I was there and saw a great deal. From the Inaugural Lecture of the University for Strategic Optimism at Lloyds TSB, I moved on to Whitehall just when the kettle was formed around 2pm. There were a few of us, we talked to one of the police and he was fairly open – if you come in you won’t be coming out anytime soon. Sensibly avoided the kettle, an absolutely stupid thing for protestors to get caught in, many should know better after the Mayday and G20 kettles. The police van that all the newspapers showed vandalised was obviously a set-up, there were hundreds of police there and three helicopters flying above, so they were very well aware of it, and relatively in control of the peaceful crowd to recover the vehicle. It was used as an excuse to maintain the cordon, which lasted till 9.30pm, as those inside were told they could not leave because of that violence.
So, we avoided the cordon, went round the back to Libdem HQ, then back to Parliament Sq, but the number of police meant there was little chance the protestors would break out. I joined up with a SOAS occupation, helping put out a Goldsmiths solidarity statement here https://london.indymedia.org.uk/articles/6116, then went for a pint. We saw on the rolling news that a group had broke onto Westminster Bridge, so we decided to head back to Whitehall, just in time for a load of bully-wagons to come and set up a new cordon on the top of Whitehall. I was dressed in a suit (and I’m a white male, compared to largely multiethnic crowd) so they didn’t kettle me, but anyone with studenty fashionable or unkempt clothes or who looked a bit young was not allowed to leave the extended kettle. It was no matter, because out of nowhere a mob of 16-17 year olds broke out and brought Trafalgar Square to a standstill, chucking Pret a Manger chairs and public bins into bus windows and onto the streets, tearing through the Square and mobbing by St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, in sight of Charing Cross. The police formed a pathetic kettle, but they too were kettled and outnumbered by the young kids – they were really nervous.There were a few sit-down blocks of the Strand, more nasty violence from the police and these young guys. One bus driver was stupid enough to shout at the protestors -a brick smashed one of his windows. It was fiery, hot, intense.
I went back to Westminster tube after – my suit again meant I wasn’t forced into the kettle and the police were pretty safe. I got round to Parliament Sq just in time for a fire engine to drive through the cordon and put out a fire that’d been made to warm up the protestors. This was 8.30pm and it was damn freezing, these young kids had been stuck there since probably 1pm. In the end they got out at 9.30, but they were obviously set up and the news coverage since has been typically misrepresentative and generally of the poor standard we’re used to in the UK. There are student occupations everywhere now. Sir Paul Stephenson is right – this is different. But there were no anarchists. These are young people who have no faith in political parties – people who saw that the peaceful demonstrations and MP-lobbying of the Stop the War movement achieved absolutely nothing. This is the seedbed for something genuinely radical. This is no single-issue movement either. Far better organised, outside the kettle the police were panicking and outmanoeuvred. They were scared, not the teenagers.
Don’t get kettled. Consider and organise small flash-groups that sit-in peacefully to public places, bringing activities to a halt. Parliament as we know it may well fall in less than ten years.