Dear all at XR! I fear I am the reason the police banned you from protesting in London. Please allow me to explain how I might have accidentally caused them to huffily evict you all from Trafalgar on Monday despite all their promises and your expectations. I had been there just the Sunday night before, and met with some members of your de-escalation team, who were so excited to meet me they did rather get in the way of my banter with the police there.
Now, some of you may know me as an obnoxious, loud-mouthed, opinionated, itinerant, irreverent, occasionally drunk, verbally diarrhetic lump – the epitome of BoJo’s “uncooperative crusty”. I thought there would have been more of my kind there after his description!
I feel I must point out for many who were at Trafalgar Square on Sunday night, none of the above character flaws are criminal offences, and if they were then Parliament would be empty. Some people call it sass, others charm, wit, badinage, banter, chat, ranting, raving, proclaiming, testifying. Whatever you call it, as it contained no hate speech, I am pretty sure it’s fair enough in a democracy to speak loudly outdoors wherever you are, apart from perhaps Franscian abbotries and in the safe spaces of XR camps.
On Sunday I discovered that none of that mattered, and the cops no longer had to be worried about such behaviour, as the good folks at XR were fully on it to de-escalate me and my unwanted opinions by proverbially gathering to piss on my verbal strawberries.
I had had a long week, and after arriving late at the Rise Up For Rojava demo, I wandered up towards Trafalgar Square cheerily commenting rather loudly that the police around should “quit their job”, “get off the streets” or plainly “go fuck themselves” as I passed them. Or maybe I was just talking to myself. Or maybe I was sneezing. Or maybe people hear voices all the time when they have stressful jobs.
In any case, a judge ruled police should expect to receive coarse language in the course of their duty, as in fact, he concluded, all of them are indeed bastards (citation needed). Perhaps blowing smoke in a pairs face as I skipped down Whitehall was a bit too rude, they might claim, or maybe that’s just the air pollution that all them XR peeps are there to protest. Perhaps inferring that a blue-bibbed Forward Intelligence Officer was two weeks too early for Halloween and that no one should tell these clowns anything was a bit too on the nose. Bizarrely, the officer offered to get his balls out and play with them for my amusement, to which I responded that his sexual propositions were entirely inappropriate for his office, and jogged on.
Arriving at Trafalgar, I crossed the street to go take a good whiff of delicious Hare Krishna food and listen to some one righteously riffling along about green energy. I paused on the curb opposite to check my phone. By chance I stopped in a gap in a line of police officers,who seemed to take offence at my choice of position and in a rather disorderly fashion began to chorus that I was blocking the road.
I calmly informed them that if I was blocking it, and if by road they meant pavement, then so were they, and I was merely pausing a moment to send a message, and couldn’t really see anyone attempting to move past me.
The whole gang then talked at once, the chatter unintelligible, so I asked to speak to the ranking officer, who popped up like he’d been waiting all day for someone to condescend.
Sergeant Towser attempted to quiet his unruly pack of constables, but through all the noise I could barely make it understood that I was of course going to move, but was finding it difficult what with five cops and now a sergeant talking at me.
Despite what XR had told me, I did not really find the police that approachable and friendly. They were kinda dicks, and I wanted an opportunity to respond to that attitude.
Attempting to lighten the mood, I offered a series of riddles to Towser and the officers, with a hope of engaging them in some history that I would have thought they experienced as relevant, and all the while in an upbeat tempo. I record the riddles here, why not play along? Answers at the bottom!
Let’s play a game called who did the Met kill
Cops never know the answer though we ask the question still
Even if they did they’d never answer true
Omertà the only law for our enemies in blue
First up 2011 let’s make a start
The story of a man stabbed with a knife through the heart
He was a reggae DJ had a hit in 84
You know the name of that jam
It was police officer!
During Babylon raid he
Bled out on his kitchen floor
Committed suicide the verdict of the law.
Silence. I was disappointed, though I noticed a few of the XR crowd had taken an interest, so I pressed on with an easy one, or so I thought.
Few month later, north London, a black man is shot
Cops say he had a gun that why he got what he got
That weekend all the youth start a loot them shop
Tottenham, Hackney all London riot
Them cops get scared when all UK go aflame
That what happen copper when you play the murder game
Nothing. My riddles must be too cryptic. Undeterred I try to lighten the mood by borrowing some chalk and playing a few rounds of hang man on the floor.
“What does this stand for? I’ll give you a starting letter! Only four letters! It’s easy!”
“No? What about these numbers as a clue?”
Desperate for the love I knew to exist within them, I borrowed a “free hugs” sign off a wandering loon and, gripping it between my teeth, knelt before the police with my hands locked behind my back, like how I am when they normally hug me with them metal bracelets. The loon looked on, ever so bewildered, but apparently calmed to inaction by knowing it was all about the hugs.
