The following was written by Andy May, the creator of a new Facebook group 'Protest against police intimidation'. I'm posting it here because what he says is so important and what he witnessed was so horrifying.
If you're on Facebook, please join his group and invite others!
I decided to create this group having gone down to see climate camp, where unnecessarily aggressive police tactics against peaceful protestors made violence inevitable.
Read the account below and watch this video to see the moment it happened http://www.indymedia.org.uk/media/2009/04//426087.mp4
First let me put this in context, I was not involved with any group demonstrating in the city for the G20 protests. I work in marketing, for a charity and have never taken part in direct action. However, I am concerned about climate change - one of the issues on the G20 agenda. I wanted to see exactly what the climate camp contingent were about and what kind of message they wanted world leaders to hear. Considering the vast majority of scientific opinion believes we are in severe danger from climate change and lack of action thus far, I thought they might have pretty important reason to be out on the streets.
I also wanted to see whether reports of heavy handed police tactics’ on earlier demos was accurate.
I’m sorry to say that from what I saw, the police tactics were designed with nothing in mind other than to oppress a peaceful protest and make a violent situation inevitable.
This particular group of protesters were encamped in a tent city near Bank. Having wandered around at lunchtime and after work amongst them it appeared were universally peaceful . They were in no way associated with the more violent protests the police dealt with earlier in the day in bank.
The climate camp occupied about a 100m stretch of street running a couple of streets parallel to bishopsgate. The thousand or so protestors had erected a tent city, complete with bunting, cake, live music, stalls, even a stand up lavatory for those caught short. Until about 7pm in the evening it was entirely peaceful – until the police moved in.
Two lines of police in riot gear penned each side of the street and without warning stopped anyone from entering or leaving. Just a couple of minutes after this ‘penning’ began we attempted to exit the street only to be aggressively told by riot police that no-one could leave if they were involved in the protests. When questioned further one stated that ‘there were criminals in there’ and ‘this lot have been causing trouble at bank and we are going to go in and get them’.
Having failed to get out at the Liverpool street end we tried the south end of the street. Here we saw protestors with faces covered in blood being dragged away, whilst others staged a sit down protest to try and avoid being pushed into the crush by the riot police. We slipped around the side of the street but were initially denied exit. After pleading with one of the more reasonable riot police I got out with my friend at the other end – but after I showed my id card to the police officer and explained we were just observing and in no way involved in the protests.
Unlike the thousand or so hapless people remaining there, I was lucky enough to have an ID badge from my charity (which happens to specialise in human rights) so the police changed their tune. Unfortunately the others got left to their fate (which in one case I saw firsthand meant an unprovoked truncheon attack from a female police officer).
Later a work colleague of mine who was also at the demo told me police had charged a group peacefully staging a sit down protest. They were beaten and trampled along with bikes, tents and anything else that got in the way.
I can categorically say that I saw not more than one or two anarchists in the camp (who are easily recognisable being dressed in black) who were doing nothing threatening at the point I saw them. The hard core of the other more aggressive protestors were still penned in outside the bank of England, putting the police justification for deploying riot police at climate camp on shaky ground.
As I left, anger started boiling over at police protest and at least two bottles were thrown from the initially peaceful demonstrators – thus the police had their excuse for suppressing the demonstration. But all I ask is that the truth is reported - it was their own tactics which caused a crushed crowed, panic and violence.
This country is founded upon the peaceful right to protest – as I said to one of the riot police who would not let me leave. We are not a police state. Whoever was responsible for the police operation here deserves to be condemned, but then I suppose encouraging violence justifies their ever spiralling security budgets. The Police cheifs who instigated this operation deserves to be held in the same contempt as the people who incited violence in other seperate G20 protest - Hold them to account!