Sep 13 2005

Obstructing a Legal Demonstration

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 11RCN @ 1:41 pm

On the morning of July 6th, myself and Raphie DeSantos, both members of the SSP, were tasked with organising buses, bus stewards and getting people on buses to go up to Gleneagles from Waterloo Place in the centre of Edinburgh. It was a chaotic scene, with many more people showing up without tickets than with, and we quickly became swamped. At this point a special tribute should be paid to the contribution of Catriona Grant (SSP) in helping with this process, as without her organisational skills and ability to marshal people as efficiently and effectively as she did, many of the buses that were able to leave filled with protesters would not have.

An hour or so into the filling of the buses the police appeared in strength, led by officers from Lothian and Borders but comprising mostly officers from the London Met and Greater Manchester. They advised us that the march had been cancelled due to trouble up in Auchterarder with anarchists, whom, they claimed, were attacking buses taking protesters to the march. Upon calling comrades who were already up in Auchterarder we found out that this was false and that the police were trying to block and obstruct the demonstration from taking place.

Upon receiving this information we advised the police that they were trying to obstruct a legal demonstration and insisted that we continue filling buses for the demo in Gleneagles. They agreed that they had no legal right to stop us from doing so, but insisted that they go on to the buses to advise protesters not to go up to Gleneagles on the grounds of public safety. As they were doing this, we announced to the crowd still waiting to board buses that the police were trying to stop the demonstration. We exhorted them not to be intimidated or put off, that we were either going to march in Gleneagles or march through Princes Street. They responded with a wall of noise in support.

The police completed their attempt to put protesters, already on buses, off and three double deckers were ready to depart. Just as the first was about to pull away from the kerb, a police van pulled out and blocked it in. Seeking out the officer from Lothian and Borders whom we’d been dealing with, it quickly became obvious that she had deliberately disappeared, with her place being taken by officers from London Met. Our immediate response was to get the waiting crowd to blockade Waterloo Place, where we began chanting ‘Let them Go! Let them Go! and The People united will never be defeated!

By now both Donnie Nicholson SSP and SSY and Nick Eardley SSP and SSY were involved on the frontline, and again a special tribute should be paid to the contribution made by them from here on in.

A Superintendent from Lothian and Borders appeared and we demanded that he allow the buses to leave otherwise we were staying put. The crowd involved was roughly around 600 people and the Superintendent ordered the police van to move back to allow the buses to depart. When the buses left a massive roar went up both from those on the buses and those on the street.

We cleared the crowd back on to the pavement with the assurances of the police that there would be no further attempt to obstruct the demonstration. However, again, this proved to be a lie. For while talking the language of co-operation and conciliation the police were actively doing their utmost to stop more buses arriving to pick up protesters, doing so by calling the bus companies directly and advising them not to send buses.

Our response was to get the crowd back onto Waterloo Place, get everyone to link arms, and march down towards the police cordon that had quickly formed to try and block us from getting on to Princes Street. The superintendent re-appeared and we accused him of acting in bad faith, demanding now that we march through Princes Street. The crowd was by now behind us all the way and off we marched, chanting and singing as we went.

The police tried to steer us up the Mound but we insisted on going straight along Princes Street. They tried to block this with a line of police vans parked across Princes Street, but we succeeded in breaking through and continuing on. We reached the end of Princes Street, where some of us were of a mind to march up Lothian Road and into the Meadows for a rally. However, it became apparent that most of the crowd wanted to stay on Princes Street, so that’s what we did, marching back the way we came.

This time, policing the front of the march, were officers of the London Met. They were more aggressive than Lothian and Borders and some of them had removed the numbers from their shoulder lapels.

Regardless, we continued marching. Another Police Superintendent from Lothian and Borders then appeared to negotiate with us. He assured us that the four buses that they’d previously blocked had now arrived and were parked at the bottom of the Mound. However, he advised that they were already full of protesters (due to the actions, it has to be said, of an organiser arriving on the scene and splitting the march).

We demanded that we be allowed to verify that those buses were full before they were allowed to leave. The Superintendent agreed, but asked for our reassurance that afterwards we disperse the crowd. We gave him no assurance on that, it being obvious that he was trying to use us to do his bidding.

Denying democratic rights

Denying democratic rights

A delegation, comprising myself, Nick Eardley, Kevin Connor and Vanessa Fuertes, all SSP members, left the march to check the buses. Waiting for us was Edinburgh City Councillor, Donald Anderson, whom the police had brought in to negotiate with us. We approached him, refusing to shake his hand when offered, and immediately demanded that he provide buses to take everyone up to Gleneagles. Not only that, we also took the opportunity of making a strenuous complaint at the presence of London Metropolitan Police on the streets of Edinburgh.

He promised to see what he could do to get us buses and went off, presumably to make a few phone calls to that effect. We then continued on towards the buses. Suddenly, the command, take them! was given and we were jumped on by the police and arrested.

The action lasted three hours or thereabouts, during which time we succeeded in shutting down Princes Street completely, a great success considering the role that retail corporations such as Marks and Spencer play in supporting the occupation of Palestine and exploitation in the developing world.

The SSP can be proud of the role its members played throughout, but a special mention should be made of Nick Eardley from the SSY. At just 17 years of age he demonstrated a courage and resolve way beyond his years. SSP National Convener, Colin Fox, sent in a message of solidarity and support to Nick whilst we were banged up in Livingston police station, which we all thought a magnificent gesture.

Tags: ,

3 Responses to “Obstructing a Legal Demonstration”

  1. Emancipation & Liberation » Emancipation & Liberation Index 11 says:

    […] Obstructing a legal demonstration, John Wight […]

Leave a Reply