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Public order: the anti-vaxxers tax the thin blue line again

In his final protest report for 2021 Chris Hobbs witnesses an anti-vaxxers protest turn ugly.

Public order: the anti-vaxxers tax the thin blue line again

Date - 21st December 2021
By - Chris Hobbs
3 Comments 3 Comments}

The disorder had subsided, the crowd thinned to a few hundred hardy souls and officers guarding the Downing Street gates felt able to remove their NATO helmets as two male protesters mulled over the day’s events.

“That was fantastic” said one, ‘Who’d have thought we would be able to get half a million people out on the streets.” His companion seemed a little taken aback by the estimate but never-the-less expressed his agreement.

In fact, despite the heavy social media ‘chatter,’ the actual turnout, whilst a noticeable improvement in respect of previous recent protests, must have been a disappointment to the various anti-vax groups. Whilst the grassed and paved areas of Parliament Square were crowded, they were not packed. I can certainly remember other protests where it wasn’t even possible to get into the square as even the surrounding roads and footways were solid with protesters. My very approximate estimate for numbers involved in this protest would be around 15,000.

Early disorder

In any event, after gathering from 12 for a 1 pm start, the protesters suddenly spilled out into the road directly in front of Parliament. At that moment a police motor-cyclist had to slow down in order to edge his way through the crowd. Most crowds would have parted to have let him continue on his way, but the group did not. He was surrounded by an angry mob and a police serial in ‘day uniforms,’ who would appear to have been deputed to ‘engage’ with the protesters, rushed to protect their colleague.

The unedifying scenes, as the mob surrounded, jostled and abused officers were captured on mobile phones. One officer had his cap snatched off and it could later be seen on the head of a jeering protester. who was encouraging the crowd on to engage in further violence.

Others were shouting that the protesters should ‘hold their ground,’ presumably against any attempted police incursion. In fact, other than a few officers behind the steel barriers in front of the carriage gates, there was now no effective police presence in that section of Parliament Square.

The long march

Many of the protesters in the square would, in fairness, have been completely unaware that this incident had taken place at all. At the ‘Nelson Mandela’ end of the square, impromptu meetings were taking place and then the inevitable march began out of Parliament Square and along Victoria Street. A number of officers, kitted with helmets clipped escorted the march which was generally without incident other than the ritualistic abuse of officers. Every so often, the march would pause, and outside the Albert pub in Victoria Street, impassive officers suffered verbal abuse.

Surprisingly, there was no significant protest outside the Department of Health further along Victoria Street and then it was Hyde Park. As the procession walked along Park Lane an interesting incident occurred when an insignificant, short, innocuous male in his late 50’s or early 60’s, walking by himself, was accused of being an undercover police officer.

I recognised the individual making this dubious assertion; during the summer he’d made a similar allegation accompanied by threats to ‘smash’ that individuals ‘face in.’ The potential victim was quite amused by the notion; little wonder in that it subsequently transpired that he was one of the principal organisers of that and other marches.

On this occasion, the likely victim was clearly bewildered and anxious. The thug making the threat clearly was potentially extremely violent and possibly engaging in substance abuse. He was, fortunately, steered away by others in the group who were, primarily dressed in ANTIFA style black. ‘uniforms.’ Anti-vax social media sites state that dressing in all-black causes identification problems for police hence its original adoption by ANTIFA.

The march along a very busy Oxford Street was predictable with mask-wearing shoppers being harangued by protesters. The first, and only significant event occurred in Regent Street, where the Apple store was pelted with eggs, presumably based on the theory that Apple are part of the ‘global conspiracy.’

Barriers thrown at Downing Street

The march paused at the top of Whitehall and then moved towards Downing Street. In actual fact, the arrival of hundreds was rather an anti-climax. The marchers didn’t predictably, proceed on to Parliament Square and there were a few desultory chants. Some of the more hostile protesters made their way to the steel barriers in front of the Downing Street gates behind which stood a line of kitted officers with helmets clipped.

