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OccupyLSX – and police ‘kettling’

On Saturday, I spent a frustrating afternoon trying to honour a commitment to the organisers of the above demo, to address the crowd on the steps of St. Pauls’ Cathedral. Got there at about 2.45 p.m to find that all avenues into the square on Ludgate Hill in front of St. Pauls were blocked by police. They stood close together in lines, and simply prevented anyone from entering that space….The picture above was taken when I was leaving…as police assembled in lines, with great gaps in between, and more lines down Ludgate Hill…

After circling St. Pauls, in search of an entry point…finally found a gap..

Julian Assange, pictured right, was leaving with a bunch of bodyguards, and for some reason, the police allowed me to enter.

Nice wave, Julian.

Because I was late, speeches had ended, and the organisers were beginning to break the very peaceful, and relaxed crowd into groups – to begin organising 1) food collections 2) arrangements for lavatories in the square 3) liaison with the police and the staff of St. Pauls 4) media …etc…The last group, No 11 was tasked to organise the wider mobilisation…..

At this point I tried to leave the Square and St. Pauls…have much to do as tomorrow I fly to West Africa on a work project.

But could not walk away to catch a bus.Wherever I turned, was blocked by rows and rows of police…Regret I lost my cool: spoke angrily and started to give them a hard time…Asked whether they thought the bankers (pointed to bank offices around us) they had been paid overtime to protect – Mr Bob Diamond of Barclays and others – whether those bankers were going to give them jobs, when theirs were cut? Or pay their wages, when public spending ‘consolidation’ cuts their incomes…? Or help them when they are made homeless? Or their grandmother can’t get decent healthcare?

Did me no good I am sure, but had to give expression to my real anger at the threat this kind of policing poses to our democratic right to assemble and protest. I have for many years protested in London, first against apartheid, and then for peace and social justice and against war.

Never have I faced such determined opposition to the right to express my protest, to assemble freely, and to walk through my own city, as I faced today.

There is a great deal at stake, and thanks to these policing methods, we now know how high those stakes are.

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