Thursday, 9 April 2009

Vice Blog Post: Do They Owe Us A Living?


Unless you have been resolutely comatose and/or trapped in a box in a Siberian layby for the last 24 hours you probably won't have failed to notice that there was a bit of a kerfufle in London yesterday over this thing. Because I'm terribly political and desperate to write myself into history, I decided to take a day out of the office, enjoy some good old-fashioned English rioting, and see what everyone was getting all hot and bothered about.


The day started at 10am at Livepool Street Station where vast, thronging masses were predicted to meet before swooping on the heart of London's financial centre. Considering there was talk of police detaining suspected veterans of the 1990 Poll Tax riots in advance of the protests, I was pretty disappointed with the caliber of turnout. I mean come on. Ben from Ben & Jerry's and someone so small and weak they need to be carried?


There seemed to be so many more journalists than protesters at this point that I almost ditched my camera for an acoustic and some Birkenstocks just to make up the numbers. All the camera men were shouting things like: "Break it!" "Smash them!" and "Kill the pig!" to try and rile the protesters.


There were a good few city workers milling around looking a bit worried by the prospect of being pulled apart by unclean looking people and then having the pictures splashed all over The Guardian website. They were looking sheepish as we marched down Bishopsgate.


That is, until London's finest began skirting our progress from across the street.


Lots of suited city types stayed boarded up in their ivory towers looking down on the masses with scorn. Probably while eating money for lunch, using WMD's for cricket practice in the board room, and licking photos of Maggie Thatcher.


The sight of said bankers tended to evoke one of three chants: 1) The substitution of the first letter of their occupation with... you get the idea. 2) A slow chant of "JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!" and 3) (my personal favourite) The maliciousness of 2) complemented by a playful coda of: "Go on! No one will miss you!"


By the time we reached the bottom of Threadneedle Street and were outside the Bank of England the throng was actually getting pretty throng-y. The police had decided to utilise a kind of divide and conquer policy and were keeping our Liverpool Street marching gang separate from the hordes who had come up from Canon Street. Little did I forsee quite how much these two groups wanted to be together and share their feelings and emotions, but things rapidly got pretty heated between front-row protesters and their police obstructors.


The first huge cheer of the day though was reserved for this guy who clambered up a wall to go and hang out on top of a clock.


Not wanting to let clock man get all the adulation this fellow rapidly shimmied up between two pillars with a big slogan flag. Personally, that is not the particular climbing technique I would choose to use.


All the clambering got people nicely riled-up and the day's first outbreak of violence occurred. And guess what? We won! Yep, the cops relented the pathetic five metres that had been dividing the south and north-bound marchers and fled for higher ground. Reclaim those streets! Eat the rich!


Having whiffed first blood, shit, quite literally, began to fly. First up was lots of paint.


Which kind of made our camera look like it had a case of the measles.


Next up were flares. These smelt a bit like feet and melting concrete and induced lots of involuntary gagging and eye-watering which I tried to hide from my anarcho buddies.


The guy in the foreground here was my rioting hero. Look at him. Unflappable. "A flare? Aint no thing young 'un. You should have seen the Cable Street riots son, we whooped them dastardly blackshirts something proper. Now watch me stab a rozzer with my umbrella."


All the paint and flares and general chanting finally over-spilled when these two guys started laying in to the RBS on Threadneedle Street.


Now, it's been a while since I purposefully tried to smash in a window but the speed fatty and his friend got through that glass was pretty impressive.


Bear in mind that all of this is going on with about 50,000 police only a few metres away and you have to admire the cahonnes on this pair.


I think I could have gone home happy after the sound this made going through there.


Snatches of conversation I overheard seemed to suggest that ripping out all of this wiring had something to do with "disabling the mainframe". But, the guy who said that looked a bit like a mumbling vagina at an X Files convention so I am not sure he was to be fully trusted.


Finally, the police decided that everyone had had quite enough fun for now and took control of the situation. I am glad that I don't bank with RBS.


As if to really hammer home the time-to-move-it-along-gentleman vibe the police also drew for their horsey division. Which is terrifying. Because they're monsters with massive teeth.


