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Police at times struggle to contain protesters

Paul Mason | 16:18 UK time, Thursday, 9 December 2010

It's 4:05pm with less than an hour to go to the parliamentary vote. There have been serious clashes between protesters and police just outside Westminster Abbey.

I saw protesters throw paint, sticks and other objects at riot police and mounted police who at times struggled to contain them.

One policeman has been taken away on a stretcher and one woman was knocked to the ground by police with batons, but was able to walk away just five minutes later.

It has calmed down now as those inside Parliament Square realise they are trapped, but there is a lot of anger amongst the protesters. Police are making sporadic arrests.

It is fair to say that any distinction between so-called politically motivated groups and the bigger mass of quite young teenage students, if it ever existed, is pretty indistinct.

As I write this another policeman is being carried away by stretcher and there are police on horses charging in Parliament Square.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think that is a really good point regarding groups of anarchists that have infiltrated the protests. It's far too easy for the students and the NUS to shrug off the scuffles and violence. Students are involved in the violence. Questions have to be asked of the organisers.


  • Comment number 2.

    As I write this another policeman is being carried away by stretcher and there are police on horses charging in Parliament Square.

    How refreshing to see a tactic that will please the protesters (as they have provoked a response) while at the same time pleasing the Daily Mail readers (show them who's in charge).

    Now both sides can be ignored and the politicians continue on their road to nowhere.

  • Comment number 3.


    Can't you FEEL it?

    Police/state/power v altruism/rebellion/impotence - Tolkien and many others made a living from the archetype.

    A CIVILISATION would use wise strategies to ritualise/displace/drain the energy, but we are still primitive, believing in 'might is right' and travelling to Johnnie Foreigner Land, to teach him a lesson, at the drop of an 'H' (as in Blair glottal-speak).

    When did BBC News last have a philosopher on hand to open filmy eyes to the underlying truths of what we have on our screens? Media don't want to know - this stuff is more edgy/polarised/nihilistic. Broadcasting awards all round!

    Weep Britain.

  • Comment number 4.

    public meetings were banned around parliament and trafalgar square and moved to hyde park for a reason.

    tuition fees are a stupidity tax and this lot seem very stupid.

  • Comment number 5.

    Meanwhile the establishment is also struggling to contain the growing voluntary bot-net cyber attack on Mastercard and others.

    Is this what the beginnings of a revolution in the 21st century looks like I wonder? Traditional street protest (albeit at alow level) coupled with a potentially much more devastatin cyber insurgency.

    The sucess with modest means of the cyber attacks and wikileaks will not be lost on those with a desire to change the system.

  • Comment number 6.

    If there is no democracy, people will take to the streets.

    Not only did people not vote for a three-fold increase in tuition fees those who voted Liberal were actually motivated to vote Liberal because they didn't want tuition fees to increase.

    Politican's representatives of the people? pull the other one!

  • Comment number 7.

    I was sceptical that the modern youth could be bothered to rise up and fight for anything, i assumed they would rather than sit on their backsides watching x factor, but fair play they are out in the cold standing up for something at least some of them see as worth fighting for. no justification for the minority who want a real fight, but interesting to see so many out again.

    today could see the end of the lib dems as a believable party and the beginning of a new era in modern, active, organised rebellious politics.

    The students seem to be able to organise themselves into a decent opposition, will be interesting to see if the student voters can gerrymander and oust a large number of lib dem mps at the next election!

  • Comment number 8.

    who needs parliament? All three parties do not reflect the mood of the country on a variety of topics not just education, but on illegal wars, the class system, the evergrowing gap between rich and poor so why do we put up with these 'falures' who run things, as I write Ed Balls says he will not interfere with the tuition fee decision if he was wonder people have no respect....

  • Comment number 9.

    From a party political point of view, the Lib Dems wanted their moment basking in the sunlight of real power. The seasons change and this is but light drizzle. One wonders how they will cope when it is chucking it down. You should not abandon your principles lightly.

    From the wider perspective, the '16 year old schoolgirls' to whom you refer may - if the coalition survives that long - be the deciding factor in whether their leading lights ever serve in office again. As a general rule though, cavalry charges against schoolkids might be safer than Balaclava but they are a no-no from a PR perspective.

    Jericoa (at #5) is right. It is those with access to and the ability to use new technologies whom governments should most fear and increasingly, that is most of us.

  • Comment number 10.

    the power of the internet means a small violent thuggish minority can appear to have power beyond their support but its just the usual nutters.

    anyone participating in an internet attack should go to jail and fined and the firms compensated for loss of earnings.

  • Comment number 11.

    jauntycyclist, you seem to be mixing up two distinct and separate rebellions. The vast majority of protesters today were peaceful and well behaved if vocal in their opposition to this policy.

    the internet attacks being done by supporters of the wikileaks site against companies are already illegal!
    I would be interested to know who you think should be charged over the attacks on wikileaks itself and the removal of services which seem to occur at the behest of the US government??

