I was sitting in the hostel conservatory eating brunch when the news came on about the anarchist demonstrators penned in by police in the city centre. The radio report had an interview with a Green party Scottish MSP who was in the thick of it. He said the police were keeping the crowd in a block and pushing them first up then down Princes st. This was the early afternoon barely an hour or so after the Carnival for Full Enjoyment must have started so I decided to go down and take a look.

The city centre appeared to be full of police, mostly in riot gear, and from various parts of the country. It seemed that the demonstration was being held by the police in one area with riot police and mounted police keeping them in and other lines of riot police keeping us from getting anywhere near them. Part of the area holding the “anarchists” had been well fenced off with heavy duty perspex shielding.

This was clearly not a reaction to something happening for nothing had yet happened. This was a clear strategy in advance, they had little or no intention of allowing the peaceful demonstration but because the numbers were relatively small they decided to deploy full-scale riot tactics and planned to cage people in and slowly drain them physically and mentally. I have seen this described in a German anarchist publication as the “Kesselstrategie” kettle strategy. Someone asked one of the policewomen how long the people had been in there. The policewoman haughtily replied that they (the police) had been there since 10am. Of course she neglected to add to that that they (the police) were not only getting paid but also getting shift changes not to mention fed and, most importantly on what was such a hot day, watered. The police had van-loads of water, crates of it staked up in the many riot section vans all over the place. Suffice to say this did not make it’s way to the inner part of the ‘kettle’ which must have been close to boiling dry at this point.

At one of the blockade lines of riot police a lone middle-aged lady sat down in protest. She was heckled by some of the observers, “Get a job” one man shouted, I looked at him, designer t-shirt and baseball cap and the anger at the bigotry of it all took over and I got the red (appropriately) mist. “Get a life” I shouted back at him, hardly inspiring I’ll grant you but you always come up with the better responses some 2 hours after the event don’t you?! The bloke wheeled round at me and his smug expression of his own importance had changed to one of surprise and irritation. I attempted to diffuse the situation and asked him why he’d said it. “they’re all fucking violent lunatics” he retorted. I pointed at the lady sitting in the road sifting through her bag whilst the line of riot police towered over her. “Does she look violent to you?” I asked “In fact who out of this scene looks violent, her or the big burly geezers standing there all tooled up and with their shields and helmets?” I was kind of pleased with my argument, it was a scoring shot no doubt but it fell on deaf ears. One girl who looked barely 16 turned around and started mouthing off about how “her business” had had to shut for 2 weeks because of all this. I asked her if she thought that the shut businesses were really going to lose a lot of money and go bankrupt, whether these businesses should be allowed to continue whilst there were people hungry and homeless. It was wasted rhetoric, she didn’t care, she just said something about only caring if she had enough make-up.

Shortly after that verbal fracas I went back to the hostel thinking that the situation would be dying down anyway since there must have been twice the number of police to protesters anyway. About an hour later John came in and said that it was still going on and he was itching to go and take a look, and since the Edinburgh Apple Centre had kindly let me use one of their iMacs for free to download my pictures from my memory card and burn them onto CD I decided to take the Dim 7 down to take some pics. I didn’t think there’d be a lot so left my 340MB microdrive at home and took only a 64MB card.

Back in the city centre the atmosphere was a lot tenser than it had been an hour or so earlier when I’d left. There was still a small group hemmed in by the looks of things on Princes St., they had now been there for over 6 hours. Other streets had been sectioned off by the police in full riot gear with mounted back up. A crowd had gathered around the entrance to Rose St. which runs parallel to Princes st. There were 3 battle lines of riot plod here and an angry noisy crowd was booing, whistling and chanting “Let them go, let them go”. On 3 occasions the police started banging their batons against their shield before rushing into the crowd, people panicked and ran back anarchists, tourists, press all in a crush to get away.

To begin with the crowd had been mostly interested bystanders, tourists and photographers with a small handful of anarchists, but the mood changed after the police started rushing, people got cross, they didn’t want to be rushed by the clearly over-exuberant filth, they thru’ plastic water bottles in disgust. (Later that moved to anything they could get their hands on including ripped up the street and throwing bricks. There more the police engaged the crowd in confrontation the angrier the mood became. The police response was to bus in many more riot police and they started to advance and take certain parts of the street. There were streams of police coming from everywhere, I saw at least 4 different Scottish forces as well as the Met, Manchester, Liverpool, S.Yorkshire, Lancashire etc. It was clear this was a pre-emptive police show of strength. Their tactics were to deal with the crowd as if in full riot situation and therefore it became almost a self-fulfilling prophesy.

John and I did some investigating of the side streets, this was mainly because the police were moving around all the time and boxing people in particular areas and we wanted to ensure we always had a bolt hole. Twice we actually found ourselves behind police lines right in between lines of riot police on either side, so their planning certainly wasn’t that good. Fortunately for them when 2 blokes come out behind lines of riot plod who haven’t noticed them yet their reaction is to look at each other and leg it back whence they came not to stand and fight.

