Saturday night inside the kettle


8:28 pm - March 27th 2011

by Dave Osler    


      Share on Tumblr

OK, I wasn’t there for all of it, and I am in no position to offer a definitive judgement on what happened in Trafalgar Square on Saturday night. But thanks to my possession of a press pass, the cops let me inside the kettle and I got a pretty good voyeur’s view of the proceedings. These are my impressions.

I did not see any serious violence, and that goes for both the protestors and the Old Bill. I’m not saying serious violence didn’t happen, just that I didn’t see it happen.

Ask me about aggressive behaviour, argy bargy and general unseemliness, and I’ll admit that the activists were hardly angels. But the policing was ridiculously heavy handed for much of the time.

By the time I arrived on the scene, around 150 young people were sitting on the plinth of Nelson’s Column, surrounded by maybe twice that number of the Met’s finest, who were rather more appropriately dressed for the occasion.

One or two of those on the monument – presumably fuelled by alcohol – decided to get in yer face with the forces of the state, who generally just stood there and took it. I also saw a crusty rather ostentatiously take his dick out and piss down onto the ground. Charming. But in my book, anarchists unleashing urine is not quite the same proposition as anarchists unleashing hell.

The statue itself had been graffiti’ed; no big deal – spray paint cleans off easily enough – although I’m not sure how that takes the fight against austerity forward. Nevertheless, there is a difference between vandalism and violence.

The ugliest thing that came to my notice occured in Craven Street, where the boys in blue wanted to push the demonstrators back and shoved their riot shields into some girls of about fifteen or sixteen. I won’t forget the look of fear on those poor kids’ faces in a hurry.

The police were clearly OTT in this case, and in other cases too. Several had blood on their protective gear. When I asked them about, they jokingly conceded that it was not their blood. Anyone who commits to tactics that involve confrontation with law should know the score; there is a risk of getting hurt.

But let’s not get things out of proportion. As an activist during the miners’ strike, the anti-apartheid protests, the poll tax campaign and the Wapping dispute, I have been in a riot or two. What happened in London last night does not merit the description.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


Absolutely right. I was shocked at the police restraint on this occasion. In my experience the troublemakers are the ones in masks and tooled up, and I am not talking about the anarchists. And the kids were making their point about injustice with some pretty minor criminal damage. However the response of the mainstream media has been predictable blowing the Uncut activity out of all proportion to the amazing march. The real newsworthy message that seems to be unfortunately lost is that there is some very very serious damage being done. There is an horrendous riot going on. The offenders are the government and the wealthy friends who mugging the welfare state with a ferocity that we have not seen in our lifetimes. Our public capital is being stolen brazenly in front of our faces. The young people that are shouting about it also know that in this sham of a democracy the will of the people only prevails when we make it prevail, and peaceful marching on its own will not achieve that.

This is a good report that very much chimes with my experience of the whole affair. Agree that it is wise to avoid hyperbole.

From what I have seen on the Telly, which, itself is hardly an impassive viewer, it appeared that most of the violence was induced by the junta rather than the ‘protesters’. Windows being panned in and spray-painting graffiti? Meh, try any city centre in the Country. You never need to go far to see these acts wherever you live. I am not saying acts of violence or vandalism are justified, but if you try and kettle whole streets every time a window is panned in, you will be kettling everyone at night.

It is pretty obvious that the kettle is designed to cause protesters to act like animals. Holding people without either evidence or just cause is against our laws and there can be no justification for such mass punishment in our legal system.

Okay, wait till the royal wedding, dress up in your best clobber, toss a few pool balls at the appropriate people and see how far the police get with kettling whole sections of the crowd..

These kettles are proof that we are living in a police state.

I have to ask, why did people go to Trafalgar Sq given events earlier in the evening?

What did they think would happen?

A certain feminist journalist’s tweets are quite amusing. “I’m scared” yet like a moth to the flame carries on to find the trouble.

Why not go home like the peaceful protesters did after the TUC march?

I didn’t get to Trafalgar Square, but the police were incredibly restrained during the day. I even asked two policemen out of curiousity why they weren’t doing anything about the blackbloc people the big Trojan horse in the middle of Oxford Circus. They said burning their own property was allowed and acceptable. I was a bit taken aback. Later, things only kicked off when people started attacking Santander as far as I saw. After that I had to leave.

By the time you got in the kettle I’m sure the police were rather tired of it all, especially after seeing the policeman with a neck injury being stretchered away and people throwing flash-bangs and flares towards him as he lay on the floor being attended to by paramedics.

It was getting a bit rough outside Fortnum and Mason just before I left, and Our Kingdom is carrying a plausibly report of later scraps with the police.

My guess is that the Met was pretty embarrassed about what happened in Parliament Square and largely didn’t want a repeat. I’ve heard conflicting accounts of levels of violence, but for the most part I just wish the Black Bloc idiots hadn’t showed up. Having said that, from what I saw on Oxford Street and Picaddily, more than a few lay protestors were happy to assist the Black Block idiots at not too much prompting.

