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On Sunday I went to a BLM peaceful protest in London and ended up being detained by the police outside Downing Street for almost 6 hours along with hundreds of others from 8.50pm to 2.30am. I just want to detail and document some of the things I witnessed involving the police...
Firstly I want to make clear, the vast majority of us detained were entirely peaceful. A select few had thrown bottles at the police. Everyone else happened to be on the same street when this occurred (and yes I mean the entire street, not necessarily anywhere near the violence)
The police initially formed two lines on either end of the street in full riot gear, they gradually and with force pushed these lines together to trap everyone inside them into a small square (I have now learnt this is called being kettled)
I saw one line forming and blocking people leaving, I had heard from a fellow protestor that some violence had broken out so I walked to the other end of the street to leave and was blocked by a second line there too, at this point the lines were at least 200 yards apart
The lines pushed together to trap everyone in what was apparently the specific area that violence had occurred (this later becomes significant). I assumed initially the kettle was for police protection until it calmed a bit and we’d be released to continue protesting peacefully
Two hours later I began to doubt this. I had seen no violence at all since the kettle initially formed but we were not released. It was now dark with many people getting scared, cold, hungry and thirsty. But all protestors (without exception) were being friendly and supportive
I was there alone but was quickly welcomed into a group and given support by others as was everyone else in the same position. People were looking out for each other despite everyone getting concerned that the tube would soon close and many of us would have limited travel options
Fast forward another two hours and the situation had not changed. It was just later and colder and stress levels were higher as people didn’t know how they would get home and most phone batteries had died. Throught this time the police were largely completely unhelpful...
Now on to some of the things I witnessed from the police. Throughout the kettle I constantly asked various officers for information and was either told they had no update, didn’t know themselves, or was provided with info that was immediately contradicted by a different officer
One officer said we were being held until the disorderly behaviour stopped (I had seen NONE since the kettle and I could see the whole square from my seat on a wall). Another said they knew as much as I did (nothing) but refused my request to speak to someone who did know
Eventually I was told we were being detained under section 3 of the criminal law act. I thanked them and asked them to explain what that was because I unfortunately didn’t know. I was told to google it (with my limited remaining phone battery)
Another more helpful officer (some genuinely tried to help when they could, but this was the minority from what I witnessed) informed me this gave them the power to keep people here (without time limit) to identify and arrest those who committed crime but then we’d be dispersed
I asked why so many peaceful protestors could legally be detained to achieve this when some were nowhere near. I was told we were ‘in the area where violence occurred’ HOWEVER (note earlier) many of us were pushed into this area by police having been elsewhere
I pointed this out to an officer and the only response I got was ‘it’s not a perfect system unfortunately’. Any attempts made by myself and others to ask someone senior about this were refused as they ‘weren’t available’. When I pointed out that a senior officer was standing -
- directly behind them doing nothing and could they just ask if I could speak to them, I got no further verbal responses to my questions.
A personal favourite exchange overheard:

Excuse me officer, is there any way I can access a toilet? It’s been two hours since I last asked and I’m desperate.

Nobody is leaving this area.

Okay but will I be charged if I pee in the street?

