8:40 pm

    Great photos, nice comments.

  3. It is worth comparing and contrasting this experience with the April 1st Protests in 2009.


    Police kettling seems now to be a tactic to reduce the likelihood of people protesting. As a protestor you can assume that as well as protesting, you will be ritually and publicly humiliated, and left to stand in the cold without sustenance, with no sense of when you will be left free. The question for any protestor is now - do I want to have to put up with that humiliation each time I protest?

    The police should not be able to kettle people who have resorted to violence. It is against human rights, and yet somehow our country's laws permit it, and somehow we find it acceptable that the police do these things.

    If people are being violent then fine, kettle them. If they're not then the police have no business humiliating them in this way.

    The police must learn to kettle those who are being violent, and leave those that aren't.

    That would not be difficult to do; but the police seem to have an enthusiasm for inhibiting the supposed freedoms of people to protest, which goes far beyond limiting the damage done by violent people.

    Their actions are abusive and extremely distressing.

    The police actions demonstrate that large scale demonstrations in London are no longer something that are tolerated, and that any protestor can expect to be humilitated and punnished for it.

  4. Anonymous5:34 pm


    So good to read something thoughtful and balanced!


  5. Anonymous5:59 pm

    "15.30. 'Hit me, hit me. HIT ME!" thats charlie gilmour right there in that pic.

  6. Anonymous6:15 pm

    I agree, really great photos. And nice to see a considered writeup. I was lucky enough to be there with a camera when the Brixton riots kicked off in the 70s. Everyone should see a riot first hand, it puts the media coverage very much in perspective.

  7. It's hard to believe all this is happening.

    Who on earth suddenly decided kettling was the way to go?? Surely it just raises the temperature of the whole situation, and makes it much more likely that people will be hurt while exercising their right to protest. It's nothing more than illegal detainment.

    Why is it suddenly such an offence to protest? Are we supposed to hear of changes that hurt us, and meekly bow our heads?

    I despair.

  8. emma friedmann8:23 pm

    Great piece of reporting but it makes me reluctant to demonstrate in case I am injured.

  9. "Heather said...
    It's hard to believe all this is happening.
    Who on earth suddenly decided kettling was the way to go?"
    I saw it first in Trafalgar Square in May 2000, if I remember right.
    I got out just in time then too, through the fountain.

  10. "Ravish London said...
    It is worth comparing and contrasting this experience with the April 1st Protests in 2009.
    It is a deterrent to freedom of speech, that's for sure.
    I hate to say I told you so but:
    "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."

  11. Anonymous9:11 pm

    well said! great piece, thank you.

  12. A group of protesters is like water.... you have to keep it flowing otherwise it will turn stagnant. Did you see any broken windows or graffiti on the way down? No, because the crowd was kept moving. When you kettle a group of people in one place for a length of time, people find things to do, they find things to vent their frustration on. It's the same as a prisoner kicking his cell door. He knows that the door won't open if he kicks it, but it makes him feel better in a way. If the police hadn't have kept the crowd in Parliament Square for hours on end, they wouldn't have been burning benches and vandalizing property. When there was little police presence on the march down from Malet Street, there was no trouble what so ever. As soon as the police start to intimidate people, they get angry and frustrated. And by the way..... that's me with the camera in the 3rd photo from the bottom!

  13. Anonymous1:16 am

    Great blog, man.

  14. Anonymous1:59 pm

    Wonderful writing and photos. I was also there on Thursday . Its heartening to finally see some writing that properly contextualizes (is that a word?) the "violence" Thankyou.


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