The protest, called by the ‘Stop The War’ coalition, was called for 5pm today, which is mysteriously the day before the planned government vote, rather than lobbying MPs attending the vote tomorrow.
As Jeremy Corbyn took the small stage opposite Downing Street at just after half past, there were several hundred people on the pavement ready to listen to speeches from various people including Tariq Ali, Lindsey German, Jenny Jones, Dianne Abbott and others.
Meanwhile, a rather optimistically named group ‘United Syrian Voice’ staged a small counter protest of a dozen or so people outside the Dept. of Health building a short distance away.
By 6pm, some of the crowd were bored of speeches and a handful took to the road, staging a sit-in on Whitehall. In response, one particular thug of an officer, Constable Taylor (CW1940) waded in and without any warning, started assaulting peaceful people, starting with women first, grabbing and dragging them out of the road, and even continuing when Constable Somdiki (CW3270) tried to restrain him. Other officers joined in (again with no warnings given), but after a minute or so, an Inspector turned up and ordered a retreat, at which point more people flooded onto the road, and soon took over the Southbound carriageway.
Police appeared to be caught slightly off-guard, and despite a half-hearted attempt to stop any further incursion, a few minutes later, people surged onto the Northbound side and Whitehall was blocked.
Police then set up road redirections and placed extra officers and three vans in front of Downing Street, and although some of the crowd still listened to the remaining planned speeches, most preferred to protest in the street, and a group of Turkish people set up their sound system, interspersing chants and short open mic speeches with traditional dancing.
Police brought in some TSG officers, and spent several minutes in deep conversation with Stop The War officer, Chris Nineham, before then moving in just after 7pm to push people back to the pavement, one officer shouting out inaudible details of Section 14 conditions being imposed.
A principled young man continued to sit in the road, and was surrounded by police and asked several times to hold his protest “in the pen”, before being arrested and rear-handcuffed (despite offering no resistance) and led away to a van at about 7.15. Two different officers later confirmed that the Section 14 condition to move off the road was due at 7.30, so it is unclear if his arrest was actually lawful.
The remaining protesters were warned that conditions imposed included ending the protest at 9pm, but by about 8pm there were only a dozen or so people left.
Although there is no ‘official’ protest planned until the weekend, many people I spoke to were planning to return tomorrow to lobby MPs attending the parliamentary vote. It also seems that, with many MPs wavering, and public opinion clearly against a Syrian attack, the Government has had to retreat slightly and will now search for a UN approval before pushing for military action in a second vote. Cue perhaps for a second false flag event in Syria?
As well as the STWc protest tonight, next to the gates at Downing Street was a small independent protest group, the long-established ‘Peace Strike’, which used to campaign in Parliament Square alongside Brian Haw until new PRASRA laws forced them out. Later this evening, they were moved by police to the protest pen where they are planning to begin their 24-hour vigil.
Other reports and more pics from Whitehall at http://indyrikki.wordpress.com