Anyway, I approve of Dave’s nuanced and calm account of Trafalgar Square. Can anybody cross reference this with Laurie Penny over at the New Statesman, and decide which account – or possibly both – we should believe?

Holding people without either evidence or just cause is against our laws and there can be no justification for such mass punishment in our legal system.

Hey, Jim.

Agreed!!!!!

Paul Sagar

“It was getting a bit rough outside Fortnum and Mason just before I left”

We must have been there (and left) around the same time – we left because it was all getting a bit hairy outside, and we were getting crushed against the wall on the pavement opposite F and M.

I was at Trafalgar Square about 45 minutes to an hour before things kicked off. My daughter wanted us to stay there, but being the sensible mum that I am (honest!) I pointed out that despite it looking and sounding like a giant fun party, there was no way the police were going to let it carry on all night. And sadly I was right.

There’s a couple of blogposts here from a St John Ambulance volunteer who (along with other first-aiders) had to be shielded by police and eventually escorted out due to missiles from protestors (mostly glass bottles, from the sound of it):
http://tajasel.dreamwidth.org/126553.html
http://tajasel.dreamwidth.org/126896.html

11. Michael Haslam

From what I saw on the BBC News 24 coverage, they were explicit in stating that the UK uncut occupation of Fortnum and Mason was peaceful and nothing to do with the trouble outside.

12. Cheesy Monkey

I was surprised with the relative lack of police on the official march route—far less than the anti-war demos in 2003. It took aaaagggeesss to get out of Embankment (about three hours), but was good humoured. Past Parliament Square, it became a lot easier to walk at something close to normal speed, so I wonder if a number of people had short-cutted* it to Hyde Park or had given up altogether.

I passed Fornum & Mason at around 4–4.15pm which had been occupied by then to cheers and applause from the crowd. Police were starting to increase in number at this point, but they were more interested in chasing after some black-clad teenagers cutting through the march blaring the Nu Metal sounds of yesteryear. Got to Hyde Park at around half four to watch the stage being dismantled and trucks coming to collect the chemical bogs.

Spent the rest of the night drinking in Soho and Liverpool Street. A nice productive day out, basically. Got home to discover my other half had been fielding calls from concerned friends and family who thought that London had degenerated into civil war due to the weird** media coverage.

*I know this is not a word. But I’m typing furtively, OK?
**Well, I say ‘weird’. I mean ‘shit’.

I was a TUC Route Steward on the march, fairly near the front.
Shortly before 2pm, as we walked up Regent Street towards Piccadilly, I became aware of some young men moving quickly through the march towards the building we were walking past. I noticed them because they were moving more quickly than the other marchers and across the flow of the march. They were dressed in black, with black or red scarves over their noses & mouths, carrying black flags.
They stuck some stickers on the windows of the building & then walked along for a minute or two behind me. There were 4 or 5 of them and they were speaking a foreign language. The word that I heard several times was “dobra” or “dobro”. I also heard “Trafalgar Square”. Then they moved away, once again moving quickly and diagonally through the marchers.
There were 5 or 6 police officers standing against the wall just beyond where the men stuck their stickers. We passed them before the men moved away.
Today I heard about the existence of the Black Bloc and I found myself wondering whether these men were part of the Black Bloc & why the police had shown no interest in them.

“The statue itself had been graffiti’ed; no big deal – spray paint cleans off easily enough”…

And who directly pays for the statues to be cleaned with the graffiti then?

Oh yeah, the taxpayer who those spray-painting are supposed to be pretending to help!

The cash that’s being used to clean this up could have been used for something else….suppose that’s “no big deal” though eh?

I was inside the kettle as well and I agree with what you’ve written to a greater extent.
I have three comments though. If someone wants a piss where do you expect him to go when he can’t get out and there was no toilet?
Secondly, ‘Commander’ Broadhurst described the occupiers as criminals. This is totally untrue. When I entered the Square it had a carnival type atmosphere and peaceful with people listening and dancing to music and the few police that were there at that time seemed ok to let it carry on without intervention. Hardly criminal activity then.
Lastly, the Met police had a text messing service for the day that informed anyone contained would be regularly update with the intentions of what was happening. There were no messages in the approximately two hours I was in the kettle.

fredbradmanning ,twaddle

#15
“If someone wants a piss where do you expect him to go when he can’t get out and there was no toilet?”

If there was no destruction or rampant vandalism then they’d be no need to kettle people.

Look on the bright side pissing your pants in a kettling situation in London is a far better scenario to handle than being shot to death protesting in Libya or Syria. I’m sure you’ll agree.

#15
“Lastly, the Met police had a text messing service for the day that informed anyone contained would be regularly update with the intentions of what was happening. There were no messages in the approximately two hours I was in the kettle.”

Deary me. What a tragedy. A full two hours? I’m sure the taxpayers cash could be used for something more substantial than keeping you lot updated.