Officers behind barriers at Downing Street 

Predictable abuse was thrown at the officers together with several missiles which included full cans of drink. Officers donned their NATO helmets to the jeers of some of the crowd, however most of those present appeared to be merely curious as to what would happen next.

After about forty minutes, the crowd began to thin to the extent that a serial of officers were deployed amongst the crowd for, presumably, engagement.

There was however, always a danger that whilst the hostile elements in the crowd were ‘diluted’ by the majority who were merely out to express their opposition to restrictions and vaccines, the departure of the peaceful elements would mean that thugs would be in a position to coalesce together.

Those thugs suddenly began to pull at the metal barriers successfully uncoupling some. Police drew batons and battled back but it wasn’t enough to prevent some barriers being picked up and thrown at officers in what were ugly scenes which were captured on social media footage.

Fortunately, fully equipped officers were being held in reserve in Downing Street and could be seen being deployed in front of the barriers which made what was now a mob, pause. The situation calmed down and then the officers in front of the now restored, steel barriers, were ordered to withdraw.

Strangely, instead of going back behind the gates of Downing Street, they moved in single file through the mob and along Whitehall. This gave the volatile, abusive crowd their chance and they pursued the officers jeering and hurling foul mouthed insults. Twice the officers halted to reform and the crowd eventually gave up when the serial passed through a police cordon across Whitehall.

The next event concerned a loud sound system which was set up in Whitehall and attracted a sizable crowd. I have to say, as a DJ myself, his choice of music was exemplary. It was when he was playing ‘Hot Hot Hot’ by Arrow, that a serial of officers moved in to shut down, what was essentially now a public rave.

It was only in April, that officers moved to shut down what had become an Unlicensed Music Event in Hyde Park which followed a similar anti-Lockdown ‘Freedom’ march. This prompted a savage attack on those officers, a number of whom were injured to the extent that even sections of the media were sympathetic.

The reaction, on this occasion, to the arrival of a police serial to undertake a similar function was, perhaps predictably, one of hostility. The crowd rounded on the police who, due to sheer weight of numbers, had to retreat in what were again, ugly scenes captured on social media footage.

Another serial of officers rushed to assist their colleagues, but the mob still forced police back. After what seemed an eternity, but was only a matter of minutes, large numbers of helmeted officers could be seen running across the front of the MOD building to assist their colleagues. Yells of warning emanated from the mob who promptly withdrew from the confrontation.

Piers Corbyn appears

Attempts by some ‘leaders’ to rally the protesters failed and attention returned to Downing Street where Piers Corbyn appeared with a small group of supporters. In front of the gates, he and his companions performed their song which revolves around flatulence and trousers and has been mocked on social media.

At that point I decided enough was enough and in doing so missed some unwise comments from Corbyn reported by Sky News as follows:

After urging the crowd to “hammer to death those scum who have decided to go ahead with introducing new fascism”, Corbyn appears to tell a crowd in the video: “You’ve got to get a list of them … and if your MP is one of them, go to their offices and, well, I would recommend burning them down, OK. But I can’t say that on air. I hope we’re not on air.”

He also says: “We’ve got to take down these lying MPs. And we’ve got to support and welcome all of those who have rebelled or voted against Boris, i.e., rebelled from the Tories or my brother and his mates who voted against the measures yesterday, which is a step forward.”

This subsequently resulted in Corbyn’s arrest by the Met.

Another incident featured on social media concerned footage which appeared to show a ‘one legged’ man being pushed to the floor by an officer during the disorder. There is no footage of what led up to the incident or, given, the male was clearly upright before descending to the floor, that the officer was even aware that the man had one leg. The ‘two handed push’ was and presumably still is taught as part of officer safety training and is considered the least injurious of physical defensive techniques open to officers.

