Solidarity in London

This weekend saw solidarity actions take place in London for anarchists in trouble at home and abroad.

First was the Whitechapel solidarity. Anarchists, anti-fur protestors and local traders have been facing increasing hassle from the police. In response sympathisers converged on Whitechapel:

The full range of police units seemed to be out around Brick Lane on Sunday – and even at least one man who works for MI6 was claimed to have been spotted watching from a distance and making a phone call – but he may just have been out doing his Christmas shopping.

Members of Whitechapel Anarchist Group were harassed by police while distributing their newsletter last Sunday and had put out a call for support, and around 20 people turned up to stand around on the rather cold street near the bagel shops. This week the police were there again, but mainly stood back and watched from across the road, a police officer taking pictures of all who were there with a very long lens.

Many of those walking along Brick Lane seemed interested in the WAG newsletter and took a copy from the dozen or so people handing them out.

The police group with the photographer moved across the road and stood on the corner of Brick Lane. Apparently one young man, urged on by his friends, went and stood in front of the officer taking pictures, and was hauled off a few yards down Bethnal Green Road. I followed and took pictures keeping out of the way as the police questioned him and several of the anarchists questioned the police over their action while others took pictures of them from a closer range.

After a few minutes the young man was marched across the road and taken away in a waiting police van.

Later in Dalston, anarchists protested in solidarity with the current revolt in Greece:

It was in some way appropriate that a demonstration in support of Greek anarchists provoked by the Athens police killing a 15 year old youth should end up with a stand-off between demonstrators and police.

When I arrived at Dalston Kingsland around 2.30pm there were already around 50 demonstrators there, mainly those connected with Greek students and workers, but also some anarchists with several banners. They were rather outnumbered by police and community support workers and were simply waiting for the march to start, causing no problems, not even obstructing the pavement or the access to the Overground station.

Had the march been allowed to start, they and the other couple of hundred who turned up would probably have caused little trouble, other than a relatively small amount of disruption to traffic as they made their way along to the peace mural. After possibly a few speeches and rather a lot of chanting and shouting, everyone would probably have dispersed without further trouble and we would all have been on our way home before it got dark.

What completely changed the course of events was a decision by the police present to take action against people wearing scarves across their faces. This is of course a part of the anarchist ‘uniform’, and it does frustrate the police in their attempts to keep photographic tabs on all demonstrators (that database again.)

Section 60(4A) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, Act gives the police powers to require the removal of face coverings that an officer is satisfied is worn wholly or mainly to conceal identity, provided that an officer of or above the rank of inspector has given an authorisation for such action within a given area for a period of up to 24 hours.

Assuming that the police were following the law, the decision to take such action was made in advance. But although such powers were available it surely made no sense to use them before any trouble had occurred, when doing so was almost bound to provoke it.


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