I hadn't really planned on doing this. I hate crowds - I almost lost my mind on my one visit to the Notting Hill Carnival - and I've spent an appreciable part of my miserable life trying to avoid trouble. But we were watching footage of the protests on the telly in the office and I mentioned that I was half-thinking of popping up there, and our office manager launched into a convoluted tale of how, when he was a Boy Journalist, he covered a Rangers-Celtic match and he was the only journalist to witness trouble kicking off and wrote a story that got him in trouble with the Glasgow Police. And I thought, ah, the hell with it, it's only ten or fifteen minutes up the road, I'll go and have a look. Never seen a riot before.
So at lunchtime I went up Ludgate Hill and along Cheapside to Bank Junction, and now I'm going to tell you what I saw, which may be slightly different to what you've seen on television and what you'll see in the papers tomorrow.
When I got there, about ten to one, Bank Junction looked like this
It looks kind of impressive on the telly, but the main body of the crowd was confined by the police within the junction, which is not a vast space. Everyone else was tourists and local workers out on their lunch-hour and people who'd just come to watch.
I thought the atmosphere was pretty good, really. There were people out selling teeshirts and whistles, someone had a sound system. The police had everything locked down pretty tight, but things seemed fairly good-natured, if a bit boisterous.
I worked my way around the junction down sidestreets and alleyways, and as I did I saw the horses go in
They formed up on Lothbury, around the back of the Bank of England. Note Token Idiot Having His Photo Taken With The Horses
This is from the other side of the junction, looking back to where I took the first pic. The building on the right is the Bank Of England
And the lady with the ginger hair and the `Chaos' headband is Vivienne Westwood. I have no idea what she was doing there, but she was being interviewed by somebody.
This next one is two guys in `V' masks, who when I saw them were having a rather amiable conversation with two policemen. A lot of people were taking photos of their sign. I wonder why.
I didn't see any trouble while I was there. I missed the windows of the RBS going in because I was trying to get around the other side of the junction, but on the whole, as I said, I thought the atmosphere was pretty good. It was a nice sunny day, it was like a big party. The police were variously grumpy, single-minded and perfectly relaxed and happy, which is normal for the police; I saw lots of coppers having smiling conversations with people, and I saw lots of coppers looking very grim and matter-of-fact. I also saw a lot of coppers putting on riot gear in the sidestreets, which was when I decided to make my excuses and leave.
There were clashes between protesters and police, and when you see them on telly they look terrifying, but that's because they're all edited together. Some of the media over here are characterising it as a `battle' between the forces of anarchy and the forces of law and order, but I didn't see that.
There were scuffles, and people injured and people arrested, and I'm hearing on the news that someone died this evening outside the Bank of England, but I don't know enough to comment on that. What I can say is that if this had been Paris, there would have been tear gas and baton rounds and water cannon and at least one building would have gone up in flames. This was not the Poll Tax Riot, and anyone who tells you it was wasn't there.