Written by Stout Yeoman
Frederica posted a YouTube video in response to an article by Janice on last Monday’s protest (19th July) in Parliament Square. It covered the arrest of an attendee. We do not know why he was chosen for arrest, but it was not a pleasant scene to witness. It was an example of something we have seen often in the past year. The police wrestle someone to the ground. Several officers sit on him or otherwise pin him down while other officers handcuff the person. They seemed to take their time while a ring of other police encircled them and kept possible interference at bay. Although the technique is commonplace now I have seen worse and something that is even more disturbing.
Last September, Mrs Yeoman and I happened upon a gathering in Trafalgar Square. There were a few thousand people there listening to Piers Corbyn and the ‘5G’ nurse whose name escapes me. We wandered around the edge of the square and bumped into people we knew. It was a sunny day, the atmosphere was festive, and it was good to see people again. I had no interest in the conspiracy theories but neither did most people we spoke to. They were there to enjoy being out, to protest in ill-defined ways about the government generally and it looked set to be a very jolly afternoon, notwithstanding the gathering (of more than six people) was illegal. In fact, so festive was the atmosphere, Mrs Yeoman and I joined in.
About 1pm, while Mrs Yeoman was socialising as she likes to do, I made my way to the north-east corner of the square and stood on a grassy knoll in front of the National Gallery to get an overview and take some pictures when something odd happened. I was joined by a dozen or so photographers and video camera people from Sky, The Mail and others. Congratulating myself on picking the spot the professionals choose I took some pictures. Oddly, the press corps was not taking pictures.
There were quite a few people in front of me on the terrace along the front of the National Gallery. Not all would have been overspill from down in the square. Off to my left, a line of policemen was forming. Not the TSG (Territorial Support Group – the one with helmets and shields) but ordinary police. They advanced on the people in front of me and started pushing. It was no more than that, not especially aggressive, and no batons drawn. Once they had forced the crowd back so that their line was directly below the press corps they started shoving more vigorously. Some of the men in the crowd started pushing back. Suddenly, the shutters started clicking. The shoving lasted a couple of minutes whereafter the police simply disappeared as did the media.
A short while later, Mrs Yeoman and I walked west out of the square into Pall Mall in search of lunch. We passed Suffolk Street and saw a large number of TSG assembling. The penny dropped.
After lunch, we checked the lunchtime news. Although not prominent, the narrative was there sustained by the photographs. Belligerent troublemakers were in Trafalgar Square. It was paving the way for the TSG we had seen. They would not be breaking up a peaceful gathering, when wielding batons might be too much, but dispersing thugs and troublemakers. Except there were no thugs.
After lunch we returned to the square. It was carnage. The TSG were hitting people on the head – I saw several with blood pouring from wounds – and I saw a gratuitous assault by a policeman on a defenceless woman.
There was one particularly serious case. I only saw the aftermath of policemen around a man on the ground inside the circle of police that surrounded them. I could hear cries of ‘you’ve killed him’. It was half an hour or so later that he was taken away on a stretcher – not moving.
I was surprised to see such a very peaceful gathering broken up with such unnecessary violence and especially because it seemed planned in advance and not a response to provocation or to protect property. It may have been happenstance that the media joined me on the grassy knoll, all at the same time, and happenstance that some policemen decided to amuse themselves with some unprovoked shoving of people in front of the press and TV, their half-hearted effort having no purpose other than moving a crowd a few feet without arrests being attempted. After all, it must be boring attending a rally with nothing to do because everyone was festive and peaceful.
I was being facetious in considering happenstance. What I think happened that day was that the carnage meted out by the TSG was planned and the little theatre I witnessed at 1pm was in preparation of the news. I doubt the media were in on the final outcome. It is more likely they were just useful idiots. Tipped off that the police were making a move they raced to the grassy knoll. Some disorder was newsworthy whereas peaceful assembly was not. But did any of them later reflect that they had been used?
I read later that an inspector on the ground had issued a dispersal order and the TSG were sent in when no one obeyed (if they heard it that is). The bloody ending shows it was not a case of let them have some fun first then gently order them to disperse. More a case of let the TSG assemble out of sight first.
The organisers made several mistakes. They had no extinction rebellion disguise, they were not Black Lives Matter, and they were not Muslims protesting about Israel. Had they adopted such disguise they would have had a trouble-free afternoon with no interference from the police. Indeed, as happened a few weeks ago in London, they could have left the rally and driven through Jewish neighbourhoods shouting racist slogans and making death threats.
My previous articles highlighted some ways in which the relationship between citizen and state has been changing. The events of September show that even with basic policing we are not all equal before the law. No longer does the behaviour of a crowd determine how the police behave, but the political significance of the gathering and the make-up of attendees does.
An anonymous police officer, commenting on the football fans disorder at the Wembley Euros final, is reported to have said :
“…senior officers were reluctant to sanction more robust measures because “it’s all about the brand image. It is just annoying we are held back from doing our job. We are in public order gear for a reason.” He explained that although police officers should not be “let off the chain . . . many of those in charge are hesitant to let us put [helmets] on or get robust with those that need it”.
There were serious public order offences at Wembley. Yet, it was at Trafalgar Square where the TSG was “let off the chain”. Given the bill going through Parliament that will turn journalists and others into enemies of the state, we see our country turning into an authoritarian regime. The TSG will be “let off the chain” for groups defying the government.
Independence is not just freedom from the ECJ. It is independence of mind and conscience, independence from coercion and control. It is full equality before the law under a constitution of separation of powers. Our freedoms, our independence needs to be defended –(Independence) Daily!