Edinburgh Escaping most of the headlines of the Glasgow COP26 gathering of the tribes in a parade demanding more immediate climate change was much of any report on the police escapades. The on-line edition of the New York Times only had these few words hanging in the story:
In Glasgow there was some confrontation with police, who said they removed protesters who blocked a bridge and were “containing” another group “following an escalation in their conduct.”
Our housing block with ACORN members from the around the United Kingdom by luck of the draw happened to be right behind another group of maybe 50 or perhaps 75 wearing largely black and sporting red flags. They were admirably well-organized and disciplined, almost like a marching group. They were communists of some brand or branch. I’ll call them the Revolutionary Community Party delegation, though I’m not sure that’s exactly accurate. They paraded behind Extinction Rebellion, and we were mustered in behind them with no never mind, so there wasn’t any exchange of greetings and gifts. We were told to move and we got on with it. They were no trouble to us or anyone else. Just there for the cause and a Saturday afternoon in the wind and rain. After finally being able to march, we cared about nothing else.
There after sometime, the march stopped, and we could no longer see the long lines ahead of us. There were chants of “Let Us March,” but, basically, we were all clueless. We had just crossed a bridge over a freeway. There were double police barricades along the road there, and police stationed every five or six feet apart. I was just a foot solider here, but a half-century of training as an organizer of marches and demonstrations makes watching police movements habitual. Police had been largely invisible, but now they were ubiquitous. I found that strange.
Then while stalled, I notice a phalanx of twenty or so coming up the sidewalk in lockstep with another dozen or so moving forward on the other side of the street. I approached our organizer along the side and said, “I think they are preparing to kettle us or someone.” I’d never been part of such a police action, but it was easy to figure out how they were put together. They depend on people being frozen in a box canyon. The longer we waited, the more police in their high-viz vests assembled. There were thousands, likely tens of thousands of people still behind us. There started to be a river of people coming along the wide sidewalks moving ahead of us on their own steam. Police officers with liaison marked on their vests started reaching out to us saying that the group ahead had been a consistent problem and weren’t there for the “right reasons” like we were, and they were going to be dealt with accordingly. Our organizers and random others protested that they had been no problem and that this was ridiculous.
The police weren’t negotiating. They were spreading the news. Our block was patched together and certainly not a united front and the leaders and organizers were challenged to forge a consensus.
The police worked their will in a slow thrust as they amassed more and more officers, four and five deep and along the sides of the small group only visible eventually by their flags lying. One ACORN flag was somehow caught up in the kettle. The police literally step by step pushed the group up the hill to be held and arrested.
After more confusion and delays, enough of our folks were able to muster. I ended up with one of the banners, and we moved forward when possible.
For the police there was no provocation. These poor communists were a practice game for them to try out kettling. For our crew, hopefully there were many lessons learned as well.