Behind the lines on Princes St. riot police sat on their arses eating sandwiches and drinking water. John and I explored other areas around the top of the area but little was going on there except the busing of multiple reinforcements around. I have quite literally never seen so many police in all my life. We made our way back to Princes St. to find that the police had worked the last section of entrapped demonstrators onto South St. Andrew St. which seemed a bizarre choice since it contained the MacDonalds. I would have thought of all the streets to attempt to block anarchists and anti-capitalists that would have been the last choice. Perhaps they were hoping that some damage would be done. They were disappointed because it wasn’t. Interestingly MacDonalds did not have their windows boarded up tho’ they chose to do so later.

Shortly after this it looked as if things were dying down again properly, unsurprising since it was after 9pm and anyone there since the beginning must have been dangerously dehydrated. Apparently the police were getting worried that local people were coming out of the pubs to join in. Hardly surprising really since they (the police) had kept the demonstrators in for the whole afternoon and well into the evening.

I have now heard the aftermath, the news, the commentaries, the condemnations. 111 people are appearing in court in Edinburgh on charges ranging from breach of the peace to possessing a firearm I believe, altho’ it has not been made clear how many of the 111 are locals. I was sickened and disgusted to hear Midge Ure passing his judgement and insinuating that that this sort of thing by mindless idiots was hijacking the Live8 spirit/message. Ure was not present for the demonstration, in fact he wasn’t even at the MPH march on Sunday and yet he chose to pass judgement based on what were at best 2nd hand facts. For him to do this and somehow claim the moral high ground for Live8 I found especially vexing. Why? Because Live8 is all very well but as I have said before it is an establishment movement, it is not really seeking to solve the problem, it will do no more than scratch the surface. Now that would be fine if solving the problem was impossible or would take decades, but it isn’t and it wouldn’t. Why do you think all the politicians have been so quick to jump on the bandwagon claiming that the Live8 message is their message? The politicians and G8 leaders know it’s bloody Christmas now, they’ve been let off the hook big time. George Monbiot summed it up on Sunday at the Stop The War tent, “What is Gordon Brown’s campaign slogan in this, down with me and all I stand for?!”

For me the few days that I have been here have shown that when it comes to the vast majority of the anarchists there is a huge difference between going somewhere with the express intent on causing trouble and going somewhere knowing that there might be trouble and being ready to respond. One would not expect the police to turn the other cheek in the face of an onslaught of violence from any group so why should it be any different when it is the police that are perpetrating the violence. Given modern police tactics viz video and photo technology the black bloc approach is perfectly rational. I do not agree with anyone who seeks to perpetrate violence before exhausting any other means of negotiation but I completely understand those caught in a situation where the police have already decided that these are ‘violent anarchists…and will be dealt with forcefully’

How many times have we seen football hooliganism breaking out into violence and destruction? And yet one would not think to presume that every conceivable football fan is a violent hooligan intent on criminal damage. One has to be consistent in this approach and currently there is very little consistency because the police have the powers to practically incarcerate anyone whose face they do not like, be it the colour or the fact that it is partially masked. If the police had any intention of preserving the Carnival of Full Enjoyment as a peaceful event they could have stopped the group of black-clad people that they monitored so closely, rather than allowing this group to join the rest of the people on Princes St. before declaring that the Black Bloc was a threat and therefore must be contained. Furthermore if so many of these people were such dangerous elements how is it that only 8 were remanded in custody? Again there is no clear indication of how many of the people on trial were local. Unprecedented bail conditions were attached on those 103 released stating that they could not go to Edinburgh or Glasgow or Stirling or anywhere near Gleneagles. As far as I know this is being appealed as so it should.

Song Of The Day ~ Kaiser Chiefs – I Predict A Riot

Original Comments:

Danny the Infidel made this comment,
After the riots in Gothemburg some years back I must admit that I now have less andurstanding for the “peacefull” demonstatiors. I have to admit that most of the demonstaters are peacefull, at least in the begining, but it seams like some always are there to stirr up trubble, and that some easely lead people are just so happy to tag along. and don’t coma and talk about police provocatuers, that is just paranoid talk. As a lot of the demonstrations turn in to violent riots, I have started to question the usefullness of them. They are just playgrounds for bachers.

-Redbaron responds – I think as I have said there is a world of a difference between wanting to cause trouble from the outset and being prepared to respond to anything on the ground. Whilst I do not think there are necessarily police provocateurs this is because the police are not in the position to need them, the shuffling of the demonstrators up and down Princes St. was provocation enough and the results were always going to be obvious. Under the circumstances I was surprised that the demonstrators managed to show as much restraint as they did. Besides which, you take a group of assorted people you will always get a wealth of difference in how people feel it is necessary to act/respond to certain situations. The same goes for the police and I have seen how some of them act in a potential riot situation and they are as up for trouble as the worst of the demonstrators.

comment added :: {ts ‘2005-07-18 20:05:06’} GMT+01 :: http://upnorth.blog-city.com