Archive for the ‘news’ Category

Eyewitness of Protests and Kerfuffle at the Bank of England, 01 April 2009 (Part 2)

1 April, 2009

If you can’t see it below this post, Part 1 is at https://hywelsbiglog.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/eyewitness-of-protests-and-kerfuffle-at-the-bank-of-england-1-april-2009/

To continue the story, after staying at the junction of Cornhill outside the police cordon, I went for a walk. In a very pleasant walk through Popes Head Alley, Lombard Street, St. Stephen’s and St. Swithens, I passed outside of a few different lines of police. All keeping me out, and keeping protesters in.

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A bit more walking, and the unbelievable happened. Bucklesbury leading onto Queen Victoria Street was completely devoid of police lines. Seizing the moment, I walked up the street to the Bank of England and joined a jolly old carnival of assorted hippies and journalists.

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The atmosphere is jolly. Everyone is having a great time. But let me ask you this. Why, in every protest, are there people playing bongos? Do protests not happen if there’s no one available to bang their bongo drums?

There number of photographers and broadcasters is amazing. Here, I bump into Newsnight’s Justin Rowlatt who is very professional and doesn’t loose his temper with protesters who disrupt his piece-to-camera.

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After a pleasant afternoon walking around and absorbing the atmosphere, I take a seat on the steps of a battened-down Royal Exchange.

I feel like walking back home now. Sure, I’m inside the cordon. But the cordon let me in, so it should let me out, right? Let’s see what happened when I walked up Threadneedle Street to try and get out…

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Yes, that is a swarm of mounted riot police. Yes, they are the broken windows on the RBS building. And yes, that is Ben Brown who somehow managed to do live reports from the front-line all day.

So, I couldn’t get through. But what happened next, took me by surprise.

Aggression built up and suddenly, everyone on my side of the cordon was running from the police line. Nobody knew why, so we all went back to the police line.

Then, things got much worse. For no apparent reason, more and more police filled the police lines. Then, they charged towards us.

For some reason, while running, a thought popped into my head. “This must be what the Spanish Pamplona bull run is like”. Think about it. Both involve running away very quickly from something enraged.

I kept the camera recording video. I tried to hide in one of the nooks and crannies of Threadneedle Street, hoping that the police line would just pass. But it didn’t. I found myself running, almost for my life, literally with a policeman in riot gear pushing me and shouting “Move, move move!”.

The police line came to a stop near the steps of the Royal Exchange. Needless to say, the protesters were irked. A stand off ensued.

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Amazingly, Ben Brown popped up again. He even managed to to a piece-to-camera and interview one of the protesters.

Sadly, here’s where the photos end. My camera-phone battery expired.

All around, photographers grappled for the best vantage point. Police officers were videoing the protest and radioing troublemaker details to base.

Then I decided it was time to make an exit. Easier said than done when every exit is cordoned off. Nevertheless, I wandered off.

Bucklesbury was cordoned off. Guess I’ll have to look for another way out. How about Queen Victoria Street? No. That’s cordoned off too.

Worse than than that, things were turning ugly. These weren’t the usual hippy protesters. Most of this crowd had their faces covered. These were real life anarchists intent on causing anarchy. Golly.

Angry noises coming from the police line told me that trouble would be rushing my way soon. A brisk walk towards back the Royal Exchange seemed appropriate.

Unless I could find a way out from the cordoned-off area, I would be there all night. Then, miraculously, the police line across Bucklesbury opened up. Not much. Just enough to let some of us escape. Courageously, I took the opportunity and retreated. Wise choice.

Minutes later, the line closed. Right in front of that line was the trouble. A line a riot police charged the skirmishing anarchists. Bottles were hurled at the police. Voices were raised. There was pushing and shoving. It wasn’t pleasant.  Best of all, I wasn’t in it. It was happening a few feet away, the other side of the Bucklesbury police line.

Then, it really was my time to get out of there. I went back up through the city. Passed the Climate Camp who were still busy partying. And back to my flat, just off Brick Lane.

What have I learned today? A few things. I’ve learnt that there are lots of irritated people who want to protest. I’ve learnt that I don’t agree with most of the protesters. For starters, free trade and free market capitalism is the best way to get people out of poverty and develop clean energy through market driven innovation. I’ve also learnt that anarchists and violent protesters can ruin a fun day out. And that most people who go to these things are jolly nice. The lesson I’ve learnt most of all is that police lines like to charge at you for no apparent reason.

