Professional Protest Stall on the Police Demo
When it was announced that 15,000 Police men and women would be marching through central London to protest for better wages, we realised that it was an opportunity not to be missed.
The Police have a lot of experience of crushing protests, curtailing protesters rights and provoking confrontations in otherwise peaceful demonstrations. We realised however that when it comes to actually protesting themselves, they are rank amateurs. The Space Hijackers therefore decided that we would encourage them on their first tentative steps into the world of activism, and attempt to make them feel more comfortable on the other side of the protest banners. Our years of experience of causing trouble have graced us with a wealth of knowledge which we decided to pass on to these fledgling protesters.
Armed with a trestle table and lots of props our agents headed into central London to the Police meeting point. Heading to the front of their march we picked up a map of their route and tried to find a good spot for our stall. Curiously, unlike any march we had ever been on, the police were like a well oiled machine, lining up in groups behind one another patiently waiting their turn to join the march. It was certainly a far cry from the anti-war demos we had been on, where the meeting points generally consisted of a huge crowd of people mingling and chatting instead of an ordered single file line.
We decided to head down the route a bit, so that we could be set up by the time the boys in blue marched past finding the perfect spot just by the side of the roundabout at Hyde Park corner. We unfolded our table, and began to unpack our props. We had brought blank placards for the police to fill out, and also pre-made a number of 'suggestion' placards for them, which we thought might give them some inspiration. We had re-written a number of protest chants for them too, re-working famous activist chants to match in with the police demo. As it turned out some of these went down better with the marchers than others. For example they really liked:
As the march set off, we prepared for the onslaught, cheering them on as they came around the corner. Our agents sprang into action, calling out to the police "Boys and Girls, we realise you're not very practiced at this, why not ask the experts for some advice? We have placards, we have songs, we even have legal advice for you!"
Back at our HQ a few days before we had written up a leaflet, on "Your rights as a protester" and "What to do if the Police turn up". These detailed all of the relevant protest laws the police were likely to use against themselves on the march, and explained what do do if the Police attempted to start being aggressive to the officers marching. We asked the police to remain calm in the face of police aggression and to take down the numbers of any officers who were seen to be assaulting members of the police. We gave out hundreds of leaflets and song sheets to the protesters as they marched past, although for some reason they were still hesitant to get into the swing of things and start chants of their own.
Before long the FIT team (Forward Intelligence Team) turned up at our stall. The FIT team are a group of Police Officers whose job it is to photograph known protesters and collect information on them for a police database. They also have a secondary role (some say it's their main purpose) of harassing people who attend political meeting and demonstrations, the aim being to put people off from expressing their opinions and having a political voice.
We certainly didn't want them harassing the delicate police on their first political outing, so thankfully we had brought along some special police issue black and white check face masks for them. This would enable the marching police to express their dissent against the government without the police getting a chance to intimidate them. As the FIT photographers and officers approached our stall, our agents loudly explained to the passing protesters who they were and why they had come down to the march. Curiously however, as soon as the spotlight was on them, the FIT team mysteriously slunk away.
Towards the end of the march our voices were growing tired, and we were running very low on leaflets, however we hadn't yet managed to persuade a single copper to make their own placard. Talk of them all being robots, and machines who protect the state was just starting when a single policeman broke rank from the marchers and approached our stall.
He then proceeded to pleasantly surprise us all by making a placard saying "LOVE PEOPLE, HATE RACISM". He explained that although it may not seem like there were that many, there were still officers who took on the role as a way of trying to serve the people. As he walked back and joined the tail end of the march, it was a relief to see that perhaps not "all coppers are bastards" just some. Even though the BNP mayoral candidate had been leading the march with the police, there were a obviously a couple of dissenters in the ranks.
We hope some of the police we encountered will have something to think about next time they are faced up against a demonstration, we believe in their right to protest, we just hope they return the favour occasionally.