The day started out simply enough with a trip to Canary Wharf. I must say the police presence surprised me. These were the first three policepersons I saw, and I popped my bags of shoeboxes down for a quick picture. Sharp-eyed locals will no doubt recognise the Daisy & Tom shopping bag that clearly identifies me as a hardcore anarchist.
I figured there’d be plenty to get on with on the day, so decided to get the wanky art out of the way first (see London Peace March for previous wanky art). The point of the exercise was to plant open shoeboxes (containing the pictured ‘authentic’ incriminating document) that could be conveniently discovered by Daily Telegraph ‘journalists.’
Discovery was a major part of the work, so it wasn’t quite as simple as delivering a box to the front desk. I left the first two in the care of these gentlemen facing the Canary Wharf Tower.
I also left some facing the ‘smokers corner’ out front of the building, in the park a small distance from the main building (presumably reserved for more anti-social smokers) and in this cosy little basket.
Finally, I headed into the shopping complex below the building and left a few more ready to be discovered, including this one located where most right-wing journalists do the majority of their thinking (and dating, if you believe the gossip).
From here, I made a clean ‘getaway’ via Docklands Light Railway (you can see the last one I left in place under the seat there).
BTW, the inverted commas are there because I actually had to ask a policeman for directions. Hardly the crime of the century. Still, Canary Wharf wasn’t an ‘official’ target as far as I knew, but I had mentioned my intentions regarding this installation on the Urban75 web forum (favourite for authoritarian lurkers). Could all of those police really have been there just to hassle little old me? I can only assume not, as I did the entire installation in full view of a number of police and security guards, towing a dirty great black plastic bag. And stopping to take photos every few minutes.
No matter. The train took me all the way to Bank. I toodled right along, because I was late for the disco.
En route, I met the following happy individuals, intent on cleaning up capitalism. They gave the Bank Of England a darn good polishing…
…only to get questioned by the police for their troubles. This certainly wasn’t the only overreaction of the day, but I’m getting a wee bit ahead of myself.
I wanted to hook up with the Space Hijackers, as their planned event had a simple agenda rooted in good old-fashioned fun. The mobile disco had a modest turnout, but was far from disappointing. I must admit that I did little dancing myself, but after 10 years of DJing, you kind of get used to standing back and watching everyone else have a good time. Sad, isn’t it?
Still, there was plenty to keep me entertained. When this visibly high-risk group headed towards Liverpool Street, they and the partygoers they had recruited were followed by close to a dozen police.
They drew quite an audience at Liverpool Street Station, including yet more police. Clearly nobody had anything better to do. Many lunch breaks ran into overtime.
“Caucasian male. Dark Suit. Red tie. Appears to be doing the Funky Chicken. Caucasian male. Dark suit. Blue tie. Clearly seen to limbo in a public place.”
Sadly, I had to leave the mobile disco, as I wanted to see what kind of turnout they would get at the Lockheed Martin building. I took this one last picture of the gathered audience outside, before catching the Central Line to Tottenham Court Road.
It was time for a change of pace.
It was a pretty good turnout, erm, as it turned out. I mostly busied myself with distributing surgical face-masks to those worried about the SARS virus and/or trial by media, as well as Out Of Order stickers to those concerned about the functionality of the system at large. I did, however, manage to get this picture at that vital moment when the traffic finally ground to halt. From this point on, police held the line that if you were on the road, you were an anarchist. If you were on the pavement, you were a bystander. This rule held even if the road were shut off for two blocks in either direction. I really should have remembered this, but again, I’m getting a wee bit ahead of myself.
This brave gentleman headed into the centre of the crowd claiming to be a Capitalist And Proud Of It…
…he was removed by the police for his own safety. Yes, that is an Out Of Order sticker he’s wearing. Fine by me. The joy of the Out Of Order Project is that it’s open to personal interpretation. One of the few nice policepersons I met on the day asked for a sticker as a souvenir, and actually stuck it to his inside vest – then swiftly moved it to his report book when I whipped my camera out. Heh.
From here everybody started marching down nearby Shaftesbury Avenue, and things looked pretty casual for a while…
… but about a block down the road, the rear cordon began. Police quite pointedly made it clear to anybody on the fringes that if you went in; you stayed in. Fair warning, or subtle intimidation?
Well, the photographers moved in a few minutes later, and the vans weren’t far behind, so I’m inclined to think the latter.
Here are a few folks carefully thinking it over. Numbers down this year? Here’s where about half of them went. Quite a few Parents With Prams backed off from this point on.
And here come the vans!