Were you there? Are you Justin Rowlatt? Did you see me out and about? Do you have an opinion? Do please leave a comment here with your opinions, views, thoughts, ramblings and anything else you want to say.

Watch my video from the day at my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=Gent82&view=videos

Eyewitness of Protests and Kerfuffle at the Bank of England, 1 April 2009

1 April, 2009

LIVING on the City fringe, I couldn’t resist. With a compulsion to see what was going on, I decided to head out. Before leaving, I had noticed a couple of things. The first was the sound of helicopters buzzing around, possibly linked to awful digital television reception. The other thing was an almost complete lack of buses. Being smart, I waited until the lunchtime news to get an idea of what was happening. That’s where I learnt about the brief violence, the breaking of windows and police cordoning of all the roads around the Bank of England. “Oh well, at least I’ll be able to go as far as the cordons” I thought. So, at 1:50pm, I set off. And this, is everything I saw. Up until my camera phone ran out of battery.

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On the way to Bishopsgate from Bethnal Green Road, this graffiti seemed ominous. Or, if you are an anarchist, hopeful.

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There were some police milling around RBS’ Bishopsgate building. But not as much protest as I was expecting. None at all in fact.

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By this point, I noticed that Bishopsgate was a little quiet. Too quiet. And, in the middle of the road was the first of dozens of outside broadcast trucks I would see.

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The reason for Bishopsgate’s quietness quickly became clear. The Climate Camp had camped out in the middle of the road. Too their credit, they were a lot of fun. No trouble or bad attitude. Lots of fun and interesting people doing their thing. Not that I agree with their message. But it was a jolly jape to camp out and have a mini-carnival in Bishopsgate. Here are some of the things I saw while passing. Warning: white people with dreadlocks ahead.

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There weren’t many police officers on duty. No wait. That’s not accurate. There were more police officers and riot police than I’ve ever seen before.

By the end of the Climate Camp, I found myself near the junction of Threadneedle street. How far can I get, past the boarded up shop windows, to the police cordon? Let’s find out…

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When I got there, here’s the hodgepodge of different protesters I found at the corner of Threadneedle and the Royal Exchange.

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People were hanging off every statue and piece of street furniture. You could see people on the balcony on the Bank of England. The atmosphere was good. But I got bored. So I headed across the Exchange Buildings area over to Cornhill. And met a variety of funny figures en route. One even gave me some pink “Clown Money”.

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Over on Cornhill, I was able to get right up to the police line. With the police keeping other people inside, and me outside the cordon, the atmosphere was different. With the police telling people to stop climbing onto the Royal Exchange and protesters outside the cordon shouting at the police, the atmosphere was starting to buzz.

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After staying here for a few minutes I got bored. Popes Head Alley was straight ahead so I walked off to see what I could find.

At this point, I want to keep showing you photos. Unfortunately, the stupid Firefox web browser can’t handle this many photos in a WordPress blog writing text box. So, check ABOVE this post for PART 2.  Or click on this: https://hywelsbiglog.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/eyewitness-of-protests-and-kerfuffle-at-the-bank-of-england-01-april-2009-part-2/

Olympic Victory Parade Starting at Bank/Mansion House

16 October, 2008

IT’S October the 16th, 2008, and I decide to make the most of living on the City fringe by attending the start of the Olympic Victory Parade. Hearing that it would be starting at 11am, I set off early. Only to be greeted with traffic that barely moved and a bus that diverted much earlier than expected. This made me think I would get there too late, so I leg it for Bank and find streets strangely deserted of traffic.

There was a crowd of about one deep along the fence at Threadneedle Street. Luckily, I snagged a spot on the curb at the corner of Threadneedle Street and Princes Street.

There’s wasn’t at first. There were the usual Police.

And there was a camera on a pole.

And a lot of school children down Queen Victoria Street to Mansion House. Plus a banner saying that the City of London congratulates our Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Within a couple of minutes of my arrival, things started happening. What looked like the Queen’s Guards started marching to their starting point at the end of Princes Street. And various media and press started buzzing around.

Behind them, we got out first glimpse of the floats.