  • Comment number 12.

    #10 - jauntycyclist

    "The usual nutters"?

    You would not well to reflect on what ended the Cold War and the communist era. It was not the threat of nuclear destruction or the possibility of economic collapse. It was the availability of information and informed opinion.

    So - unless of course you believe that 'small violent thuggish minorities' are OK so long as they are targeting the enemy but become the enemy if you happen to be on the other side of the fence - you appear to have a problem with the internet itself. But without that, how would you have expressed your view and been taken to task?

  • Comment number 13.

    Say you want a revolution, well you know.

    It's voted through. Bet it goes pretty quiet after tonight.

    As to the protest - what they basically want is to have the same utterly stupid, unsustainable, useless uni setup the prior generation had. I understand that they want the same deal, but that is not a reason to repeat mistakes. Where would it end? Just this generation gets a stupid Labour "pay for votes" uni uptake. Then the next generation.

    ps just hear they gave Charlie boy a scare. They are not all bad!

  • Comment number 14.

    the anarchist agenda is not a valid one. Freedom of information is not the highest idea of the mind. Wikileaks is not a new religion. They have a violent agenda and don't care who gets blown to bits. I hope they are dismantled like well boiled chicken. They are not a force for good. Its just an excuse to indulge in teenagery behaviour and cyber terrorism.

    Firms have the right to have their terms and conditions obeyed. if you set up a website you have to sign an agreement not to publish anything illegal etc. the same with a lot of services [they must not be used to support illegal activities]. wikileaks is using illegal material so anyone who has anything to do with them has the right to withdraw their services. I would. they are lawbreakers.

    people spamming them are they judge and jury now? mob rule? which is what this is. do firms not have the right to have their service rules obeyed? anyone spamming are breaking their internet supplier rules and so they should have their internet disconnected and put on a blacklist as they cannot be trusted.

    wikileks is not journalism because they broadcast and data dump. they do not contextualise. one might say the demise of investigative journalism has left a hole for the cyber terrorists but that is no excuse for data dumping.

  • Comment number 15.


    no mix up. just two separate points.

    the internet allows people to organise. in the case of the 'students its the usual anarchists exploiting crowds. They use them as launch pads for their own violence.

    on wikileaks

    if you steal something or handle stolen goods knowing they are stolen and did not return them to the owner but sought fame and profit from them then you deserve every bad thing that happens to you because you did not choose to use your power for good but some lesser personal ideal. it is a corruption of the soul. the dark path.

  • Comment number 16.

    #15 - jauntycyclist

    Ah, so the 'stolen goods' belong to the US government and the US government belongs to whom? (Something about 'of the people, by the people, for the people'?).

    So somebody steals something which the government deems 'too sensitive' to be entrusted to the people and returns it to the people to whom it belongs - the people - if you catch my drift.

    Sounds more like Robin Hood than the angel of darkness to me.

  • Comment number 17.



    robin hood is an attractive lie. a mask hiding the dark intentions.

    who are these 'self appointed' people taking decisions on my behalf? i didn't vote for them? where is their accountability? the transparency in their actions?

    its just an attempt to usurp the state. the boring false beliefs of anarchism.

    the anarchists have no mandate from the people. they have no legitimacy.

  • Comment number 18.

    #17 - jauntycyclist

    I think we are at cross purposes. I was putting a case for Wikileaks, not the street rebels.

  • Comment number 19.

    janty just to correct you on a few things, this is information, not goods, no one has suggested wikileaks were involved in stealing anything, just publishing what they were given.
    this leak follows in a long line of leaked information that is uncomfortable to governments, that has been published without the publishers being pursued, from watergate, through spycatcher to wikileaks and a lot of politician led leaks along the way, if you commit a crime you can be charged. I am intrigued as to which law you think wikileaks has broken?
    Unlike you, I am VERY uncomfortable with the US government using extra judicial measures, pressuring commercial entities and plain bullying, without actually charging wikileaks with any crime, never mind found them guilty. The US supposedly stands up for democracy and the rule of law, it is acting appallingly because its lies are being shown up and it is embarrassed.
    The US condemns censorship in china, it condemns targeting dissidents who stand up to governments, seemingly you think anyone who stand up against a government should deserve what they get, which i find bizarre

  • Comment number 20.


    Governments - even supposed democracies - have no heart and no soul, and are served by ambitious individuals of VERY STRANGE MENTALITY.

    America is probably the leader in government aberrance*, but virtually all are infected with the same malaise


    Those who go looking for what governments are willing to do, realise that Wikileaks' impact on safety of citizens, globally, IS SMALL BEER.

  • Comment number 21.

    I am for the tuition fee raise, but fully support the right of the students to peacefully protest. Sadly, clearly revolutionaries, anarchists and general louts have hijacked these protests as an excuse for some violent civil disobedience.

