By the time the third march in London was planned other Sunny commitments had already been put in place so taking the rig again wasn’t an option. That commitment was a nationwide tour of music, art and performance to promote awareness about the civil liberties implications of the CJA called The Velvet Revolution Tour.
The night before the 3rd march we were at Middlesex University Students Union pulling an all-nighter. With a few hours’ kip under our belts after the get out, we got in my truck and excitedly headed towards the center of town for another round of personal political responsibility.
This time the march would end in Hyde Park instead of beginning there. Clearly the Police strategists wanted to keep such a large volume of people well away from Downing Street after the events of the 2nd march. Keeping that in mind, and taking advantage of the relative quiet early in the day, I found a parking space right outside the Brazilian Embassy in a side street just off Park Lane.
From there we headed to Whitehall on foot, where we found our colleagues from the previous marches assembling and preparing to leave. From the outset the police presence was massive. Literally a battalion of riot vans were on hand, windscreen shields down, to bring up the rear of the march. There were policemen everywhere.
On the other hand, it was clear that this was going to be the biggest march yet. An estimated 100,000 people were in attendance. This was a social issue that had taken hold in the minds of the general public, motivating yet another large increase in the volume of those taking time out from their lives to make their opinions felt to government.
Once again the march itself was a huge rave carnival of colour and sound, representing a massive cross-section of British society. Instead of walking you just danced through the streets of the capital, with everyone around you following suit.
The SWP had really gone to town as well. There were organized stations of groups of their people handing out Kill The Bill placards by the thousand. It took hindsight to understand just how effective this tactic was. They made it seem like they had massive involvement and support, when the reality was somewhat different, as we had never come across them during the organization of the events before.
To our knowledge it was the selfless hard work and vision of the Advance Party, The Freedom Network and United Systems that deserved respect and acknowledgement for keeping it sweet, keeping it right and remembering that this was a peaceful fight.
At the bottom end of Park Lane things just got amazing. Further up there were several big rigs on lorries, waiting to be granted admission to the Park, and the atmosphere around them was crackling with positive energy and the rhythmic deep house beats of our mates from Sheff, the Smokies. I remember feeling gutted that we couldn’t have a rig there. It just would have been massive, but then again, thank goodness we didn’t.
The Park itself was mobbed with people. After a laborious struggle to get to through everyone to try and say hello to the mighty Immersion sound system who were hosting the speakers stage, and grab some pictures of the immense crowd with a view from above, it soon became apparent that much more fun was to be had with the rigs in Park Lane.
Back with Smokescreen, the crowd next them was liberally peppered with familiar and friendly faces. Hugs and love were freely available, even from people you didn’t know. Complete strangers were turning up who recognized us from the previous marches to say hello, and make it clear that they loved our presence and what we had brought to the proceedings.
People were in the lorry dancing, with every available space taken up. People were on top of the lorry, so many of them that the roof was flexing under the weight of their dancing. Whistles were going off everywhere. Every bus shelter had people dancing on their roofs. Getting through the crowd though was no problem given the density of people, because pretty much everyone was polite.
In the central reservation of Park Lane a line of menacing looking TSG turned up and formed a line nearby. Masked up for the most part, with visors up and holding shields, they just stood there impassively. Of course people started to harmlessly play up to them, dancing up and down the line, making it clear that their presence was unnecessary and that people were not going to be intimidated.
All of a sudden a ripple went through the crowd and heads began to turn to look down Park Lane, particularly those people who had a high vantage point on top of the bus shelters. Climbing up the back end of the Smokies lorry and I held on with one hand to see above the crowd. There was a thick cloud of what looked like smoke. It could have been tear gas for all I knew, as it was a distance away. There was sudden movement in the crowd and more smoke appeared.
That was going to be it. There was going to be trouble. I had a girlfriend to look after but also photos to take. Then it all did just kick off. Police horses were clearly charging the crowd in the Park. TSG seemed to appear from everywhere ready for battle. I remembered the words of the copper in the car park of the mobile control centre at Chipping Sodbury earlier on in the year.
I headed down Park Lane to get a better view of what was happening down where the smoke had appeared. People were screaming and shouting in Hyde Park behind the railings, trapped against them by the violence of the Police behaviour in the Park.
Down by the Grosvenor Hotel there was a line of riot police who were repeatedly charging the railings that those very people were trapped against. They were reaching over to batter people who couldn’t get away with their riots sticks, before retreating as people tried to resist.
One man stepped out in front of the line of police as they regrouped in between charges. He began to implore them to stop what they were doing, stressing that everyone came in peace, and that they should behave accordingly.
I walked to the gap behind him conscious that we could both be in for a beating and shot a few frames from directly behind him. He was silhouetted in the headlights from the police support vehicles on either side of the line as he was making his speech to them.
At that point there was a decision to be made, people were being attacked everywhere. My girlfriend and I started to walk hand in hand back up Park Lane to go back to my truck outside the Brazilian Embassy, and hopefully its safety.
It was just too dangerous to not be wearing a police uniform. Somehow we got back to the truck without being molested or accosted. The scenes around us were heartbreaking. It felt like a harsh end to beautiful dream.
The idea that the violence might have been deliberately sparked by police agents provocateurs planted in the crowd was already there, but back then it seemed harder to believe.
Recent revelations of the activities of the Special Demonstration Squad make it easier to believe. Their deep cover infiltration of people with alternative lifestyles and beliefs; combined with the fact that I had already been mistaken for an undercover copper by actual policemen only a matter of months before; makes the reality of that idea much more concrete and valid.
It is distinctly possible that undercover officers orchestrated the flash point for violence. How better to discredit the campaign of opposition and the sections of society targeted by the legislation? There is also a documented history of such police violence being employed against those sections of society targeted by the CJA legislation that continues to this very day.
Back in the truck we made tea, keeping an eye out through a tiny gap in the front curtains, and out of the high back window, on what was going on around us. There was no going outside again, at least for a while, as pretty soon the street we were in became a solid mass of TSG heading for the Park, all tooled
up as the dogs of war were unleashed, and the Act hadn’t even come into force yet.
We sought comfort in each other and as the riot raged outside we made love in the back of the truck, the violence kept at bay by each other’s warmth, and by the walls of my old Dodge Commer walk thru. Outside, nobody would have a clue we were inside.
The next day the papers and the national news media were screaming with rabid headlines. They finally had the sensationalist subject matter that they love so much.
Kill The Bill! The headlines raved, as if ordinary people had weapons, armour and the training to use them. The Battle of Hyde Park had been fought right in the heart of London, only it wasn’t a battle, it was another massacre. My friend Danny Penman, from the Independent, was hospitalized by police batons. What had happened to the women, children and families who come to the party? 100,000 people had been there....