Next, Olympic and Paralympic athletes were led out to the big junction that is Bank. Their role would be to wave the flag and start the parade. Something they would rehearse once or twice.

All the while, helicopters hummed around in the sky above.

At 11am drew nearer. And then passed, the excitement mounted. More and more crew arrived and got into place. Notice the boom microphone man moving around.

11:05am, and everything is lined up and ready to go.

The athletes are about the wave the flag…

…And the parade is on!

The guards march past playing their instruments.

Then, the first of what would become many, many floats.

At this point, I realise that I can’t name them. Whoever they are, I, and every once else in my cheering crowd was delighted to see them.

That was the float on which Chris Hoy was standing. And yes, you could see him from where I was standing. Even though the camera wasn’t good enough to capture the moment.

The bit in-between each float was unexpected. There were people carrying tape featuring the sponsors names and logos.

Float number two, and this one is packed full of athletes. If only I knew who they were. Even though my camera is awful, you can still see their medals.

Float three brings us a more sparsely populated, but no less welcomed float of athletes.

Float four approaches…

…and passes all too soon.

The fifth float arrives moments later.

On this one, the camera man at the back of the float is easier to see. When I got home and switched on the TV, I’d discover that these were for Matt Baker and Sur Barker to interview the athletes with.

The fifth float leaves the scene…

And the sixth float arrives. A lot of our excellent Paralympians on this one.

All too quick, the seventh float arrives.

And leaves.

Where do they keep coming from? I had no idea there were this many athletes. Here is float eight.

Float nine promptly follows.

Another float quickly appears. This would be float ten. Incredible.

My ancient camera is rapidly running out of memory. But I keep clicking. Here comes float number eleven. It was good to see athletes in every float taking photos of us, as much as we were of them.

All too soon, the twelfth and final float arrives. This one has the gorgeous Rebecca Addlington, even though my camera was too slow to capture her. Of all the floats, this one is one of the most attractive. And gets a lot of cheers and whoops from the crowd.

With all the floats passed, next come all the support vehicles.

Most hilariously, a man on a bicycle follows. Only to get told by a policeman not to.

And that was my fun, if chilly morning cheering our talented and good looking Olympian and Paralymic athletes.

If you were an athlete on a float, leave a message below of what it was like from your perspective. Do please email me your photos if you took any.

Leave a message too if you were one of the crew or someone who happened to be standing near where I was.

Protests at the Olympic torch relay along Whitechapel Road, East London (Pics Inside)

6 April, 2008

THAT was extraordinary. I’ve just got back from Whitechapel Road in the East End of London. This afternoon, after lunch and the snow showing sings of stopping, I thought it would be fun to watch the Olympic torch relay pass by. Whitechapel Road, is after all, just the other side of Brick Lane, so it wouldn’t take long to get there. Anticipating there to be huge crowds, I set off with plenty of time to spare. I used the official press release to help gauge when to leave.

Turned out, I had arrived early. And it was still cold, even though it had stopped snowing. At least this would give me a chance to stake out a good place opposite the nearby East London Mosque.

There weren’t many other people there. But there was a sizeable contingent of police. And gradually, a small crowd gathered. But it was cold, so I just hoped the show would get a move on.

Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long. Some booming music, the distant sight of blue flashing lights and a big red open top bus with flags happily waving was spotted in the distance. The scene was that of celebration. I hope they enjoyed it while they could.

But sadly, we had to wait. For whatever reason, the red open top bus and the loud music pulled in, some distance away. And proceeded to wait there. For about quarter of an hour. While we shivered in the cold. This was my view for a good length of time.

As we waited, things around me started to become energised. The police went into crowd control mode in front of us. And there was a growing bunch of people standing around me.

Finally, things started to move. Namely, the police started to move. Here’s a picture of some police motorcycles. The Met Police force had clearly thrown all their people into this operation.

At last, the open-top double deck bus passes by. There’s some people on the top deck waving. I have no idea who they are. Politely, I wave back.

But things had changed from the carnival atmosphere when the bus entered into view. Now people had started booing and shouting slogans like “Free Tibet” and “Shame on China” and “Shame on the Torch”. These slogans would follow me, and the torch itself, for the rest of the outing.

