people's assembly and more fence jumpingTagged as: democracy_village high_court parliament parliament_square peace_strike socpa
yesterday afternoon, citizens from the democracy village held a people's assembly, open to all, in victoria tower gardens next to parliament. this was followed by non-violent direct action to reclaim parliament square and disobey high court injunctions. after dozens of incursions, eventually one person was arrested.
a couple of dozen people turned up yesterday afternoon for the people's assembly called for one o'clock at victoria tower gardens (which is the small park between millbank and the river just directly to the west of the parliament buildings, and a stone's throw from parliament square).
police were present and pointed out that the park bye-laws forbade meetings, speeches, assemblies, planning of assemblies, and even exercising and sports. however, the meeting continued without incident and police withdrew.
after more than two hours of debate, planning, discussion and brainstorming, it was time for some symbolic non-violent direct action against boris's fences which currently prevent anyone from enjoying the open space of parliament square (something which in his high court injunction he claimed was the main problem with the democracy village). unlike when the democracy village was present, there is no open way into the square now, there is no welcoming desk, and in fact the fences extend out (probably unlawfully) beyond the grass and onto westminster council's pavements, causing further danger and obstruction to the public.
at around 5pm, the first incursions began, and about ten people vaulted the fences into the square (including one dressed in an alien suit). they ran around avoiding the orange tabarded bailiffs who have set up their own rather less welcoming camp in the square, and some of the activists managed to climb onto the churchill statue, the lloyd george statue and up a tree, flying peace flags and chanting peace slogans.
the incursion and the response was all pretty good-natured, and the bailiffs tried to persuade people to leave, escorting a few out without being overly heavy-handed. police were called and several attended over the next hour or so, again with conversation and persuasion the order of the day. this may have been partly because after much perusing of their police 'teams and duties' papers, it seemed neither a climbing team nor TSG were easily available.
passing cars hooted, passengers on tourist buses waved and showed the victory sign. a small phalanx of mainstream press journos took their pics, and even more activists jumped the fences and entered the square.
this is not a difficult place to penetrate, and in fact one person even came out for a pee-break before going back in and jumping on a statue again, while others got escorted out, came round the front, jumped back in and ran around again. another managed a quick incursion to take in supplies to some people on the churchill statue.
some of the police admitted they had a difficult time coming to terms with having to enforce petty restrictions which undermined the democratic right to protest. another even gave a cigarette to one of the activists when they finally came down from the statue.
of course there are always one or two bad apples, and special condemnation should go out to constable pollard (CW2474) who arrived on the scene at about seven fifteen, and shouted out "why don't you pay your taxes?". nice uneducated comment from a thug in uniform! the bailiffs too had a bad 'un, "james" who stole a flag, and broke it in two - er, that's theft and criminal damage innit? he also tried to hide his identity badge when challenged over it. but apart from those two, pretty much everyone else behaved themselves.
after about three hours of repeated incursions, including the symbolic placing of a tent on the grass, one person (named in the GLA's injunction) was arrested for "failure to comply with a court order". at the police station, that charge was immediately dropped, and instead he was held for a while for (is this a farce?) "breach of the peace". incidentally he had been sitting on the grass quietly holding a "peace" flag at the time of his arrest.
by eight thirty, there were just two young women sitting in the centre of the grass (where the oak tree used to be), and they refused to leave. rather than arrest them, police decided to withdraw, and after this final symbolic victory the young women left of their own accord.
the next people's assembly will take place, as usual next saturday afternoon. they intend to meet at the 'bottle' on the north west corner of trafalgar square at noon. from there they will process down to victoria tower gardens for a full open meeting. due to possible police interference there may be back-up plans, so check indymedia nearer the time for any updates, contact numbers and so on if you are planning to attend.
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