London Riot 2001

Yep, I was there on May 1st, 2001. How exciting? it was a amazing feeling to be there, caught up tight in the middle of the action, history really. I missed the poll tax riots and the CJB protests, but I made this one!. You know about the riot, what it stands for etc., so I'm not going to go into that side of it. I will tell about what I got upto!

We knew it was coming, so we tried to follow it on the various web cams around the city, but the powers that be made sure that all coverage was censored and stopped, even a Japanese webcam was silenced! Still, mates around the city were able to keep me updated with Intel'. Still, managed to follow where they were basically by watching which cams where disconnected in which areas and by watching the police helicopters hover over the crowd, so it was easy to find out where the action was. .What Tom said made sense though, why didn't the protesters have a live video feed to one of their websites, easy to do. So, lunch time, thought I'd go down town with a work mate, Trev', mooched down to Oxford street then Regents, Piccadilly then finishing at Leicester square. So, got down to Piccadilly, all quiet, lots of police everywhere, spoke to Steve, he said he wasn't allowed out the building as the protesters where everywhere, didn't see any at all. Suddenly they all appear!! Loads of them chanting and giving out leaflets, all seemed peaceful enough. They then marched up Regents Street where we followed and finally upto the Circus and into a trap or net! Cornered on all sides by the police and more following in behind, they were surrounded in Oxford Circus, no one could get through, cars and buses trapped. Noticed that the top deck of the bus was empty, so legged it up and got some pics overlooking the crowd! Time to get back to work,would normally walk up oxford street, no chance! The police had a thick line of reserves, a 2nd line of police, with police horses following up the rear! It was mad! so many police, loads of shops closed and boarded up, and a chap called Mr. Nike! LOL Had to take a major detour back to the office, but all good fun in the poring rain. As it turns out we were lucky to get out as they crowd were trapped until 10pm that night, the police refused to let anyone out and we were right in the middle, I don't think work would have been too happy! LOL

So, afternoon was spent gathering Intel'; from people all over London again and trying to get webcams to work, following police helicopters etc. 5.30 I rushed down to oxford street after reloading camera with a new film. Got down through Rathbone place and turned right heading to Oxford Circus, but only got as far as Wardour Street and noticed that the police had a line of men at the top of the street, curiosity led me to have a look of course, running parallel to Oxford Street were the protester's, the police then get the order to run along to Dean street where they set up a thick line again. These were riot police in full gear, batons out and ready for action! There was no way I could get down Dean street, but knowing Soho like I do, realised that they will be going through Soho Square on their present route, so I legged it along, turned into Soho square, saw that I was right, they were just coming through one of the side streets. Cut through the park and onto the other side, SHIT! cutting across the road at the top of Greek Street were a line of riot police getting ready with the protesters coming right towards me! SHIT! I was stuck in the middle, managed to get to the side of the park and get some pics of the police and the protesters. Did not know what was going to happen, were the police going to charge? were the protesters going to start throwing things? and if so, where the hell would I hide! Got in with the protesters and walked down with them through Greek street, police everywhere, and more protesters coming out from every little alleyway joining in. This is where is started to get scary, but bloody exciting! the adrenaline was flowing and I knew I had to keep up with them. Saw the "hard-core" protesters in white boiler suits and lots of people with their faces hidden, It got down to Compton Street where the police had the end closest to Charing Cross Road closed off, then the riot police legged it down Greek Street closing the seal in behind them, and I'm in the middle of this, am I going to get wacked by a copper, or hit by a missile from the protesters?? madness. Police follow them down to Shaftesbury Ave' Again I see where the protesters are going, so I leg it towards Charing Cross Road where there are hundreds of police! They were turning up on foot and in riot vans. I start to walk up Charing Cross towards Center Point when about 50-100 Full on riot police are charing down the road towards me! SHIT! OK, get to get pictures, that was al I could think. The protesters were behind me, the police in front charging with riot shields and batons, I move out the way! Amazing, the police were shouting at us to get out the way, they were charged up! The chap in charge was shouting to get ready, visors down, and I was standing right next to them hiding in a arcade's shop front with a few other people. I'm on the phone to everyone telling them what the hell is going on, Roger was watching Sky news live, and none of what I was seeing was being reported, although there were probably more press then anyone else! Even now at time of writing, Tuesday night Wednesday morning, there is nothing on the news about what happened where I was,Greek street, and where I went afterwards. All the reports followed the action in Oxford street, of which there was very little.

