Friday, 3 April 2009

Enid goes to the G20 demos, finds excuse to leave.

London is so charming in the Springtime. The City bankers so casually dressed - just like New Zealanders! The police are so obliging with helping me find my way around. Nothing says 'Tower Hamlets is due East, luv' like a baton charge.

Here's where I somehow ended up yesterday, on Financial Fools' Day, after stumbling off a plane from Auckland. That's right, pinned *behind* the police line while anarchists threw stuff at them and then got whacked (the anarchists, whacked by the police,) with freaky extendable metal batons that look like the high-tech walking stick my mum uses as she goes up and down Maungakiekie with her ladies' walking group. Oops. Here's some video I took. (Contains violence)

This post doesn't have much to do with THM's interests generally, and has nothing to do with the Actually Important Stuff being hammered out by those guys that keep zooming past me in the motorcades as I try to figure out the way to Tesco's. But Julie wanted to hear the brief story of my skill at faking illnesses for the purposes of bamboozling lawmen.

So, I wandered into the City as a G20 demo-tourist, noting how self-conscious all the City workers were about their compulsorily 'dressed-down' state. Wandered through the 'Climate Camp' being set up, then headed towards the really big crowd at the Bank of England.

After a little while of not being able to see anything, and no-one being able to tell me what what was going on exactly, the ongoing scuffles out of my sightline seemed to heat up quickly. There was a sudden big push out by police into the crowd, and I got wedged into an alcove outside the Bank - feeling at home amid a cluster of cowardly sheltering journalists - as the masses swarmed past in a rolling maul, followed by the retreating line of police. It was particularly charming how this position meant that the various small projectiles and smoke-bombs flying towards the police were flying towards yours truly (see video).

After this, I thought I might quite like to go home for a bit of a lie-down.

But after this intense tactical retreat by the police down to the east end of Threadneedle St (note the stampede of cameramen), they buffered the end of the street with riot police and began 'kettling' from all ends - that is, penning the demonstrators with police lines and not letting anyone in or out.

Except of course, for me. (Lights cigar stub.) I got out. (Takes shot of whiskey.) Left a lot of good men back in there, but... (catches a little something in the throat) like a guy behind me said, if you can get out, get out. Save yourself.

It turned out that after I made my escape, the Bank of England protesters were hemmed in for hours, and the very peaceful Climate Camp participants a few streets away were unable to leave until they were quite violently baton-charged and cleared out around midnight. Even the onsite representative of the Guardian twitteratti had been forlornly twittering for tips on how to escape the cordon. He should have been watching me work it.

Enid: "Er, excuse me officer, I have diabetes. I need to get out to eat something."

At least 50% of this was true.

Not very solidarity-minded of me to fake my way out, I know, but I probably would have passed out from jet-lag within the hour, and what good would that have done for the movement?

The police medic questioned me, wanting to know why I didn't have my diabetes-type stuff with me. The answer was of course that I am but a simple girl from the colonies, fresh off the plane, and wandering the streets of London in an innocent jet-lagged, wide-eyed daze for a breath of fresh air, and just accidentally caught up in a protest that I had no idea was on. And this leather jacket worn over a hoodie whose brand seems to be glorifying glue-sniffing, is the sartorial marker of the smug middle-classes in New Zealand, not of anti-social hooliganism. He bought it. I was looking rather peaky after the 30 hour flight.

Then, needing to play bad cop and good cop simultaneously, the officer added, "if I see you here again demonstrating, I WILL arrest you. Doesn't matter if you change your clothes. I WILL remember your face and you WILL be arrested."

I did my best not to smile at this rather empty (and not particularly legal?) threat. And then he gave me directions to Prescott Street.


stargazer said...

wow. just wow. you get to do all the really interesting stuff (although i don't actually envy you the bikini wax experience!). but i'm really glad you made it out of there without injury.

Kimberley said...

Yours truly, on the other hand, was sitting on her perch for hours in the central pen. Alas, I didn't have the excuse of jetlag. I also got penned in the Climate Camp on my way through but bravely lied my way past the riot police while dragging an unfortunate office worker out with me.

My fun times in the kettle have just been posted here:

The only women-relevant thing I can think of is that going to the loo is a slightly more difficult business than finding the wall of the nearest bank and letting fly. But some creative types made a wall out of banners to preserve female protesters' modesty.