No hugs. One of them did imply I should get a job.
Despite my best efforts to befriend the police, including a lovely chap with spectacles who totally wanted to meet me on Grindr later and a West Country sort who was very shy when I got excited about what town he was from, the police began to get very shovy and shouty, which I don’t generally expect from my mates, unless we are a bit pissed and joshing around.
I tried to remain calm and not swear as a number of apoplectic police pushed me as they squeezed the crowd further in, possibly to make way for their seizure – sorry, tidy up – of the disabled activists facilities that was happening around the same time. I continued to remonstrate with their behaviour and ask them to chill the fuck out and stop being so aggressive.
Thinking they may be interested in current affairs, I shared with them the news from Ecuador where 10 police had been kidnapped and held hostage by activists. Had they ever heard of such a thing? Can you imagine? Can. You. Imagine.
At this point, I started to get a lot of attention from numerous XR people. They kept popping up in front of me and trying to talk to me, despite me informing them that I was totally fine, being autonomous, and did not require de-escalating thankyou, but perhaps the police did. Soon however there was a gang of 5 cooperative Xrusties stood in front of me, and no matter how many I dissuaded that I was fine, as I was autonomous, and really just wanted to talk to our friends the police, they insisted on interrupting my efforts and several times also put their hands on me, to the point where my conversation with the cops was totally subsumed by the Xrusties.
I then realised that these five pleasant well scrubbed middle class people in their nice woollens were working together to isolate, distract and then remove me, which over several phases they did very well, despite my insistence that really I was doing absolutely nothing wrong and just wanted to explain to the police how the were essentially the same as the mafia and when one of their number murdered someone they all had blood on their hands.
It was quite difficult to be heard over all the love poems being sung to PCs, but I also attempted to point out that I wasn’t sure the police really were our friends, what with all the shoving and bad vibes and institutional racism, and that really if we were to be in a relationship with them possibly couples counselling should be on the cards. I also intimated that perhaps the police were a perfect example of what democracy looks like, and that they should all quit their jobs.
During all my attempts to exercise my free speech, more and more Xrusties kept throwing themselves on to the figurative grenades, interrupting me mid-sentence, touching me up and constantly calling me “sir” when I kept telling them I was non binary so it wasn’t really appropriate.
There was more shouting and eventually I really had to go eyeball to eyeball with some very aggressive police as they tried to get me to not stand on a pavement as a well meaning Xrustie took that opportunity to try to convince me they were right and I really shouldn’t come to XR protests unless I was going to say XR things. I had to de-escalate them and say we’d have to agree to disagree, and that I really wanted to talk to the police, not her, which she didn’t seem very pleased with but acquiesced and went back to the protest.
I realised then I was stood with a lot of brown skinned fellows across from where people were offering hand massages to the grumpy coppers. I subsequently burst into tears thinking about our friends in Rojava, before climbing back into Trafalgar Square and going to find my non uniformed friends.
And then behold my horror that the very next day the police, after helpfully packing up the disabled activists facilities, returned to helpfully help all the rest of the Xrusties pack up and leave too.
I really wish I had been able to talk more to the police to really make friends with them, as I guess they misunderstood when it was all supposed to end!
I’m so sorry XR. I wish I’d taken the time to individually bake a bun for all those coppers, then they probably would have let you carry on protesting. I’m sorry if the police were upset with my party games, insouciance and slightly raised voice. Looks I messed it up for everyone again.
Nice work de escalating me though. The old five-person shuffle separate works a treat. I’ve been around enough XR meetings to know that a lot of planning went into that tactic and how to deploy it on”rowdy” or “undesirable” types. I’ve heard the exasperation of the NVDA trainers at the ideas of diversity of tactics, and the suggestions to shop any people who aren’t on message to your pals before they get too difficult to fob off with inappropriate touching and reassuring noises of privilege.
One thing did occur to me during that experience was that formerly they’d have to put an undercover agent into a protest to influence it. Now they have created a culture where people police themselves, and any genuinely “uncooperative crusties” will be pawed, “heard” and gently evicted before they ask any too difficult questions. How efficient! No wonder they’ve been able to reduce police numbers so much.
And I heard that Some people think XR are all cops now! Increasingly, i hear horrible mean words like scab, shill and snitch in connection with their collaboration with law enforcement. They even say that you think “FTP” stands for “Fellate the Police!” Awful!
So I’m talking to you now XR, not the police, because I’m sure you know that If you side with the mob, the blood they’ve spilt will be on your hands too.
We remember Smiley Culture and Mark Duggan.
Solidarity with all those who have died, suffered or been wrongly imprisoned by the police.
The Law Will Never Be On Your Side.
Only The State Is Guilty.
Photo: Fields of Light Photography