Seeing the number of people retreating from the front-line with baton injuries (and probably horse-bites) I decided that maybe it was time to go and mill around in what had become a fully-sealed triangle around the Bank of England and make some new friends.


These two were from South London and keen on Bell's and Corona but not so hot on capitalism or global warming.


This is the entire membership of the Trannies Against Greed Party. In full. Seriously.


Down in one of the closed Bank Underground entrances a bunch of journo's were putting my late copy to shame by filing on the spot.


Judging by the amount of people who asked me if I had any beer to sell I could have made a capitalist killing in the heart of a cordoned-off socialist idyll if only I'd had the smarts of these two.


I am not usually one to jump to conclusions, but the barefooted, goggle sporting, three-quarter-length jeans wearing kids skanking to "Super Sharp Shooter" on their generator-powered soundsystem had two things written all over them: 1) Aresholes 2) Bristol.


There was, literally, not a single pot to piss in in the whole area so I spent a lot of the day thanking my lucky stars for: a) Having a dick and b) The number of doorways there seem to be in the square-mile. Maybe reading The History of The Spanish Civil War like this lady here alleviates bladder pressure?


I think I'm with Johnny Law on this one.


This guy wants England to become a Republic. But still have a Queen. Because the Queen likes whistles.


This pair of clever clogs couldn't have been older than 17 and quoted Marx at me. I didn't have the heart to tell them that, along with heartburn, age brings crushing disillusionment in ample handfuls.


Everyone had huge digital cameras. Even the cops. Check out Scotland Yard's Facebook page for some hilarious shots of policemen bathing in protester's blood.


A lot of the graffiti that sprang up almost instantaneously was more than a little suspect.


The plethora of flags however, such as this fetching, classic anarchist logo, presented a far more reliable visual stimulus.


Here's old Mr Unflappable again, this time with his miniature take on the anarchists black flag.


I guess no-large scale protest is complete without a few conspiracy theorists. But when a theoretical scam actually involves yourself mate, it it's hard not to look a little self-obsessed.


Placard of the day. Hands down. Almost as good as the Private Eye cover.


After being hemmed into a 500m square area for about four hours everyone was pretty psyched about the police opening up the exit to Queen Victoria Street.


But the coppers soon decided though that actually being able to walk down a public street in London peacefully was waaaaay above the command of the people who had just spent four hours pissing, drinking, graffiti-ing, and wrecking the square mile and decided to halt the moving masses.


It was at one of the Queen Victoria Street barriers that I encountered my favourite riot policeman of the day. If anyone remembers the actor who played King John from that Maid Marion and Her Merry Men TV show then you will have a pretty good idea of the levels of this guys mad stare. It was pretty intense.


Maybe everyone had used all of their paint and flares back at Threadneedle Street, but the good-ol' bottle toss came back into play at Queen Victoria Street.


All the bottles got the police and protesters totally aggravated so Jordan decided to attempt to bring both sides together by voguing. It didn't work.


By this point I had not had any food, water or a place to shit for six hours. I'd also run out of cigarettes and was getting pretty annoyed about being told I couldn't leave by the police. Not smash-up-a-branch-of-RBS annoyed, but annoyed enough to put some serious time into escaping down a back alley up towards Bishopsgate. Considering that they were not on the protest route, a lot of the banks along Change Alley had gone to a lot of trouble to get the full-wood effect. Maybe they know something that we don't.


On making it back to Liverpool Street I was greeted by what looked like the Green Field at Glastonbury. But in the middle of the pavement. All the granola, cheap hash and yogic flying got me so bored that I decided to head straight back to Bank to get in the rioting spirit.


Good thing I did as in my absence everyone had got way into setting fire to things. This gave the whole area a sense of medieval festivity that I felt had really been lacking up until that point.


Now, when I say that they'd got into burning stuff I mean really into burning stuff.


Like, literally anything.


And so, with London burning all around me, I waved goodbye to capitalism and went to the pub to wait for my new socialist representative to assign me food stamps.



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