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The Anti-Cuts Protest In London – Part Two

April 1, 2011

After leaving Hyde Park, I intended to go straight home, but made my way to Oxford Circus instead. Having heard that Top Shop was targeted by a breakaway group and had paint bombs thrown at it and windows smashed, I needed to see this for myself, and maybe take some photos. As I reached Regent Street, I saw in the distance a line of yellow outside the back of Top Shop. Once I got close enough I realised it was a line of policemen.

Police protecting Top Shop from protesters

There’s something not quite right when the police, which we pay for through our taxes and are facing severe cuts of their own, have to protect the property of someone who (perfectly legally) has found a way of avoiding the payment of tax in this country. If this person has real concern for their property, particularly as it has been targeted before, they should pay for their own security.

I reached Oxford Circus to find there was a crowd of people surrounding something in the middle of the road. It was a fire. And it was being stoked up.

A fire burning in the middle of Oxford Circus

I then turned to Top Shop. They really did a number on it. Lots of other people as well as me were taking photos like it was a new attraction. With that, and the fire in the middle of the road, Madame Tussaud’s had some competition:

Police surround Top Shop damaged by breakaway protesters

Policeman outside Top Shop damaged by breakaway protesters (different angle)

The battery on my camera died soon after, which became my signal to go home. After spending over two hours on my skates and another couple of hours standing at Hyde Park, my feet were now super-tired. However, there were no buses running in central London, so I had to keep walking down Regent Street. As I got close to the end of the street, I decided to take a side turning into Piccadilly, so I could have a look at Fortnum and Mason and The Ritz, as I heard they were damaged too – big mistake.

The street was full of people running eastwards towards Piccadilly Circus. I tried to turn back but couldn’t. Suddenly, there was a loud boom. Something had gone off. This wasn’t funny anymore. I asked a policewoman nearby if she could advise. She pointed in two directions and strongly urged me to get out of there. I didn’t need to be told twice. I ran across the road, cutting through the running mass. I looked to the left in the direction of Piccadilly Circus and Eros and saw a line of police surging forward. I shot into a side street, as did many others, some of which were the agitators. Great. Now I’m caught up with these guys. Some of them saw I was struggling a bit with the now heavy skates over my shoulder; so they let me pass, bless ‘em. We all kept running down this side road, turned another corner and found a dead end. We had to turn back. But then I found another side road, which took me to Lower Regent Street. As I walked towards Trafalgar Square, I saw a group of riot police, dressed in black with riot shields, heading towards Piccadilly Circus.

Piccadilly map showing route of escape from aggressive crowd

Here's how it happened...

I eventually reached Embankment station and hoped it would be open; otherwise I’d have had to put my skates on and try to find one. Given that I had only skated on the streets once, with an very unhappy result, and I’d already injured myself in the park, it would’ve been nothing short of suicide. But at that point, I would’ve done anything. Thankfully, the station was open and I managed to get on a train where a group of men crammed on just as the doors were closing. The whole carriage, where we were sardines in a tin, was then subjected to these drunken muppets shouting, singing badly and falling onto people. There was a Japanese woman squashed next to me with her two small children, looking confused and just a little afraid. I wished at that moment I knew how to speak Japanese because I would’ve apologised on behalf of the UK.

Once I was home, I switched on the radio. I then had a quick look at the TV. Although there was mention of the main protest ending peacefully, the main focus was on the few who damaged property and fought the police. The predictability of the reporting was annoying, to put it mildly, as I knew it wasn’t the whole story. Still, all in all, I would say I had a good day!

So what happened the day after? Stay tuned for part three.

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2 comments

  1. a bit of an adventure for you. Glad to know you made it some ok. Thanks for sharing.


    • That’s O.K. It was a hell of an experience, but compared to some of the protests we’ve had in the last six months, I got off lightly.



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