April 2, 2011
Trafalgar Square Kettle. My personal account from the inside.
At the end of a long day on the TUC march and a well earned couple of pints of Guinness in the pub with my brother I decided to head off home. On the way to the station there were the signs of various amounts of damage to buildings such as Santander, Porsche and The Ritz.
Walking past Trafalgar Square I noticed there was a large number of people in the Square itself. When I entered the Square it was almost as if Glastonbury had paid a visit and had a carnival type atmosphere. Relaxed, peaceful with people listening and dancing to music or sitting around one or two small fires that had been lit. These people didn’t look at all like they had spent the day giving the police the runaround. They weren’t dressed head to foot in black and very few had their faces covered. There were a few police around in twos and threes and were not wearing riot gear. There was also what looked like security people behind barriers around the fountains.
It was against this backdrop that events turned decidedly unpeaceful. There was a disturbance around the area of the Olympic clock. I couldn’t see what was happening and I was told that someone had tried to attack the clock and was arrested. It was after the arrest that several lines of police in riot gear swarmed in down the steps opposite the National Gallery and into the Square next to the Olympic clock and started to lash out. There then followed a certain amount of sporadic outbursts of violence from the police. A flare went off behind police lines although I didn’t see from which direction this came. After a period of relative calm I took some photos and then the police started to get aggressive once more which promoted a barrier to be thrown towards the police lines. It was then that I had to get clear but took a minor whack to my head with a shield for not being quicker at getting out of the way. It was at this stage that the kettle had been formed and no one was allowed to leave. Commendably but naively, one or two groups of people decided to sit down and try to reason with the police.
Oddly, at this stage, there were fireworks zooming up into the air like some sort of November 5th display from the fountain area which was outside the kettle. There was no malicious intent as the fireworks were not directed at the Police.
The police then forced everyone back towards the Nelson Column plinth. From there people were either at the base or on the plinth. There was an empty area between the people and the front police line. A bottle was thrown into this area which fell well short of police lines which suggested it was thrown out of frustration rather than harmful intent.
The previous day the Police said they would let those who have not been causing trouble to leave and would provide water to those who were contained. Needless to say neither of these happened. If they did allow non-violent people to leave then that would discredit the Met Police assertions that the police came under attack by criminals because so few, if any, would actually still be contained and certainly not the 200 or so who were. There was also no access to toilet facilities as the toilet facilities in the Square were outside the kettled area.
Moreover the Met Police website stated:
‘Containment will be very much a tactic of last resort. If it does become necessary, again we have responded to feedback, and now have a dedicated Chief Inspector to ensure the swift dispersal of innocent and vulnerable people and to ensure the needs of those contained are considered.’
I didn’t see a Chief Inspector and obviously the needs of those contained were not considered.
So just to clarify, in a two hour period the only violence I saw from people inside the Square was one flare, one barrier and one bottle thrown. Apart from violent disorder from the police around the clock the only other violence that did occur happened after provocation from the police and after the kettle had been formed. I was lucky enough to get out of the kettle with the help of someone who had a press pass and I heard from a later news report that the kettling continued until 2.45am.
There maybe some that might be skeptical about my account of the events of that night and to those I would say this: the Police were filming what happened on the ground and in the air. There was also television coverage and yet the only violent evidence I saw from that coverage was a barrier being thrown. I very much doubt if anyone else saw coverage of anything else that would even remotely constitute an attack by so called criminals that would warrant such a large containment. The reality is that such an allegation by the Met Police is totally absurd.