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Thursday, 2 December 2010

Cardiff protests, part 2

I've always considered myself a law-abiding person. My daddy is a lawyer, so I've known other lawyers and police officers my whole life as dad's friends. The side of good, here to keep us safe.

Which in many ways made it scarier to be surrounded by police officers and vans yesterday. To see them grab my friend by the arm and throw him back into the crowd. To hear that an officer threatened to tear my friend, pushed into him by somebody, "a new arsehole" if he touched him again.

One of my friends got arrested. This article phrases it "South Wales Police has confirmed one male was arrested today for a public order offence." Don't think for a second that this means he was violent - he's a cheeky bugger, but it's infinitely more likely that he'd try to get a policewoman's number than take a swing at someone!

The strangest thing, by far, was being part of a crowd with nobody in charge. There was never a plan, but occasionally a consensus decision would be reached and dozens of people would surge - into a bank, into a shopping centre, into a vodaphone store - anywhere that has been dodging taxes, the crowd wanted to storm. I got pulled into Lloyds TSB by a friend moments after I arrived, and stood in the lobby as policemen chased after 30 or so students who'd gone upstairs. The officers locked the door to prevent more people getting in - locked me in.

The mood was on a knife-edge. I think that's one of the reasons the police didn't get more threatening - if they'd pushed too hard, things would have gone bad and stayed bad. As it was, however, a strange sense of humour emerged that I couldn't help but smile at. Our anti-Tory chants had accordion accompaniment; the section of the crowd that invaded St David's shopping centre sang "We're only going shopping, we're only going shopping!"; two friends of mine started a conga-line that gained some serious momentum; some guy was playing a Bob Dylan song and forgetting the words (even the policemen were smiling and chatting with that section of the crowd) - unfortunately that was interspersed with moments of fear and anger that swept across the mob. Those two emotions are separated by such a thin line; I don't think I knew how thin until now.

One woman, clearly angry / frightened (frangry?), started shouting at us - telling us we were scaring children, I think, although it was hard to hear. The crowd started chanting "She votes Tory" and "Tory scum" while an officer pulled her away from us, and I was honestly disgusted. One thing I will never, ever accept is demonising opponents - and especially not members of the public, who we just can't afford to alienate. I won't draw the battle lines between the students and the public. We're all in this together. This affects all of us.

Ben made this point loudly and dramatically as only he knows how; he broke out of the crowd and declared to the surrounding police, "It'll be your jobs next! You'll be where we are." That was around the time it looked like we were going to be kettled. We were given the choice: return to the student's union, or get kettled - which, for those who don't know, means being penned in by the police, not allowed to go home, sometimes for hours, sometimes being denied access to food, water, toilets. I'll be honest, I was not up for that. I was terrified, cold, losing feeling in my fingers. I would have gone home as soon as they started to storm the bank, but I still believe in what we're doing.

Luckily, the overall result has been a good one. During the protest, we received news that Welsh students won't have their tuition fees raised, or EMAs cancelled, which is an excellent start and reflects extremely well on the Welsh government. My friend wasn't charged with anything, so I hear, and South Wales police have acknowledged the protest as having "passed relatively peacefully", which I'd say is accurate.

Well. I know this is a fairly muddled version of events, so here's the summary of events from the Guardian; and here's a link to the rest of my photos. Check my twitter feed for twitpics etc from last night.

Also, this is the video I've been making all my friends watch lately. They love it, you might too.


  1. I like the fact you formed a conga line. Since we all know from Ross Nobles stand up routine: A conga is very hard thing to police. I mean do you get alot of riot police and attempt to rush them from the side or just one to take on the head of the conga?

  2. Great, I was chomping at the bit to hear about what you were a part of.
    Cheers for making me be more interested in following this than I would have been relying on the media and the largely blinkered views of my friends.

    I was pretty impressed by the part social networking played. But not as impressed as I was on hearing about a conga line :D

    Franger is something that spoils things on both sides, isn't it?

    I'd like to hear more (in general), especially about the confusion of the most recent march ("Inside lloyds tsb. Nobody has explained why") and the social network side of things from your perspective.

    Also, that song cracks me up. ("This is better than standing still at a Radiohead concert!")

  3. Thanks sunshine! Should have internet back soon, i'll answer your questions / explain in more detail as soon as possible. X

  4. Very nice recap of events, and a pretty unique perspective too!


  5. Hoping for more on the protests. Exciting and worrying stuff on the TV right now.
    Another cavalry charge? News is currently mentioning the 2 injured officers about three times as often as it's mentioned the charge and I'm yet to hear anything about injured protesters.

    This one (in london) was always going to get nasty, but here's hoping it doesn't get any worse than that!

    Anyway. Yes. Thoughts. Views. MOAR!


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