: : Having been informed on much of the planning of J18 from August last year, I can confirm that no money was paid to anyone to attend.
: Not by the official planners then...hmmmm, we'll come to this. incidently, I would readily accept that newspapers lie on a regular basis. but it does leave one trying to assess from anecdotal accounts, and interpretations from the media - all rather tricky.
All I have to go on are my own eyes and the accounts of my friends; but that Urban75 link I cited earlier is true to my experiences; I'd corroborate that account as being accurate.
Personally, I think that the story of people being paid to attend was pure fiction; I know of no genuine green/left protest group sufficiently desperate, rich and stupid enough to pay people to attend a demo.
: : They tried to send 3 riot vans through a crowd they obviously had no chance of getting through;
: The link you gave stated "Three riot police vans were immediately surrounded, with demonstrators dancing on top of them. The police retreated at speed, running over one woman"
They wouldn't have been immediately surrounded had they not attempted to drive *through* the crowd; that's why they were surrounded; it wasn't a charge by the demonstrators; rather it was the police trying to muscle through a crowd of people.
: It sounds like the police had two choices. retreat and risk hurting protestors, sit still and take whatever was coming. That they retreated "at speed" suggests a panicky unproffessionality on behalf of the police.
Dammit, the riot police know their stuff. The last 10 years of protest have taught them what you can and can't do with riot vans; yet they persisted in making an elemental mistake with them. The riot vans should not have been put there in the first place. Full stop.
: : Now, if it was a mistake, it's one that the police make remarkably frequently. Remember the Poll Tax riots?; they started in the same way; by a protestor being knocked down by the police.
: Now we are headed toward the beginnings of a conspiracy theory. People were paid to attend? maybe by those intent on seeing the protest disgraced? The police deliberately antagonised the protestors - to the same end?
Nah. The police have a history of starting fights if they think that fighting will make their hand stronger. In any given riot, the mainstream press will give the police a favourable ear and try to deny the protestors any airtime at all; so all they have to do is provide soundbites about heroic policemen being injured and innocent bystanders being threatened and the mass media and politicians will start making noises about restricting the freedom and openness of society in the name of safety and security.
Basically, by portraying the protestors in a bad light, the police make their own position stronger; they get authorization to bug, burgle and bully "alternative" groups and a free hand to behave in militaristic fashion to quell dissent.
Consider the anti-CJA "Kill the Bill" demos in 1994; I was there too, when the police broke an agreement they had with the protestors (to allow a couple of mobile sound systems into Hyde Park). The net effect was that 2000 people left Hyde Park to try and party in Park Lane; at which point the police declared the gathering to be riotous and charged in with the mounted riot police. The police committed some fairly indiscriminate brutality on those people; then allowed them to escape down Oxford St. Given several hundred angry protesters and lots of nice shiny shops, it's not hard to guess what happened.
Broken shop windows, some fair carnage around Marble Arch and a lot of very dramatic photos. The net result was that the media immediately clamoured that the police were heroes who ought to be given more powers to stop such violent thugs; they are now armed with tear gas and more body armour than they were then. Every time a protest turns nasty, the police end up getting more powers to deal violently with protestors.
The same happened at the gathering in Trafalgar Square on the 12th of April 1997; I was there too; the police used heavy-handed tactics to create trouble where the vast majority of the crowd were peaceful.
My own personal opinion on this is that RTS is a moderate group - one that has a lot of appeal to the "Sunday protestors"; especially in large urban areas like London. As such, they are capable of pulling in a large crowd where more hardcore groups would only get a small one. And as such they are capable of producing a lot of disruption. It is my opinion, having seen the police behaviour at RTS events over the last 3-4 years, that the police are trying to associate RTS in the public consciousness with violence; to portray them as hardline and thus to frighten off those who would otherwise come along for a peaceful and mellow time.
In this, people who engage in violence at RTS events are playing right into the hands of the police. But crowds are human; the police are aware that they can influence the crowd to violence by maintaining a threatening presence and the occasional bit of seemingly thoughtless-and-accidental violence. If this seems absurdly paranoid, consider the number of violent demonstrations in the last ten years that have started peaceful and gone sour; all of them have gone sour after a police "mistake"; take the aforementioned Poll Tax riots, or the anti-CJA riots, or the other RTS events that have turned ugly...
: : Crowds are emotional things;
: Individual poeple in crowds can become more readily agitated, I do agree with your point. The supposed anonymity (seperation of personal action and personal consequence) in crowds seems to remove inhibitions about violence. Its a fascinating psychological process.
: The point I made was the hope that the 'yeah but theyre capitalist windows so its ok' attitude was not prevalent - its as damaging to credibility as the violence.
Which is why it's the only way of discrediting RTS; by portraying an otherwise peaceful group as being run by a hard core of violent extremists.
: : It takes near-superhuman patience to not respond to heavy-handed police behaviour; especially when peaceful people are injured.
: It probably does take more self control. The telegraph point being that its jumped upon by the mass media as an example of why 'these anarchists' are no good - thus bolstering the idea that, for safety, a huge state is necessary.
: Do you think it just went wrong, or do you think it was engineered? If so, by whom? Its plausible.
I think that it either represents gross and almost unbelievable stupidity and negligence by the police; or it represents a deliberate attempt to discredit a peaceful movement by provoking their less tolerant supporters to violence.