    What would be nice to see and something i think would restore a lot of faith in 'our future' would be if, when trouble flared up, these students turned their back on the trouble and walked the other way, rather than standing watching it, occasionally joining in, and shouting "Hello mum" when any TV/Radio reporters turn up. I appreciate the kettling makes this difficult, but I reckon the Police would let them go if it was clear they wanted to distance themselves from the trouble. Would be great to see if the violent protesters are so tough without thousands of people behind them. I suspect not.

    Last point - the suggestion some have put to me that the Police instigated the trouble is outrageous and I think that Paul's report in the blog makes it clear that they were struggling to contain the trouble, so I would suggest they would have to have been near suicidal if they had instigated the trouble. Please, the police aren't perfect but they do a very difficult job, so give them a break.

  • Comment number 22.

    re: "Please, the police aren't perfect but they do a very difficult job, so give them a break."
    err...yes...if something of an understatement...let's think...Ian Tomlinson...killed for 'walking a bit too slowly for PC Thug's liking'...God knows how many people criminally assaulted in Bishopsgate Peace Camp...Man assaulted with weapon causing brain injury and subsequently obstructed in course of medical attention at hospital...Dragging wheelchair bound man for several metres...

  • Comment number 23.

    SaveSixMusic - I think you have somewhat of a one eyed view on this. At the recent violent protests, the Police were being pelted with concrete, snooker balls, pieces of wood and pretty much anything else that came to hand. The BBC reporters in Parliament Square filmed protestors breaking up lumps of concrete to throw at the Police. Why don't you try standing in the street while someone throws concrete at you and see if it frightens you, or makes you want to fight back a bit and stop those doing it. While you're at it, get someone to verbally abuse and spit at you.

    The Police were heavily outnumbered and were having to stand by (trying to control the thousands of protestors) while they could clearly see people committing criminal damage on parts of British institutions.

    Like all groups, clubs, companies, organisations, there are some rotten apples in the Police who probably get a kick out of wielding their truncheon, but the vast majority of them are decent people doing a difficult job in very difficult circumstances. They have to deal with the most extreme provocation.

    If the police hadn't been there, God only knows what would have happened. Perhaps the protestors would have broken into Parliament and destroyed that as they tried to do with the Treasury and the Supreme Court.

    Perhaps, as well as criticising the police you could find time to criticise the trouble makers who were hell bent on causing a riot. Without them, nothing would have happened. The Police regularly marshall large numbers of people at football matches and nothing kicks off and that involves thousands of people making their way through the streets around a ground. If the protestors had marched peacefully with their banners and STUCK TO THE ROUTE, none of this would have happened.

  • Comment number 24.

    No, Will71. I don't have a one eyed view. I have , however , commented selectively and in particular to a part of your post. Clearly it is not intended to be a complete treatment of the events in question as that is not the nature of this type of comment thread.
    Of course having stones / rocks etc thrown at you is frightening. As it happens it happened to myself and others a few months ago and let's think...oh yeah - it wasn't good but I think I could have worked that out anyway. I don't know why you feel the need to point out the obvious ???

    However to comment (selectively) again, your point that:

    "Like all groups, clubs, companies, organisations, there are some rotten apples in the Police who probably get a kick out of wielding their truncheon, but the vast majority of them are decent people doing a difficult job in very difficult circumstances. They have to deal with the most extreme provocation."

    - It doesn't really wash does it ? Clearly it should be a requirement to ensure that unsuitable people do not become police officers in the first place. That society includes such people cannot an excuse.
    Additionally, the idea that the number of so called "rotten apples" is insignificant is not borne out by events. You may account for the officer who assaulted Ian Tomlinson as a 'bad apple' ( and I acknowledge currently the subject of internal charges following the abysmal failure of the CPS in the matter ) - But what of the inaction of the other officers who observed that assault ( not to mention the attempted PR cover up ). Similarly the police who ignored the non visibility of ID of an officer challenged by a cameraman at G20 ( ref Guardian website footage ).

  • Comment number 25.

    SaveSixMusic - I felt the need to point out the obvious because you seemed to need to have that pointed out to you. What is obvious to me seemed not to be obvious to you.

    You are very selective in your comments and views. Why not address all the points I make. If the Police are as bad as you appear to think they are, how is it that on any given Saturday during the football season, Arsenal can have 60k fans at the Emirates, Man United can have 75k fans at Old Trafford and any number of other clubs having between 30-40k fans and the Police supervise them to and from the grounds without any trouble?? If the Police are so rotten to the core, why aren't they instigating trouble with football fans on a regular basis?

    You also failed to comment on the fact that this trouble would probably not have started had the protestors kept to the agreed route and protested peacefully. The protestors instigated the trouble, attacked the Police and vandalised many buildings along the way - when you have a situation of utter chaos as there was last Thursday, some innocent people will get caught up in the trouble. Do you think the Police instigated the vandalism of Conservative Central office a few weeks back? Did they instigate someone throwing a fire extinguisher off the roof of that building, missing a police officer by a few feet?

    It speaks volumes to me that you have the attitude towards the Police that you do and you source some of your comments from the Guardian!


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