So the protesters had the police on the right, all they could do was play catch up, but they were doing a bloody good job, they were able to ferry about 100 officers to any flashpoint or to a position where they are able to control and contain the situation. (Just seen the Tosco's in Goodge Street near where I work on the news with broken windows, wonder if work is still standing?? 07.28 / 2.5.01) I just can't believe nothing was reported about what was going on in Soho and the following areas. So, the protesters moved on from the cross roads of Charring cross and Shaftesbury Ave', again I leg it after them into Covent Gardens area, up Shaftesbury Ave' and through the side-streets again running parallel to the police and protesters, trying to get ahead of them. Got upto New Oxford Street cross roads and waited there, helicopters overhead, police bikes everywhere, then about 11 riot vans turn up and everyone bails out! they cut off one of the main roads, tourists, kids, buses all stuck, could not turn up Kingsway? madness. Then they cut off the road I've just come up, again I'm stuck right in the middle, unfortunately the protesters took a different route and evaded this police cordon. The police disbanded in military style, German storm troupers? hmmm maybe, but more like really bad army recruits. The time was about 18.00 now, so all that happened in about 30 mins, totally amazing. I did walk up a bit but it was getting late and had lost track of the protesters, had to meet a mate for a drink anyway. Did bump into one of the head chaps from Class War though, recognised him from Ch4 news the day before. Also came across an undercover officer on his radio talking about the target crossing road. Anyway, to the pub! Back to Charing cross road and Shaftesbury ave' about 4 riot vans tare up the road with officers getting kitted up as they go, police horses on the other side of the road too.

After drinks, had to have a quick look up at Oxford Circus, this was about 21.00, lots of noise where the protesters were still penned in. Took a few more pics and went home. That's it, survived another riot! It was great fun, very scary and exciting, never knew what was going to happen next. The police did a good job by containing and controlling the situation. The main reason being that they were able to shift 100 riot police anywhere by van very quickly. As for the protesters, well, they needed a better command and control. Really they need real time information at their hands, this could be gathered by people on motorbike racing ahead and seeing where the police are, GPS to find the best routes and use of the webcams. I don't know what they did have or if it worked for them, but it could be better. So, what I want to know is, what happened to the large group that I followed upto Holborn area? they headed towards the city. Did the police stop them? news black out? who knows. Look forward to next year! :) - link is dead - link is dead

It all started out peaceful enough down at Piccadilly circus, lunch time, about 1pm. Lots of people, mainly students and old people, i.e. no one who works! There did seem to be more reporters than protesters, even the Japanese press was there in the thick of it. Rather cold and damp, lots of police, they seem to have it under control though.
Raining not hard, but enough to put the spirits down, I think that if hotter then it may have been a deferent atmosphere. Turning up into Regents Street.

The police following in behind, not in riot gear yet, but you can see one of the many hire vans they used.

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Great shot! hmm, everyone gathering in Oxford Circus. You notice the guy in green with an ear piece in!
No one really knowing what is going on, the police do, they had the protesters cornered in a net and were closing the door behind them. Cold wet day, saw Mr. Nike. Lots of people, no idea on the amount. Wanted some free trainers,but no one was trying to get into Nike Town, just see it at the back of the shot. Loads of cameras, both video and stills like me own, going to have to invest for next time! Ordinary people trying to navigate a way out from the crowds.
We were lucky, the police made lines just infront of us, keeping those protesters held in till about 10pm that night! Oxford Street and all the other connecting roads were blocked. Shops all boarded up, police ready and waiting for action, buses and vans trapped! hmm good vantage point! Climbed into the empty bus onto the top deck. Loads of signs and banners. Police and press on the tops of buildings looking down.
Huge crowd trapped in Oxford Circus. Where ever u looked, loads of people, no Wombles yet. Looking back behind us, the police had drawn up another line, so we though we had better move from our current position before we are trapped. Police horses in wait.
The horses have now moved forward, definitely time to move. Trev' doing his tourist thing! no one could now walk up Oxford Street towards Center point, lucky I know W1. Say cheese! loads of tourists and onlookers behind the police lines. We take a side street down and around the lines and back to work!
5pm and legged it from work, picked up a few more rolls of film and headed down to O' Circus, made it to Soho Square and found this lot! Wombles!!!! Past the bank the Wombles marched, pointing out the police advancing. Opposite the FA building the drew another line!
Heading down Greek Street. Police looking very pissed and ready for action! I didn't know where to stand, give me a helmet and shield! Lots of cheering, shouting and chants going on, all very exciting.
Decided to get with the thick of things, ordinary police not knowing what to do. Smashing glass, but not windows. Corner of Old Compton and Greek, More police lines! Starting to get late, tensions are rising, starting to get the adrenaline flowing. Loads of people, I guess people just seeing what is going on, or what is going to happen, than actual protesters.
Police following in close behind. I hang a left onto Charing Cross Road to get ahead of the police. Ah, not a pretty site, being charged at by loads of riot police! they seem far away, but they are running fast and I'm moving out the way!! If only I had a camcorder! Can't tell what is happening, lots of shouting, pushing, police giving orders to stand firm, visors down, shields up and batons out! yikes!
OK, bad shot, lots of pushing and shoving, police marching like bad soldiers :-) making lines etc. Heading back for a pint, and to relax after lots of running around after rioters and police. 4-5 Riot vans scream past up Charing Cross road towards Center point, I guess that's when it kicked off, smashing windows, looting etc.
Heading home and back to see Oxford Circus. Not much happening, all very cold and wet. Police had it all under control, mostly. Noticed a small Muslim contingency, not sure what they were up to! That's it!
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