(To be read in the tones of Richie Benaud)
Well good morning and welcome to a wonderful Spring day in London with the first of our quarter final matches, police versus anarchists, spread over two days, the winner going on to play Somerset. And yes we were all out to inspect the pitch early this morning, the anarchists pitching up early — for them — at four key railway stations, Liverpool St, Cannon St, London Bridge and Moorgate and if you Google a Tube map you’ll see that this is a rather lovely cage formed around the Bank of England (represented by Bank station on the Tube).
Are you still reading this in the voice of me, Richie? It’s something I would really advise you to do.
Anyway, there was a lot of joshing and good-natured banter between the two sides and a rather large number of construction and office workers gathered to watch the match, though of course the turn out for the City mile was rather disappointing what with everyone staying home to avoid getting biffed and all.
So there we were all at Cannon St in the south, with one of the four “horses” of the apocalypse, this one being black against “enclosures” (i.e. property), and with the teams assembled — disguised as a motley bunch of black-dressed people with scarves over their faces, and an equal number of crusties, and yes, dogs on strings (dogs on strings!) — the anarchists won the toss and took the field.
First advantage was to the batting team, as the black bloc lead off south rather than north as countless newspaper stories had suggested, down towards the river, leaving the police scurrying to catch up, and faced with sealing off multiple streets. Bad fielding decisions and captaining errors saw the anarchists have the pleasure of the field, as the march swung slowly northward in an arc back to the bank.
By all accounts, the other three “horses” — the black bloc was the only one that couldn’t get their shit together to make an actual horse — were doing the same, while a climate camp was established in Bishopsgate right in the centre of the city, a sudden unfurling of tents and establishment of a kitchen making dahl and a chemical toilet (in sofar there’s a distinction) and, ugh, puppets.
Batting zero for four as the four “horses” converged on the Bank, the police took a big risk by sending in a second line to try and contain each march, thus leaving a buffer area in between them, and making a four way hook up impossible. Risky, because it left a line of cops effectively surrounded for a period, before they could hustle stray protestors out of the buffer zone.
By lunch anarchists still had a clear lead, but the police were fighting back magnificently, and it was settling into a long slog.
Meanwhile, apparently the Obamas were meeting the Browns and the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburgs (OK, Mountbatten-Battenburgs, OK Liz and Phil Windsor)*, as everyone held their breath and prayed the latter wouldn’t make a joke about eating a Mars Bar and knowing when to stop, how to.
Elsewhere across town, Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel were holding a separate press conference elsewhere to huff and puff about Anglo-Saxon capitalism — you know, the system they’ve been holding up as a stick to beat their own national left with for the last five years. I have to say I feel about this duo the same way I feel about Savage Garden — haven’t liked a lot of their previous work together, To The Moon and Back, World War I, that sort of thing — not sure anything good will come of this.
OK, back at the match it was getting to about 2pm before there was anything resembling action, with a concerted push to get at the glittering prize — a Royal Bank of Scotland branch right behind the Bank of England, the latter stone, the former a glittering array of plate glass, not so much a building as an anarchist’s buffet. Of course RBS isn’t the ideal target for an anarchist — after all, if you hate the banking system per se, you don’t want to attack a failing bank. As that old Ashes champion Bakunin remarked, if you’re going to kill a judge, kill the most honest one, not the corrupt one, otherwise you’re not attacking the principle of Law per se. Trash the RBS, and half of middle England is standing up and applauding like you just knocked one to the boundary.
By 3pm, the police had slipped on the pads (riot gear, keep up). At Grosvenor Square, the Trots had been protesting at the US embassy, a building so ostentatiously sinister (anodise copper eagles at each corner) that the designer for the Austin Powers movies would be yelling “oh come on”.
Back in the City, having been beaten back to a threatened draw, the anarchists — showing a greater knowledge of the Duckworth-Lewis system than some teams we could mention — realised they had to push for victory, and the windows of the RBS came down. The police were backfooted, not least because they were dealing with something unexpected — the anarchists had acquired their own armoured personnel carrier, painted in police colours, which they drove into the melee, the people crewing it dressed in faked-up cop uniforms, the ruse only discovered because the police do not have armoured personnel characters**.
By this point the cops’ fielding had collapsed, and a dozen people climbed into the bank and tried to set fire to it. The police tried to get in through a flying wedge, but got trapped and then — for a bit — it looked like things might get quite ugly. The cops effectively had to fight their way out, and regroup, which is what gave the anarchists a chance to try and burn part of the City down
Most of the protestors – who had been completely peaceful I guess I should add — were hemmed in by police lines, but it took quite a while for them to regain control of the north section of the gathering, where the RBS had been.
To the west, the Trots had marched down to Trafalgar Square. In the East, protestors were occupying East London University. By evening, the cops had were into the dregs of their batting order, and turned on the Bishopsgate climate camp, once again slipping on the pads and, I must say, disinfectant. That got narky pretty quickly, as there’d been an implicit deal that the climate camp could stay for 48 hours, and clearly camp organisers had believed it. Even by 11pm, it was still going back and forth across the city, but your correspondent had to come back and write this stupid article.
There was one death — unrelated to actual biffo, in that a protestor simply collapsed and died, otherwise I wouldn’t be being so flippant about the whole event — and a couple of bloody injuries on both sides, and about eighty arrests so far. The policing was predictably contradictory — tell people to move on then don’t leave them anywhere to go, then arrest them — but that could have been expected. More disappointing was the lacklustre anarchist performance which suggest more time in the nets — six broken windows really is a disappointing result, and Yorkshire would take em apart in the semis.
Labour peer Shirley Williams had the final word “Compared to 1968, it is all very good natured”. That, for anarchists, is failure — when you’re being dissed as Baronness Williams’ bitch, you better lift your game.
*But not of course Saxe Coburg Gotha. David Flint will explain. David?
**Of that model anyway.