Impressions of the N9 protests

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Alf
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Nov 9 2011 18:35
Impressions of the N9 protests

I thought a new thread was needed to put together different impressions from the various demos that took place today.

I had an interesting day today, and never even made it to the student demo. I went with Ernie to the sparks' demo at the Shard where there were a few hundred sparks and others. Open mic with some fairly off the cuff speeches and lively responses. There were comrades from Haringey Solidarity and some from South London Solfed and one of the latter plucked up the courage to speak about the need to keep things under rank and file control. I spoke after him to back him up, but by this point the small sound system being used had been switched off and replaced by a bigger one laid on for the union bureaucrats including Len Mcluskey. It was very noticeable that these long speeches were listened to without much response, and they killed any possibility of a discussion. Their whole emphasis was on the need to go to parliament, although others had already pointed out that the students were on the march today and stressed the need to unite with other workers on the 30th. They had also appealed to building workers watching us from the Shard to join the demo

We then marched to Blackfriars and there were more speeches. At the end of the speeches there was some uncertainty about what was happening next, but although a number of the sparks went off to Westminster a break away group decided to walk at some speed up New Bridge Street to join up with the students. We were met with a line of police who tried to block us off, but about half of us eluded them; those who were at the rear got kettled. There was one partially successful attempt to push through this but the police then reinforced the line and about 100 sparks and others were then kettled while the rest of us kind of blocked the road and wondered what to do next. Some of us went off down Fleet Street to find the students and get reinforcements, but by this time the police had also blocked off Fleet Street. Ernie and I went off to St Pauls to take a look at the Occupation and tell them what had happened, although the majority had already gone off to the student demo. We then tried to join up with the student demo but found every street blocked. The police presence was very heavy, with riots gear, mounted police, and odd people being arrested by plains clothes and riot police just for walking about near the demo. On the plus side the spirit of solidarity at the sparks' demo was very good, especially after the police waded in - all sorts of impromptu discussions and a real will to come to the aid of the people who had been kettled.

We gave out a two sided leaflet containing a general thing on the occupations and the struggle against the system, and a more specific article about the electricians. Some other ICC comrades had been to the sparks demo early in the morning or had gone to the student demo.
http://en.internationalism.org/worldrevolution/201111/4563/struggle-against-capitalism-struggle-between-classes
http://en.internationalism.org/worldrevolution/201111/4566/electricians-solidarity-across-industries-key

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Chilli Sauce
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Nov 9 2011 21:16

The student march: under control. 1 cop for every 2 and half marchers. There was very little chance of things kicking off (although I heard of a breakaway black block or two tussling with the pigs and I was caught in one very short kettle).

Most interestingly: the effort by the state/City of London/the Met and TSG to keep the sparks and students apart. There was that one bit where the students could have kept marching to meet up both with the St. Paul's occupiers and the sparks, but it was blocked at military levels. That in itself is pretty significant.

The highlight: construction workers obviously taking an non-contracted break to wave arms in support--to much applause from the march.

Harrison
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Nov 9 2011 22:08

Thanks for the reports; please keep them coming. I wasn't able to get down on the day for various reasons, including the NUS's pulling of funds for our coaches.

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Nov 10 2011 11:04

Like Chilli said, I think the highlight of the day for most was the support from the construction workers on the scaffolding. They were brilliant, geeing up the crowd and waving the odd banner. Chants of, "Students and workers, unite and fight" rang out loud and clear. It was great, and just what we need...

...So it was a shame about the Sparks getting kettled and not being able to reach us. A large number of students waited for around 30 mins haranging the police to "let them out!", but of course, to no avail.

The police presence was huge, from start to end. The riot police showed up fairly soon down the route, met with large chorus of boos and "You can shove your rubber bullets up your arse!". I didn't see any trouble, but one woman told me they were pretty heavy handed to trying to get a couple students off some scaffolding. I felt it was quite tense throughout, possibly BECAUSE of the police heavy police presence, but nothing kicked off. I was taken aside and my banner confiscated (in the copper's words, "it's over an inch thick, it's a offensive weapon".

