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September: already a month both momentous and sad

Chris Hobbs took to the streets to witness the momentous events in the capital over the last two weeks.

Members of the public in the queue on the South Bank in London, as they wait to view Queen Elizabeth II lying in state

Members of the public in the queue on the South Bank in London, as they wait to view Queen Elizabeth II lying in state

Date - 16th September 2022
By - Chris Hobbs
2 Comments 2 Comments}

Note; This article was written before the stabbing of Met officers in the West End of London.

It was already going to be a momentous month in any event. September the 5th saw a ‘changing of the guard’ in respect of Prime Ministers which was to dominate the news for three days; then came the not totally unexpected but still shattering news that our indefatigable queen had died just a short time after inviting Liz Truss to form a government.

September the 5th was already a date for protest; the venue was the Royal Courts of Justice where a hearing was to take place in respect of the Home -Office attempts to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

About 300 opponents of this policy materialised and engaged in a well-ordered protest, monitored by a handful of officers. The atmosphere changed with the arrival of a small group of protesters from the right, who clearly want much stricter border controls. They unveiled a large banner to that effect and then attempted to walk with into the protesters who were already present. Scuffles broke out and police quickly intervened before forming a line between the two groups.

After several speeches, the meeting ended without further incident and I half expected those of the leftist persuasion, to move on to Downing Street but when I arrived, the only obvious presence was that of a group of anti-vaxxers.

The spot they occupied is at the rear of New Scotland Yard which has rarely used back-gates. On this occasion, two unmarked vehicles tried to pass the through those gates but were blocked by the jeering group of anti-vaxxers who ignored the blue lights and the ‘blip’ of the vehicle’s sirens. Officers on the opposite side of road by the Downing Street gates had to come across to facilitate entry receiving abuse as they did so.

At about 6pm, another group of protesters began to gather in Whitehall just up from the diminished group of anti-vaxxers. It became clear that this protest, organised by Socialist groups, involved the steep rise in the cost of living. The meeting was quickly and efficiently set up and the initial speech was well constructed and wholly relevant to the cost- of- living issues.

A coupe of prominent ant-vaxxers became involved. One tried to make some sort of common cause with some of the protesters but failed. He then began to heckle the speaker but was steered away by a smiling young lady who attempted to engage him in conversation. Twice more the gentleman went back in front of the speaker to heckle but was ignored.

The other heckler decided enough was enough and walked in front of the speaker and protesters grouped up behind him, shouting to a baffled audience that they were all in the pay of George Soros.

Just up from the meeting, on the grassed area by the Ministry of Defence, two officers appeared, apparently alerted by the public to a figure lying prone on the grass. With one officer pulling on those blue protective gloves, it appeared there were concerns for his welfare. In fact, he appeared to be a rough sleeper and spent some time chatting to sympathetic officers. He was neither arrested nor moved on.

The well-ordered meeting was over in a couple of hours and concluded with a short march up to Trafalgar square.

A nation’s sadness

The death of our Queen, saw a gathering the next day at Buckingham Palace. Flowers were being laid and crowds were assembling. The Met and its officers were adjusting to the demands of Operation London Bridge and already, relations with the public were excellent.

Before I left, I actually caught a glimpse of the vehicle transporting our new King, into the Palace. Apparently, he then got out of the car and chatted to a number of the crowd before looking at the numerous bunches of flowers. Even at 6 foot 4 inches I couldn’t see over the dense crowds.

The Black Lives matter protest.

The death of Her Majesty led to numerous comments that the death of Chris Kaba, shot by a Met officer, had been effectively ‘side-lined’ and accordingly a Black Lives Matter linked protest was organised for Saturday the 10th of September beginning at Parliament Square and ending at New Scotland Yard. About 2,000 protesters showed up and at the head of the march was a lorry upon which was Lee Jasper, a well- known activist known for his strident criticism of police.

Mr Jasper, in fact was responsible for marshalling the march, liaising with the few police officers escorting and organising the meeting at Scotland Yard. In fact, he carried out his role in an impeccable manner. No precautions by police were taken at Downing Street and the march paused briefly but there were no incidents.

Chanting was predictably hostile to police; “Who are the murderers, police are the murderers,’ could frequently be heard. Frequent mentions were made of the figure 1883, which, according to protesters, equates to the number of individuals killed by police or who died as a result of police contact.

At New Scotland Yard, there were just a handful of officers in ‘day uniforms,’ all apparently drawn from the Kabe family’s borough of Lambeth. With some of the party including relatives, feeling unwell or emotionally stressed, officers were asked for chairs which were duly obtained from the building.

Despite the impassioned speeches and the presence of the ‘Forever Family’ group; men and women dressed in a paramilitary -style- uniforms, the march dispersed without incident after appeals from the organisers.

I say, without incident; the only incident of note was when I was, effectively threatened by white leftists, having been recognised as ‘that person who tweets about demonstrations.’. A minute later, after I decided discretion was the better part of valour, an attempt was made by a masked youth to snatch my phone. I should stress that the youth was not one of the many youthful black protesters.

This was the result of my being ‘outed’ by an employee of the Liberty Human Rights group at a protest back in March. The incident is perhaps, is worthy of discussion at a future date and Liberty swiftly responded by saying that this recent incident was not connected to their organisation.

Another Black Lives Matter protest is due this Saturday and it remains to be seen whether the reported decision by the IOPC to allow the family to see police footage of the incident affects that decision and/or whether it increases or reduces tension.

The new Commissioner.

What was surprising, given the events described above, were the reported comments by the new Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley in a broadcast video to officers, namely that he saw ‘unprofessional behaviour’ during the mourning period and that officers appeared ‘distracted.’

Certainly, given a variety of circumstances, officers could be forgiven for being somewhat distracted but having been there myself I saw none of it; in fact, quite the reverse. This comment, if accurate, and the suspension of the officer involved in the death of Chris Kaba, suggest that the new Commissioner’s early days have already seen ‘bumps in the road,; a road which doubtless hold many more challenges ahead, arguably the most important of which is restoring the morale of his hard pressed officers.

I can only say that I witnessed officers performing their duties over these few days, in the finest traditions of the Met; a view which is since being confirmed, even by sections of the media normally hostile to police.

Chris Hobbs is a fortmer Met officer who worked in Special Branch 

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Anthony - Wed, 21 September 2022

Chris
Thank you for your well balanced reports. They keep us updated and well informed. Please continue as I find them a counter balance to the toxic and emotive reports from the media.