I long overdue report from last years anti-police repression demo on 13/12
I stood in the crisp December air surrounded by 40 or so friends, comrades, and strangers.We pulled our hoods on tighter, gripping black flags and paraffin torches, their flames fluttering in the wind. High up the harsh brick walls of the police station the blinds twitched as some nervous officer or inspector stole a glance at the crowd.
Sounds like the start of a bad novel (or the latest piece from crime thinc), instead it was the situation Bristol Anarchist Federation and those that had responded to our call for a demo against police repression found ourselves in. The premise was simple, the police acting as always in the interests of capital and the state had increased their attempts to harass anarchists and other activists in the south-west, part of a pattern of such actions across the country. We needed a response that would put deeds to the words we had already put out on the subject. A display of the solidarity and trust we had in one another, and a statement to the police that we would not be scared off of the streets.
Quite how a candle lit vigil had evolved into a sizable gathering of activists (many in black bloc) wielding flaming torches outside of Trinity Road Police Station none of us can remember. We sure as hell thought it was going to get us arrested though. Prepared for that eventuality we had done our homework, turns out with the right precautions in place carrying fire in public isn’t illegal. We’re well aware not committing a crime doesn’t prevent the police from beating or arresting you though. Avon and Somerset’s finest apparently decided against intervening, instead hiding behind their high walls, CCTV, and twitching blinds. They were almost certainly aware, as we were, that due to an awesome coincidence the Fire Brigades Union were currently on strike.
As menacing as flaming torches may sound, they also create a great sense of friendship and camaraderie in the winter nights. They certainly didn’t put off the passers by who honked and shouted their support for us. Revolutionary lyric sheets were passed out and we broke into what passes for singing in anarchist circles. A couple of un masked and friendly activists went into speak to a couple of (rather nervous looking) cops in reception, getting an assurance that our ‘cease and desist’ letter would find its way to the desk of the chief constable.
Spirits were high as we realised we were going to get out of this with out bodies and freedom intact. I guess the thought of how you could tackle a block of torch wielding anarchists into a police cell was holding any gun-ho officers back. The health and safety forms they’d have to fill in would be enough of an off putting nightmare on their own! Thats when the explosions started.
A masked up stranger had entered the demo, before pulling out a sizeable collection of fireworks which were now bouncing off the side of the police station. definitely a ‘What The Fu-‘ moment. Inside a few dozen cops must’ve been busy pretending not to here. Some twenty minutes after we the smoke had cleared we marched off en masse, passing by the closed fire station on our way home.
In the five months that followed this demo (perhaps through coincidence) the police took a more hands off approach with the west countries activists. Following renewed press attention they again began to ramp up their harassment in the summer of 2014 beginning to illicit a response as this harassment increased in the autumn.