Better not to be updated by text being kettled in a protest in London than be shot to death in a protest in Libya or Syria.

Selfish, selfish people.

Look people….It’s simple.

If you find yourself in a kettle just think of it as if you’re leaving a nightclub at closing time.

Just that it’ll take a little longer to get out.

20. Gail Something-Else

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Saturday night inside the kettle http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  2. Sean Gittins

    RT @libcon: Saturday night inside the kettle http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  3. Amster

    RT @libcon: Saturday night inside the kettle http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  4. Lawson Armstrong

    RT @libcon: Saturday night inside the kettle http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  5. Anthony McGarr

    RT @libcon: Saturday night inside the kettle http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  6. Kelvin John Edge

    RT @libcon: Saturday night inside the kettle http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  7. Kelvin John Edge

    RT @libcon: Saturday night inside the kettle http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  8. sunny hundal

    'Last night was not a riot' http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  9. sunny hundal

    'Last night was not a riot' http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  10. Nevada Wolfe

    RT @libcon: Saturday night inside the kettle http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  11. Nemesis Republic

    RT @sunny_hundal: 'Last night was not a riot' http://bit.ly/ga25mj #Mrach26 #26March

  12. Adam Rutherford

    RT @sunny_hundal: 'Last night was not a riot' http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  13. .

    RT @sunny_hundal: 'Last night was not a riot' http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  14. Ebony Dawn Marsh

    RT @sunny_hundal: 'Last night was not a riot' http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  15. Richard Cosgrove

    "I have been in a riot or two… As an activist during the miners’ strike… last night does not merit the description" http://bit.ly/gIiMao

  16. whatABanker

    You can't get more left-of-centre than liberalconspiracy.org but they admit the Met did little wrong on #March26 http://bit.ly/ifgZX2

  17. The Bee

    RT @sunny_hundal: 'Last night was not a riot' http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  18. Helen MacDonald

    RT @sunny_hundal: 'Last night was not a riot' http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  19. Fredrik Walloe

    'Saturday night inside the kettle' – veteran protester says #march26 wasn't a #riot http://bit.ly/ifgZX2 #ukuncut #blackbloc #trafalgar

  20. Owen Jones

    RT @sunny_hundal: 'Last night was not a riot' http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  21. Jim Jepps

    Dave Osler in the kettle, a report you can actually believe http://t.co/rm4clhl via @libcon

  22. Double.Karma

    RT @sunny_hundal: 'Last night was not a riot' http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  23. Owen Jones

    RT @Jim_Jepps: Dave Osler in the kettle, a report you can actually believe http://t.co/rm4clhl via @libcon

  24. Sarah G

    Saturday night inside the kettle Sorry but despite media reports this was not a riot http://t.co/Y6CE6Af via @libcon

  25. James Bull

    RT @Jim_Jepps: Dave Osler in the kettle, a report you can actually believe http://t.co/rm4clhl via @libcon

  26. Hano

    RT @Jim_Jepps: Dave Osler in the kettle, a report you can actually believe http://t.co/rm4clhl via @libcon

  27. David Poole

    RT @sunny_hundal: 'Last night was not a riot' http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  28. Nicola Chan

    RT @sunny_hundal: 'Last night was not a riot' http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  29. Andrew Jeffery

    RT @Jim_Jepps: Dave Osler in the kettle, a report you can actually believe http://t.co/rm4clhl via @libcon

  30. Kamilla

    RT @sunny_hundal: 'Last night was not a riot' http://bit.ly/ga25mj

  31. cathredfern

    Some personal accounts of #March26: http://t.co/92TAcnq http://t.co/Y1GlGiR http://t.co/ivSKdF8 http://t.co/20G88Iz http://ind.pn/fZKJMY

  32. Jenni Alexander

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/03/27/saturday-night-inside-the-kettle/

  33. Rosie Kane

    RT @Jim_Jepps: Dave Osler in the kettle, a report you can actually believe http://t.co/rm4clhl via @libcon

  34. Reporting The Protest | EXCUSES AND HALF TRUTHS

    […] At Trafalgar Square, a group of about 200 had gathered. Violence was sparked off as police squads rushed into the crowd. The reasons for this remain unclear. The official police line is that they were acting to prevent damage to the Olympic clock. Eye witnesses, including the New Statesman’s Laurie Penney, maintain that the squads were trying to pick up individuals that had been earlier spotted causing trouble. Regardless, police lines closed, the kettle was lit, and a tense standoff began that effectively shut off the West End for most of the night. For just about all of the major news outlets, this would be the story. Penny Red’s view is here. And here’s another, slightly less purple version, from Liberal Conspiracy’s Dave Osler. […]

  35. Marching for the Alternative: A protest of two halves « Paperback Rioter

    […] to some heavy-handed policing. Dave Osler has a balanced blog on the Trafalgar Square kettle for Liberal Conspiracy: I’ll admit that the activists were hardly angels. But the policing was ridiculously heavy handed […]





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.