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Repression in Dalston

Thu, 01/12/2011 - 14:55

An eyewitness account by a Hackney picket:

I went from my picket line to the CLR James library picket at about 10. On the bus up there I was a bit disturbed to see a police helicopter hovering above Dalston Junction. When I got to the library there were a huge number of TSG kettling about 35 people with a mobile sound system. I managed to speak to people in the kettle and they told me that two people had been beaten up and arrested earlier when people had tried to block the road.

I called people on my picket line and asked them to come quickly to the library. A small group of us stood around for ages occasionally having short conversations with the kettled protesters or telling the police that they were disgusting. I phoned my picket again and was dismayed to find out that they had all gone to another picket line that was nearer.

A small group of Unite pickets went marching past on their way to the Town Hall and stopped in surprise to find out what was going on. The police told them that the protesters had caused serious disorder and had assaulted a police officer. The woman asked “All of these people assaulted one police officer?” in a disbelieving tone which was quite nice. The protestors called out to them that the police had beaten people up.

Eventually two people came from my picket who said that the others had gone by bus to the town hall but that they were worried about me and thought they should come to find out what was going on. They looked at the police deployment in total disbelief. They wanted to speak to the Unison picket, who assured them that I was giving them the full version of events and that all that had happened was a roadblock. A local teacher turned up and gave the police a withering assessment of what she thought of them before leaving on her bike.

Then suddenly more vans arrived and the police bought out five attack dogs, which were snarling and trying to fight each other as they came out of the van. Several people retreated, terrified. We screamed at the police that there were small children there on the picket line and to take the dogs away, but in the end we had to carry the children, who were crying and terrified, past the dogs. The two people from my picket left due to the presence of the dogs. They said they were appalled and would tell the other people from our picket what had happened.

At this point, when things were looking pretty bad, about twenty five Unison pickets turned up, as the teacher, with great presence of mind, had cycled to the town hall and got some pickets to come to us. The police started taking people out of the kettle one by one, handcuffing them, videoing them behind the police vans and then searching them. Passers by stopped to shout “This is a disgrace” and “this is why there are riots” at the police as they marched people one by one across Dalston Lane into a coach, to a chorus of boos and haranguing.

Several hours later we got told which police stations people were in, which were as far away as Heathrow and Kensington, and a protest was organised outside Stoke Newington police station. More than a hundred people came, including, I was happy to see, four of my workmates, plus some Unison pickets. One of the Turkish cafes bought us several rounds of tea which was very welcome as we were very cold. At the time of writing I still haven’t heard from any of the arrested protesters and don’t know the charges. 

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