From here, the protestors were hemmed in and carefully guided toward Trafalgar Square. The crowd tried to change direction early on, and even had mixed success with the occasional side road, but disruption was limited to about a block a time. A sound tactic in theory, but the very deliberate warnings had stuck in my mind. A shut-in wasn’t far away. In fact, it was more or less already in effect.
Those who tried to leave the march at this stage were edited according to police tastes. If you looked like a tourist, you were allowed to leave. If you looked like a soap-dodger, you were staying right where you were. It was at this stage that I actually ran into Mike Slocombe (of Urban 75), pictured here giving an interview after being, as he described it, illegally detained. Two or three years ago, I would have mocked him for overreacting. I was two blocks away from an even more pronounced shift of opinion.
It’s important to note that the mood of the crowd didn’t change until the police tactics did. A serious shut-in took place about three blocks north of Trafalgar Square. They then almost doubled in numbers, and pushed the crowd in nice and tight, narrowing the cordon across the width of the road. Not to allow any kind of access, mind, just to make the gathering look as dangerous as possible and to dish out a mild form of physical punishment.
It was at this stage that I walked past what was clearly a monitoring van, surrounded by a few undercover guys. A quick glimpse inside showed the comprehensive face-by-face indexing was going on – and these were people that had not necessarily chosen to be where they were.
I whipped out my remaining box of surgical masks. I took one step onto the road (to join several other people with cameras) while considering my options. Big mistake – remember the arbitrary rule about roads and pavements?
I was actually grabbed by a policeman, dragged 12 feet across the road, and shoved inside the cordon!
I shit you not.
It all happened so fast, I didn’t get the officer’s number, but he was uniform – and had one eyebrow doing the job of two. He disappeared pretty sharpish. All the policemen who clearly saw me being shoved in from across the road claimed to be completely ignorant of my situation. I was inside the cordon, and there I was going to stay. I tried to leave early on (it was patently ridiculous, they had all seen what happened, etc.), but got a hefty shove in the middle of the chest for my troubles. Boos from the crowd. I asked to see a senior officer a number of times, but was given the ‘he’s over there… no, he’s not here, he’s over there’ run around.
I had no problem being hemmed in, shoved around and digitally indexed, really (damn, I’d published everything I was going to do and was well within my rights to do it) but there was a principle at stake. You know what I’m like with those pesky principles. I tend to stick to my guns.
Remember this face. This is one of the guys who ‘knew nothing’ about my situation, so was ‘completely helpless.’ We were being held ‘for our own protection and in the interests of public safety.’ If indeed it were true that I had been shoved across the road and inside the cordon, then that would have to be a serious matter to be discussed with a senior officer, but he had no indication that this truly was the case, so as far as he was concerned, I was there voluntarily. Tough. You wanna try holding that camera still, buddy – it looks like you’re shaking a bit there. And so on.
Scary, huh? After promising wife, mother and kids that I would be careful, here I was being outwitted by a bunch of halfwits. It was the trust issue that got me. I actually found it completely inconceivable that a policeman would abuse his power in such a way.
I argued with a number of police until I was blue in the face. Actually, I kind of argued until I was white in the face. That stomach virus and dealing with the rush of activity around it had pretty much knocked the stuffing out of me. On this day, after 8 hours of operating on breakfast alone (and a rather ill-advised scotch and cola en route), I suddenly dropped on the spot in a dead faint.
There were legs, arms, a couple of voices, but I didn’t really come to until I found myself sitting on my arse outside the cordon with two police medics in attendance.
Got bag? Yep. Got camera? Yep.
Bodily inventory? Everything intact, and largely unscathed. Good. State of mind? Wits returning, but dignity shot to hell. Still, you can’t have everything.
They offered me water, but I fished my own bottle out, along with a chocolate bar. The sugar rush obviously brought the colour back to my face, because the worried look on the medic’s face faded away as my focus returned…
…just in time to see the chap you see pictured above tell the medics that I was an organiser (!) and obviously faking it. He wanted me dragged back inside the cordon. Now. Get up, son. A look from one of the medics sent him on his way, but my climb back to reality just got a lot steeper.
A person is an illegal detainee if they are prevented from proceeding or restrained in custody in violation of the law – and I had been specifically singled out and collared for that purpose. This so-called servant of the public, and no doubt most of the smug gits around him, knew exactly what was going on. I was calmly and deliberately being taught a lesson.
Lesson noted. Congratulations to the police on a job well done. I used to be a Sometime Concerned Citizen. Now I’m a Determined Activist. What choice do I have?