Following the bus was a float. Mysterious addition this one. Presumably the hip-hop music and sexy dancers would have looked right if it was sunny and no one was protesting. But here, hours after the snows, in the freezing cold and among the protests; it was entirely out of place. Especially as the float drove right in front of the huge East London Mosque.

After the float with the dancers, there was a gap. Which was quickly filled by lots more police passing. Here’s some of them.

They were swiftly followed by more official and support vehicles. Here’s an official looking people carrier.

Which was followed by numerous support buses. Some of which had water for the runners; which evidently included the platoon of police and Chinese officials. Other buses were filled with Chinese officials in their tracksuits. All of which were greeted with passionate boos and a variety of slogans.

It looked like everything would pass smoothly. There wasn’t much disruption and everyone behaved themselves. Albeit, not verbally. After a Free Tibet protester passed with a banner on a trailer pulled by his bicycle, it looked like the drama was all over.

The media truck, carrying all the cameras was a sign that it wasn’t all over.

Excitement and atmosphere was electric by this point. Suddenly, the torch itself arrived into view. Well almost. If you look hard enough, you might see it behind the layers of police and Chinese officials.

As it goes by, at a fast-jogging pace, the booing, Free Tibet slogans and protest goes into overdrive. Pretty much where I was standing, the nature changed from the celebration and into the protest.

Hearing some others deciding the run along with the torch, I decide “what the heck”, and run. The new plan is to follow the protest, to photo the torch as it goes by, then repeat until I run out of breath.

So I start running. Something made easier by everyone else running with me. This is tremendously exciting. As I run along hearing the protest, some people throw things. The barrier on the kerb where I had been standing runs out. And I hear one of the police officers shout “End of cordon”, trying to get his colleagues to cover the gap. But their too late. The protestors run out in front of the torch.

Although the police manage to keep most out of the way, I see one of the protestors with a banner running directly in front of the torch bearer. Rapidly followed by a police officer tackling him, pushing him to the ground and pulling him out of the way. Amazing. This is a real protest now. And I’m all caught up in it.

I do catch the occasional glimpse of the runner herself, but I don’t recognise her. Also, the police aren’t able to keep the runner in the open for long. It’s never more than a few moments before another person tries to leap out in front of it all.

Sadly, my archaic camera phone is struggling to keep up.

All memory of the promised carnival-like celebrations are forgotten. Until we all stumble upon them. People dressed up, or operating a mechanical dragon. All very impressive. Although they look to be unsure about what exactly is going on. I quickly snap a couple of bad shots, before dashing off to catch up with the torch and the protest.

Around this time, I start seeing sign of Chinese supporters. Here’s one of many who were carrying Chinese flags.

I’m quite out of breath now. And things are changing. The torch bearer and the masses of people have stopped. Are they bundling the torch bearer and the Chinese officials into the support buses? I think they are.

The buses go past, each to very loud protest. Every slogan, plus a few more are directed at the people inside the buses.

The buses speed off. I’m much to unfit to continue pursuit by foot. And my camera clearly isn’t up to the job either. So I call it quits, and start the walk by home.

Enroute I pass more protestors. These people were carrying a Free Tibet banner between them. Although I’m at the wrong angle for you to read it. Well I was thoroughly exhausted by this time.

On the walk back, I was able to see a few more aspects to the protest. There were people from the Left List party. People campaigning for human rights from Amnesty International. There was even a fur trade placard in the hands of someone else. It was like everyone with a grievance was voicing it here. And come to think of it, some of the slogans didn’t even make sense.

The official banners strung-up by Tower Hamlets hint at what the torch relay could have been. Those plans look extremely optimistic now.

There are still a lot of people milling around. Here’s someone from Bangla TV doing their piece to camera.

Walking back along Whitechapel, and Brick Lane to return home, I’m pleased to have see it all. That experience was extraordinary. The atmosphere was incredible. The rush of chasing the torch and watching the passionate protestors. Even if some of them didn’t know what it was they were protesting about.

Well done to the police for dealing with things largely professionally. Although I did see some people with cameras getting pushed around by some officers.

What do you think about the Olympics and it’s ideals? Well it got me running. Even if not in the way the organisers would have hoped. Chasing the action this afternoon is the most exercise I’ve had in a long time. And it’s all down to the Olympics, and their capacity to ignore human rights abuses when it suits them.


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