This is my fourth demo in a row since the Millbank invasion, and I was quite surprised at the amount of Anarchist flags, there were many, and not just from the black-bloc, AF and SolFed. I think Anarchist ideas might be slowly spreading, but I'd like to hear what others think on that, since I'm quite new to this Anarchist lark.

Interesting to see on the BBC website, there is absolutely no mention of the demo at all, despite over 10,000 people attending. Was that because it didn't kick off by any chance?

Initially I was excited about getting into the city instead of Westminster, but after many forced detours of all the major buildings, and stopping at Moorgate without any really symbolic point of attack, it all kind of ended to soon for me.

Caiman del Barrio
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Nov 10 2011 12:43

I was incredibly impressed by the Sparks early yesterday morning, blocking Bishopsgate during the morning rush hour and showing a persistence determination and creativity in running rings around the cops for around 4 hours before arriving @ The Shard.

In contrast, the highly organised, disciplined official Unite rally seemed to sap energy and morale...there was practically no chants on the march to Blackfriars! Moreover, the rank and file's genuine desire to 'occupy' the construction site was manipulated into a tokenistic symbolic gesture by the leadership. By the time of the second round of speeches by boring, faux-sabre-rattler bureaucrat morons (McLuskey ONCE AGAIN talking about supporting the students while ignoring NCAFC's attempts to establish contact and also while trying to force through a Parliamentary lobby to clash with their demo!), I'd had enough and got out to go to the students' death march.

During the second Sparks' demo we handed out 300 copies of SF students' letter, so it was encouraging to hear that a large group tried to march up to the demo.

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Nov 10 2011 12:49

Here are my impressions, which look an almost complete overlap over Standfield said.

The amount of coppers were outstanding and they geared up for being in complete charge of the events. The amount of people were considerably less than the last year's unrest at the parliament sq. but this could be largely credited to the following reasons:

1. The demo last year was before and on the day of voting the tuition fee rise. It passed and there are no spectacular policy changes this time. As the protest culture is clearly reactive in nature, I guess many people would think there's no point of this protest.

2. There were several attempts to scare people away from the march. The police threatened of using baton rounds on violent protesters, the NUS seemingly sabotaged several buses to come to London, the media already envisioned unruly mob of thugs trashing the City.

3. Lack of idea, what to do next.

The march went as the police set it up for us. I was trying to keep close to the anarchist flags which were quite numerous compared to last year. In general, there were quite a few red or red and black flags around. I was a bit surprised of the numbers in the black bloc, though they were as passive as the other demonstrators which has probably a lot to do with the heavy police presence, but I would risk that the lack of any kind of support of black bloc'ing in the recent demonstrations also played part of this.
I definitely think the demonstration was poorly organised in the communication, when we arrived to the Waterloo bridge I had hard time to figure out what's going on though I asked many. Also, the police made sure that we are so disconnected from the outside of the protest that it was almost impossible to see anything else but police movements which indicated some struggle.

At this point the tension was great but wasn't enough for any focused attempt to break through the police lines and control. The raising spirit was channeled in throwing some sticks and rocks, and I personally saw one occasion to throw a rock against the Lloyd's window and breaking it. Then the police switched higher speed to move the kettle, and this brief period of tension passed quite quickly and to my sorrow. The march progressed quite quickly, I would say, too quickly and this was probably due to the police' tactic. As we got to the finishing point, there was a confusion whether we got kettled like last year, for long-long hours. Apart from few brief skirmishes during the kettle period the crowd lacked completely any spirit to break down the police control and disappeared quite quickly once we weren't completely sealed.

At the end of the day, we could say it was a protest that fell in line with the old wisdom: "This is a peaceful protest. No body get hurt, nobody get heard."

no1
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Nov 10 2011 13:04

report on the SolFed site from the Sparks trying to link up:
http://www.solfed.org.uk/?q=all-power-to-the-sparks

mons
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Nov 10 2011 13:59

I was only on the student demo, and don't have much to add to what others have already said.

