In 1990 in England, around 200 000 demonstrated in Central London against the Community Charge, or “Poll Tax”, a central part of the Conservative government’s policy that year. The tax was devised to apply to everyone regardless of ability to pay, and was considered unjust by some. The demonstrators met in South London at around noon and marched to Trafalgar Square, a public space that could only comfortably hold 50 000 or so. At the end of the rally in Trafalgar Square the area was heavily overcrowded and one thing led to another: over 100 were injured in the rioting that followed and there were over 300 arrests.
I was there. I had made my way to Kennington, and then essentially followed the crowd into Central London. In Whitehall I could hear announcements by the police requesting that people make their way as quickly as possible to Trafalgar Square, and I saw my chance,. There was a quite wide gap between the protesters and the police and I made my way up it. I should have chosen another route. In the middle of Whitehall, just by the gates to Downing Street, the crown made to rush the police line, and the police moved forward to repulse them. I was in the middle, and was pushed to the ground and trampled on by the police. I had heavy bruising to my legs that was still visible days later.
Moving on to the 2011 riots that took place mainly in London, but in other places in Britain as well. Here tensions that led to rioting were raised after the Metropolitan Police shot dead a person who they believed to be armed in North London. In the rioting that followed 5 people died, and damage running to millions of pounds was caused. Since 1990 the world had moved on, and these riots were referred to by some as the “Blackberry Riots” – a reference to the use of social media by many of the people who took part in the rioting.
I was there as well – kindof. Hampshire Constabulary took the view that since the rioters were using social media then they should as well. I joined in in assisting with what became an online war – a war against the negativity that could unchecked lead to further violence.
(A work in progress…)