Scattering the Police

Today’s protest – Day X2 as it is known – was very different to what came before. It was fun, mobile, good-natured, and much more effective…

By the time I got to Trafalgar Square at five-past twelve, the marchers were already moving off down Whitehall. I had to jog across the square to catch up, but even as I did so the majority of the protestors were turning around and passing around and under Admiralty Arch. Many were running, despite the appeals of the megaphone-equipped directors. The idea seemed to be to outflank the fourth wall of the pre-emptive kettle in Parliament Square by going around Whitehall instead of down it.

One of these police is different from the others

As the video I will put up tomorrow shows, the police struggled to keep up even with this obvious alternative route-planning, and from that point on the initiative was with the protestors. This was a younger group, on the whole, and the schoolkids did a fantastic job of giving the police the runaround. After being detained briefly in Parliament Square, much to the bemusement of tourists, a large group broke out and raced up Victoria Street. A few police kept up, but not enough to prevent the group bringing traffic to a halt outside Victoria Station for a few minutes, before dashing off again to Buckingham Palace (amid chants of ‘we won’t pay for your f__king wedding!’) where there was another ham-fisted kettle attempt.

Changing the route

After this, I left the main protest (though by then, in truth, there was no main protest – there were four or five, seemingly dissolving then reappearing all over London) and headed to the UCL occupation. This is a wonderfully inspiring event, thoroughly capturing the essence of the Marxian (via Saint Simon) dictum ‘from each according to his ability…’. Students with knowledge of politics, communications, design, and law (among many others) have come together to form an intelligent, flexible, connected and progressive movement, a gestalt protest in many ways. It is not doctrinaire, though it is accepting of many political strands, and is broad enough to include music and art events alongside speaker meetings and discussions.

UCL Occupation

Finally, I chatted at some length with three of the police. It was fascinating to at last get into some serious discussion of the political situation and trajectory, though not exactly rewarding. The first, whose own years at university had overlapped with mine, was very sympathetic. He suggested that for all the threats to police budgets, pay cuts would not be a serious issue as the police were “way overpaid for what we do”. This makes perfect sense, since the state must have wriggle-room in order to ensure the continuing loyalty of the custodians of its monopoly of violence (not that this genial chap seemed in any way capable of particular violence at all).

The second was an older bloke who was ex-RAF. He was initially a bit reluctant to chat, but we came to some common ground – our basic disagreement was that of idealism and realism: he didn’t think there was much point in trying to hold back the changes that were inevitably facing us, and accepted that his job was to manage the changes as smoothly as possible. I told him that such a view was eminently depressing in that there was no hope or ambition for societal improvement, while pointing out that the whole ‘inevitability’ discourse (used universally by the media and political class) is far from uncontested.

The third was a woman who began in a hostile manner (bidding us ‘welcome to the real world’) and who told us that even if the police faced budget cuts, she would work for free because she loved her job. She never really warmed to our arguments, and trotted out a lot of the students-as-wastrels, taxpayer-subsidy fallacies. Nevertheless, it was interesting as – pace a common leftist position – it did seem worth trying to talk to these people. The first policeman even admitted that the TSG had some dodgy elements, which was quite an eye-opener, and he seemed perfectly willing to accept my account of the Millbank events.

All told it was most encouraging. The ruling generation has left not only the economic system but also the political system with no legitimacy. The authority of the political class (and its functionaries in luminous yellow) is gone, completely. We no longer have to listen to this patronising nonsense about what is best for us, coming (as it does) from the mouths of the very people who are determined to sell-off or destroy those few things that remain good about this society.

The message is clear. Young people are saying “we won’t be told!”

Published in: on November 30, 2010 at 11:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

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