around two thousand at downing street cuts protestTagged as: cuts demo downing_street protest smellie tuc workers_struggles
protestors filled whitehall this evening in protest at the savage cuts announced by the con-dem government today.
the 'coalition of resistance' organisers had arranged with police that whitehall would close for traffic at 6pm. although the student and union marches had not yet arrived, there were several hundred people on the pavement opposite downing street, and the speaker urged them to take the road at the appointed time. traffic soon backed up, and police lines began to move in to push people back to the pavement.
police seemed amateurish and disorganised, and some as usual took the opportunity to be heavy-handed. a few minutes later, it was obvious that traffic had been stopped into whitehall, and some police began allowing people back onto the road, but others kept pushing and shouting until they realised they were completely in the wrong and withdrew.
after this chaotic start, tony benn took the platform. he sounded tired and quite possibly ill, but called for massive action against the cuts. jeremy dear from the NUJ told us he was shame-faced because he'd come from a TUC general council meeting where they had agreed to work towards a national protest next year in march. he felt the time to fight the cuts should be now.
as other speakers took the small stage, the union march and student march made a noisy approach down whitehall. seeing central barriers along whitehall to force the protest away from downing street, a large group of students made a run for the right hand side and caught police unaware.
they were stopped by police lines about a hundred yards short of downing street, and scuffles ensued.
among the police was a three strong forward intelligence team including a police photographer - one of the team, talking into an audio recorder describing various student protestors, was constable smellie, still wearing TSG U prefix lapels. in case you're not familiar with the name, he's the TSG officer who backslapped G20 protestor nicola fisher, and then whacked her across the legs with a baton (all caught on youtube). he was acquitted of the charge of assault on the basis that he was defending himself (from a woman half his size who was armed with a juice carton)! it is widely thought that her decision not to attend the trial was a contributory factor in his acquittal. at least he appears to have been taken off frontline duty.
after a few minutes in which the north bound traffic was halted outside downing street, more police reinforcements moved in and aggressively pushed the students and their SOAS samba band back onto the other side of the road.
during more speeches, including one from human rights lawyer inran khan, warning of the effects on equality of justice that huge cuts to legal aid would have, police formed lines in front of downing street and along the central barriers in the road.
at one point, someone in the crowd threw a smoke bomb towards downing street which landed in the main road in front of the gates and spewed out foul-smelling red smoke.
by 8pm, the last of the speeches were made, and despite unrealistic talk of british people taking to the streets to oppose the cuts like they have in greece, spain, and france, almost everyone packed up and went home.
however a dozen or so plucky students decided to visit the department of business and skills in victoria street, and entering the large glass foyer, opened up tents and occupied the reception. after nearly an hour, police arrested four of them apparently for aggravated trespass, and the others decided to leave voluntarily.
someone has posted some pics of the business and skills occupation here
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