Concerns that this protest might lead to scenes of mass violence similar to those witnessed during the poll tax and free Tommy Robinson protests, proved unfounded. Those intent on causing disorder numbered several hundred yet similar issues were as evident on this occasion as during previous protests when elements, including familiar faces from previous far-right protests, were clearly intent on conflict with the police.

The Met reported that its officers were injured during the early confrontation in Parliament Square and later in Whitehall. Social media showed one dazed officer being led away after being struck in the head by a missile. Fortunately, the Met also reported that none of the injuries were serious but, unusually, numbers were not provided.

It also appears, that despite the violence, which was, as stated, captured on social media, there were no arrests. This, however, will come as no surprise to seasoned observers of public order events. Often, the more violent protests will see a disproportionate lack of arrests. Conversely, relatively non-violent protests can lead to dozens of arrests as seen with Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain although these groups can have a greater effect on the public by virtue of the inconvenience and disruption they cause.

Clearly, as was evidenced on social media footage and doubtless on many officers' saved BWV, there were many whose behaviour clearly warranted arrest. Arrests during serious disorder, are often not practicable. Where they do take place, the current tactic, also seen abroad, is to encircle the arresting officers and prisoner in a ‘security bubble’ and then move as a unit through any hostile crowd to a safe area and /or where transport awaits.

This can mean that officers have to cede ground to the hostile crowd and those experienced in policing public order events will say that it is frequently better to identify offenders and arrest them at a later date.

The most obvious hugely successful example of post-incident investigation occurred in the aftermath of the 2011 riots when hundreds of rioters and looters were apprehended thanks to outstanding police work.

Such investigations are massively resource intensive; hundreds involved in the various violent far-right protests during the past three years, unquestionably deserved arrest yet, understandably, it was only the worst of the worst who were tracked down and successfully prosecuted. The recent European final debacle at Wembley could have seen hundreds, perhaps thousands arrested for various public order offences yet the resource implications would have been considerable with many subsequent charges, especially after CPS scrutiny, being at the lower end of the spectrum.

Those who observe, the anti-Lockdown, anti-vaccine, ‘freedom’ protests, have observed that it’s the same ‘faces’ who can be seen time and time again and that early arrests of these individuals could, perhaps have ‘broken the back’ of that violent element.

The police ‘need to do more,’ mantra

Yet, if we go back to the reality of modern-day policing, barely a week goes by with a group, organisation or enquiry stating that ‘police need to do more.’

‘Police need to do more’ in respect of; domestic violence, rape and other sexual offences, grooming gangs, stalking, harassment, human trafficking, county lining, retail crime, missing persons, moped crime, hate crime, fraud, e-scooters, rural crime, child abuse/neglect, terrorism, burglary and alleged Downing Street parties.

Little wonder that extensive post public order investigations isn’t a police priority other than in the most exceptional of circumstances.

Sir Tom Winsor is regarded by the police community as the architect of the ‘more for less’ philosophy which resulted in cuts to police numbers, police support staff and the closure of police stations. Just weeks ago, however, he acknowledged to the Home Affairs Select Committee that only around 20% of police time is devoted to crime.

As has been stated by so many far better qualified than myself, the public needs to decide exactly what they expect from their beleaguered police service and this needs to be expedited by means of a Royal Commission; merely bringing the numbers back to the inadequate levels of 2010, won’t solve the numerous issues referred to above.

In the meantime, officers can expect to continue to be abused, insulted and assaulted at public order events by those who have little fear of any possible consequences.

Chris Hobbs is a former Special Branch officer who has been following the lockdown protests in London for Police Oracle as an observer 

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Big Bear - Thu, 23 December 2021

There are clearly agents provocateur at work at these protests whose job it is to cause violent confrontation in order that the controlled MSM can portray legitimate protesters as violent and facilitate clampdowns on human rights. There is a hidden agenda going on and the police do need to identify these agents provocateur and take them out. Even social media is identifying them. The police should make use of this footage and monitor those whose purpose is to bring about the destruction of human rights and democracy.