It’s easily done considering most PCs don’t actually know the law they are supposed to enforce. I currently live under the reign of the almighty GMP… I thought moving to Stockport would put me under Cheshire police but we are part of Greater Manchester, a city I used to worship.
I was once interviewed for a university radio show and asked why I think so much great music comes from Manchester (as the manager of one of the most popular venues in the city at the time my opinion mattered!)… Most people had said ‘the rain’ that keeps people in where they are more likely to conceive great music. Whilst that is a credible answer, I put it down to the GMP; with such a fascist police force to fight against, passions were always high (as were tensions I’d imagine) and great passion creates great music.
My issues with the police in general date back to when I was about 16 and the BNP started to gain some popularity in South East London which is where my mum’s side of the family is from; my mum grew up in Catford, although she wouldn’t admit it now! A vague associate from one of the pubs my mates and I frequented was heavily into the Anti Nazi League and organised a coach from Maidstone, where I grew up, to London for a protest march. My friend Jane and I went along with Jane’s boyfriend Grant, a nice bloke who never really spoke, and a lesbian who I think was called Theresa and we all had a great time getting drunk on the coach and singing songs like it was the 1960s.
We were given instructions about where to meet up, what to do if a policeman tried to arrest you, where the march was heading, that the police would try and force us up Lodge Hill but at the crossroads we must go right and we were told that the police would try and stop us.
“Stop us from what?” I asked.
“Burning down the BNP headquarters!”
“Oh… I don’t think I want to do that.”
“Stay at the back of the march and head left at the crossroads then. We are going right, to the HQ which masquerades as a bookshop and we’re gonna burn the fuckers down!”
Cheers and shouts and jeers drowned my reservations and I was swept along by the march and the comaradary.
I had met probably 7 black people at this point in my life; they were all nice enough and I fancied one of them. I’ve loved Prince since I knew music existed and Straight Outta Compton was the first album I ever bought. I was loving being able to shout about my anti racism and wonderful morals.
The march was going well until after walking down a very long straight road everyone stopped and we bumped into the people in front. The familiar shouts of “Police support the Nazis”, “Fascist scum of our streets” stopped as well and all of a sudden the atmosphere became razor sharp. Someone started shouting “Push forward, Push FORWARD and link arms”. His tone was panicked as were the other voices that all began shouting the same thing… push forward, push forward, keep your arms linked… we didn’t understand but pushed the people in front of us as those behind started pushing us.
We stayed squashed together for what seemed like hours; it was a summer’s day but those who had water with them couldn’t move themselves to get it, let alone drink it. We were towards the right hand side of the middle of the road which would normally be a dual carriageway (or at least a road wide enough for 2 cars in each direction). To our right, past all the people was a grassy slope with some trees at the top and to our left I began to realise there were people on top of a grassy mound and screams coming from the crowd. The people to the left, who were dressed in black, with balaclavas were throwing things into the crowd and people started pushing forward and to the right.
Soon breathing was becoming an issue and being so small I had ended up a few rows in front of my friends and 2 people away from a wall of approximately 2000 riot police and their horses! I could still hear the cries of “Push forward, push forward” but they were becoming more and more drowned out by screams of panic and disorientation. I was stuck, with giant armoured horses looming over me and then came the push from the other direction. Two thousand police and countless horses charged into the crowd. We scrambled to keep our arms linked and form a human barrier and as far as I could see we managed it and after a few minutes of crushing pain the police eased of and the residual force from behind nearly knocked me over as my face came within millimetres of a transparent, reinforced plastic riot shield.
This is when the police took offense to us pushing into them, and to an 82 year old Nazi death camp survivor sitting down according to Searchlight publication, and with the push of an estimated 60,000 people behind us (according to Socialist Worker); they started batoning people and a riot broke out. There was more charging and when the crowd fractured under the pressure of the BNP hurling bricks indiscriminately and the police and horses now trampling and hitting anyone they could there was just sheer panic.
Luckily I was small enough again to duck under the crashing crowd and escape up the hill to the right. Jane, who had the opposite advantage of being tall spotted me waving from the grass and pulled the other 2 through the throng and to relative safety. As we clambered up the hillside we hear and then saw tear gas being thrown into the crowd. With the police’s defences attacking, people were running down Upper Wickham Lane towards the BNP headquarters, not to the left, the route imposed by the police. We saw smoke coming from down the road to the right of us but never managed to confirm if the target had been reached as our main issue now was to get to the other side of a riot in order to not miss our coach and be stuck in the nastiest part of South East London as night time rapidly approached.
I don’t honestly remember how we all got safely back to the coach. I do remember hiding at the top of the right hand hill and seeing people stumble past bleeding and crying. One girl was being carried by a man who was not much bigger than she seemed. He was shouting “They wouldn’t stop hitting her, they just wouldn’t stop” and as they passed I saw a gaping hole in the girls chest with her limp, unconscious hand trailing along the floor. I saw a man collapse against a tree literally holding half of his scalp on… we had been told not to help people, not to get involved as it could delay real medical help getting to them so we stayed as hidden as the trees allowed and thankfully he was soon carted off in a stretcher.
One woman reported at the time ‘I was sitting on a wall, just trying to avoid the police. A policeman pushed me off. The police charged from a side street. I tripped over a bush and four police just laid into me with truncheons. I was on the floor and one of them was kneeling on me, just hitting me. Later I saw a man in a wheelchair. The police charged again and again and just knocked him over. He fell out of his chair. My friend – she’s 16 – tried to help him up and the police started hiting her’ (Socialist Worker, 23 October 1993)
I always thought I lived much further away from London when I was younger, I always thought the journey home took hours, not one hour… maybe it did with traffic but the coach ride home was quieter and more sombre than the one going.
When I finally made it home to the safety of my family my parents ushered me into the front room to tell me there was something on tele about the march. We watched a biased half truth of an article and I tried to educate my parents about what really happened but my dad continued to be annoyed with the cause I had chosen but ultimately impressed I had the balls to stand up for myself and my mum continued to be disappointed and embarrassed but less so than she would have been if I’d appeared on TV looking the state I was in.
It’s safe to say my impression of the police wasn’t a good one but to be fair and take the higher ground again this was the Metropolitan police force in London. How I long for a bit of honest police violence!