The police were really aggressive, showing off their dogs, horses and riot gear even though it never kicked off. The police had basically snatch squads who'd run into the crowd, and single people out and take them pretty violently. There were a couple of successful de-arrests I think, but they got a few people. There quite a few undercovers who, when their cover was blown, would arrest people. Then other people were exposed as undercovers, and nobody had the will to do anything - as far as I saw anyway. It was just horrible and dispiriting to be honest. Edit: Just seen this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2evPgG1RrDg video of undercovers making arrest, but there were lots of others.

I was actually surprised by the decent turnout, but I doubt it'd be possible to get those numbers again after that quite tame march. Hopefully I'm wrong..

Yeah, like others I was amazed at the anarchist turnout; loads of ninjas, and loads of red and black flags throughout the whole march, not just with the ninjas, as well.

mons
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Nov 10 2011 15:42

Thought Alarm's account is pretty good: http://www.soundthealarm.org.uk/where-do-we-go-from-here/

Bedlamist
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Nov 10 2011 15:43

While having my morning coffee and leafing through Google News I came across reports of a an Occupy Cal action at University of California's Berkeley campus, then easily found several Youtube clips of the protest including a few of UC "police" beating students with nightsticks. No teargas, no flashbang, they just marched up and started swinging at the peaceful protesters. They had no compunctions about hitting women either.

I've known about this site for a while but until the Occupy movement started I didn't feel moved to pay it much attention, but now I'm very pissed off at this news and would like to do something. It might be a little early for me to start a thread here, so if a more experienced libcommie would please check out what's available on the Web etc. and comment as you see fit? Of course it would especially be great to hear from people who were actually on the spot or know people who were.

From Google news

Youtube clips

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Nov 10 2011 17:13

Bedlamist, get involved! It'd be great to have regular poster who came to libcom from occupy movement (as opposed to the other way around).

Quote:
During the second Sparks' demo we handed out 300 copies of SF students' letter, so it was encouraging to hear that a large group tried to march up to the demo.

I didn't know that! That's great! How was the response?

Re: undercovers

Brighton SF def got approached by either a journo or, more likely a cop on the march. I'll leave it to them to decide whether they want to elaborate.

Caiman del Barrio
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Nov 10 2011 17:27
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Quote:
During the second Sparks' demo we handed out 300 copies of SF students' letter, so it was encouraging to hear that a large group tried to march up to the demo.

I didn't know that! That's great! How was the response?

Positive - everyone was talking about whether to go and find the students so they were all very interested in hearing from students (although disappointed when they found out I wasn't one myself).

They also enjoyed spotting themselves in the photo. wink

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Nov 10 2011 17:31

I wonder if people attack, or even seriously harm undercover filth can be convicted as it is self defense (no identification? it isn't a copper than, but mugger)?

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Nov 10 2011 17:49
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Brighton SF def got approached by either a journo or, more likely a cop on the march. I'll leave it to them to decide whether they want to elaborate.

I think it would only help the cops if we were to publicly detail the ways in which they make themselves so obvious. But yeah, it happened.

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Nov 10 2011 18:03

Good point, although it is a pretty shocking story. I believe the kids would say, "That shit's bait!"

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Nov 10 2011 18:06

Spot the libcom poster in Vice:
http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/london-protests-students-november-2011

Bedlamist
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Nov 10 2011 19:06

At least here in Lexington, KY, perhaps in the whole "USA" I don't think seriously harming any cop, even undercover, is likely to end well. Not yet anyway. Public opinion in general would be against it too. This is not to say that I'm against it in theory or if the time and place were right.

My general view of so-called protester violence, Black Blocs et al., is that in the "First World" it's too early for the general public to approve or join in. If active measures are called for I'd rather focus on snatching back arrestees, holding shields against "non-lethal projectiles" and such -- I'd like to see more of these things.

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Nov 10 2011 23:23

Interesting vid from Al Jazeera with interviews of students and Sparks..