I can only advise you not to do that
I witnessed women having to pee in the street corners out of necessity with other female protestors forming a barrier around them to protect their dignity. I also witnessed two white men with their bikes being allowed past the police to leave around this time
I immediately asked an officer nearby why they had been allowed to leave when we were not. The reply I got initially to this question (it kept changing when they realised how bad it sounded) was ‘they told me they weren’t protesting’?! So is that the illegality? The protest?
Also do you just take their word for it because they’re white? (Officers objected to that). I then asked hypothetically why myself and others couldn’t just say ‘we weren’t protesting either’ and also leave. The reply ‘well you clearly were weren’t you madam’. I was holding a sign
I pointed out that some people around me weren’t holding signs so could they leave? Many of them were black so I am assuming it was only their skin colour that indicated to the police they were there protesting? They replied no. I asked why. They said ‘the situation has changed’
I then asked hypothetically if I put my sign down (like the two white men may very well have just done) could I leave because you would then just accept I wasn’t protesting because I didn’t have a sign. They had stopped replying by now and were clearly getting irratated
Just because the police believed they weren’t protesting doesn’t mean they weren’t responsible for criminality? By their own logic and justifications, they were still in the area of violence just like everyone else which was the only legal reason we were being detained
I was told much later when I challenged another officer about it, that the ‘real’ reason they were released was because one of the men was previously having a panic attack. Whilst unfortunate, this does not mean they weren’t involved in crime and deserve different treatment
Before everyone else was allowed to leave (several hours later) we all had to be photographed and some people had details taken (more later). This did not happen for either of these men. I watched them walk straight out without police accompaniment (we were individually escorted)
Many other police responses were illogical. I was told the length of time the kettle went on for was to ‘prevent further outbreaks of disorder’. However the longer and later you detain people in a small space the more agitated, fearful and panicked they are likely to become?!
Many people attending the protest were also trying to make an effort to social distance when possible (myself included) and be present and supporting without getting into the centre of crowds. This was simply not possible within the kettle and efforts had to be abandoned
Protestors were kept without any access to food or water for almost 6 hours. The police ATE PIZZA IN FRONT OF US. I shit you not. They were each handed out a bottle of water and then took turns leaving the kettle line to eat the dominoes pizza that has been ordered for them
Some protestors in the crowd were getting very dehydrated and I heard one politely asked the police if they could have some of the bottled water. 8/10 of the police in the barrier we were near had taken a bottle of water. NOW THIS IS AWFUL...
The only officer that replied to him was one of the few that had refused the bottle of water when offered. He said ‘I clearly don’t have any do I mate’, playing ignorant whilst all his colleagues were drinking from water bottles around him. Nobody else responded
The police were STRATEGISING who responded to each question so they could remain honest (on the surface) but purposefully unhelpful. Sneaky sneaky behaviour. Another example of this came later when people were being escorted out one by one (at about 2.30am) and I could see them-
-being individually photographed. I asked one of the officers in the kettle line what was going on behind him, were they being photographed and why? He had been receiving updates over his radio that I could hear bits of. He asked me ‘which way does it look like I’m facing ma’am’?
I said, well you’re facing me. He then said ‘yes I am and I’ve clearly got my back to what’s going on so you can obviously see and deduce more than I can can’t you?’ I had tried to remain calm and polite up to this point but I did point out that he was in possession of a neck
Around this time another officer informed me that everyone was being taken out one by one, photographed and having their name and address taken. I asked if this was legal and was quoted section 50 of the police reform act 2002 which I had no idea existed
I asked what would happen if I refused, I was told that I’d likely be arrested. This was later confirmed to be incorrect by a senior officer I managed to get to talk to me. It turns out they were never taking names and addresses and I would have had a right to refuse
I don’t know the process every protestor went through as we were seperated but this is how I, and those I could see in front of me, were removed: we were taken out by two police officers each, one firmly holding each arm and guided (or pulled if resistance was given) past-
-a video camera so it could capture an image of us. We weren’t told anything about our rights regarding this but some of the legal advisors in the kettle told me that I could cover my face if I wanted and they couldn’t legally force me to show my face unless I was arrested
I put my hood up, left my face mask on and I wasn’t forced to remove them. Many people in the crowd didn’t know this though. I was then escorted by the officers on each arm to Westminster Bridge where I was released and told that if I turned back I’d likely be arrested
With two officers per protestor walking each one individually to the bridge, you can image how long it took for all the protestors to get out of the kettle. I got out at approx 2.30am but at least half were still inside then. One of the officers did ask how I was getting home -
- I told him I’d be having to get the night bus back to east London. I’d brought a portable charger so still had just enough battery for directions however I did point out that many others would have a much bigger struggle to get home. Some had travelled to London to attend-
- and were supposed to be catching evenings trains back home that they had missed. Some had no battery or money. Some were under underage and alone. We were prevented from forming groups and taken out seperately from friends so couldn’t travel together or help each other
The officer replied ‘well they made the decision to come to the protest didn’t they’ which I think sums up the police attitude that night. No duty of care afterwards. Peaceful protestors were all treated like criminals and the attitude was ‘you never should have been there’
A final mention that there were several doctors and nurses there who had recognised the importance of the BLM movement and decided to peacefully protest. I saw some show their NHS passes to police because they had shifts starting in the morning, they were not allowed to leave
S/O to the Deliveroo guy who was cycling down the street to deliver food when he got trapped in the kettle. He showed the police the food and the order on his phone app but was not allowed to leave (I think he eventually made the good decision to eat the food)
He may have spoken to a different officer but it is a simple FACT that needs stating - he was Asian whereas the two men on bikes who were allowed to leave because they ‘hadn’t been protesting’ were white. Make of that what you will in regards to the overall police treatment
I’m so glad I went and witnessed all this. It’s opened my eyes even further to what I know others have had a forced awareness of all their lives regarding the police force as an institution. I really hope sharing it opens someone else’s eyes.
This thread is so much longer than I intended but once I started there were so many things to come out. Don’t let it put you off protesting if you’re non-vulnerable and want to. 100% worth it and the care and community spirit of the other protestors was INCREDIBLE to experience
If you’re not able to then do the work to educate yourself (read books and watch films recommended by the black community - lists of these previously retweeted) and donate to the many deserving black run initiatives and business (previously retweeted) if you are financially able!
FINALLY if you’re going to protest KNOW YOUR RIGHTS and research them before you go. The police were quoting stuff at us that I had no clue about and they weren’t prepared to explain it. Take water, a portable charger, PPE and 🚨 a bus route/directions home written on paper! 🚨
A few people have (very reasonably) suggested this. I’d just like to clarify why I believe they were not. The two men said they were father and son (the son appearing to be late teens/early 20’s) and there was a strong family resemblance. We had previously interacted briefly
They were also on Boris bikes... (not entirely sure why I feel this is relevant but I do)
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