Guest post by Martin Higson
I attended the protests outside the Bank of England on 1st April,
and although I am largely pro-war and pro-capitalist, I reasoned my
being there as a one-man counter demonstration to the thousands who were anti-capitalist.
I was shocked to see that after the windows at RBS began smashing, the police blocked surrounding streets locking everyone in who wanted to leave. Even the press were turned away from leaving the square; and as I and other pro-capitalist friends tried to leave, we witnessed a young man with a severe head injury also being turned away by police– ultimately denying him the right to medical attention by forcing him back into the crowd. This did not go unnoticed, and as the endless minutes passed, the crowd had lost patience with waiting to be let out. They at once began surging forward with the strength of hundreds against tens, determined that they would not be caged like animals for expressing an opinion. The police lines were overwhelmed, forcing officers to stumble back before promptly running to regroup and attempt another cordon.
I must admit that no matter how distasteful a person’s opinion,
freedom of expression is surely vital to the core of our society. And
with reference to the Harry’s Blog banner, ‘Liberty, if it means
anything, is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear’.
Senior police personnel should have been well aware of this; for the
truly disgraceful way in which members of the public were treated
yesterday no doubt provoked the breaking of police lines in defiance,
leading in some cases to violence.
Overall the event was largely hyped-up by the media, and considering
the number of anarchists in attendance I am quite surprised that only a few windows were smashed and a handful of the protesters arrested. I did feel uneasy at the sight of masked individuals laden in black, and assuming the worst I had tried to leave at the sound of smashing RBS glass. Unfortunately we were prevented by the very people whose wages our taxes fund. I am all in favour of effective policing, but it wasn’t particularly nice to be in the firing line when you’re trying to avoid it. At the point of street-lockdown, it didn’t matter what my opinion of the economic crisis had been, nor did it matter what my intentions were. My freedom of expression had been ignored, and my freedom of movement denied. I was just a number in a crowd of thousands, and together as a group our rights had been taken away.