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Nov 11 2011 00:49
Steven. wrote:
Spot the libcom poster in Vice:
http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/london-protests-students-november-2011

I haven't yet found the libcom poster on this. But there is an undercover pig in a few photos in. Vice describe him and his buddies as,

Quote:
he few black bloc guys who hadn't been arrested yet wandered around wondering where there mates were and looking resigned to the fact that the day had passed off peacefully

Vice fail. Massive massive shitty fail

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Nov 11 2011 01:57
soc wrote:

3. Lack of idea, what to do next.

[....]

At the end of the day, we could say it was a protest that fell in line with the old wisdom: "This is a peaceful protest. No body get hurt, nobody get heard."

This.

Over kill with the policing. Some cop kept threatening to arrest me for obstruction of the highway when we stopped where the Sparks were on the other side of the most ridiculously over policed line I have ever seen in my life. Loads of undercover cops. I wish I had gotten to the sparks protest in the morning but I wasn't in town. This is about the only good thing about N9 was the wider support it had. The solidarity builders were bloody brilliant. It was also good to see that students have wised up on the cops since last year. There was less mealy mouthing about 'peaceful' vs. 'anarchist' business...

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Nov 11 2011 02:18

N.B who writes Workers Vanguard? People were trying to flog me that all day....

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Nov 11 2011 05:43

the sparts?

alan on tyneside
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Nov 11 2011 10:29

Yep.

http://www.icl-fi.org/english/wv/index.html

Definitely a ten pointer though, as is any sighting of 'Workers Hammer'. Best I managed on Wednesday was a Newsline seller, (5 points only), who was giving out leaflets celebrating the anniversary of Trotsky's assassination. Well, maybe not celebrating exactly...

Caiman del Barrio
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Nov 11 2011 10:50
Arbeiten wrote:
Steven. wrote:
Spot the libcom poster in Vice:
http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/london-protests-students-november-2011

I haven't yet found the libcom poster on this. But there is an undercover pig in a few photos in. Vice describe him and his buddies as,

Quote:
he few black bloc guys who hadn't been arrested yet wandered around wondering where there mates were and looking resigned to the fact that the day had passed off peacefully

Vice fail. Massive massive shitty fail

TBF I think Steven's the only person over the age of 16 who still reads it anyway. I'm amazed at how, like, 2004 he is. wink

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Nov 11 2011 14:48
Quote:
who was giving out leaflets celebrating the anniversary of Trotsky's assassination.

Now there's a reason to be happy! laugh out loud

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Nov 11 2011 16:11

Brilliant Reel News video of the sparks demo:

proletarian.
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Nov 11 2011 16:23

I like how the comrades are pushing the police out the way and a Socialist Worker salesman.

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Nov 11 2011 16:32

It's good and then you see the usual Trots trying to out shout each other. "One out - all out" is what we all believe IF it's you're workmates. Seems slightly disingenuous coming from the Gateshead's peoples thug (who works in a hospital and used a holiday). Good on the electricians and good on the students, shame on the trots. If someone screams at me that I should be on strike they better be on strike themselves.

wojtek
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Nov 11 2011 17:14

Love the video smile, one f' libcom tv?

My dad works ridiculously long hours for Balfour Beatty as a planning engineer. But I've not a chance to speak to him yet so I don't know what he thinks about the Spark's action or if he's even heard of it. Has it just been electricians on site taking action?

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Nov 11 2011 19:07

The spirit of the sparks still seems very strong, as can be seen from the video. But there are some real concerns, judging from the conversations I or others have had recently: some felt tired of the weekly demos, and they don't seem to have had much luck calling other building workers to join them at the sites they have been to. Others were worried that after all this time they weren't getting much national publicity, and this was what had persuaded some that it was worth lobbying parliament; another one I spoke to said he knew Bob Crow and was hoping to get him onside. The union officials are talking more tough and putting a lot of emphasis on the 7 December strike, which as I understand it is focused only on Balfour Beatty. So the sparks are up against a lot of obstacles - not to mention a clear demonstration by the police that they don't want them to join up with other sectors, in this case the students. Maybe others had different impressions though?

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Nov 11 2011 19:41

Just been watching some videos of the sparks demo and, God, it looked infinity better than the student demo.