Random Reflections of a Domestic Extremist

Arrest No. 71, Bradford University, Obstruct Police, 13th February 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by emapple on 21/02/2010

Sometimes I wonder why I’m so slow to write these accounts.  Weeks pass before I’m able to formulate the words to describe very simple events.  However, I’ve realised, as much as I try and deny it, each incident leaves scars, physical and mental. A slow seeping trauma oozes like thick mud through my veins, bogging up my thought processes, increasing my agitation, making me slow and heavy, unable to function as a normal human being.

I made the decision to go to Bradford at the last minute – there was space in the car, I had childcare and it was a demo for a new campaign and I wanted to show solidarity. Bradford university are performing pointless experiments on animals including testing alcohol, pcp and ketamine on rats and have refused repeated opportunities to engage in a public scientific debate about their tests.

My other motivation for attending was as a Fitwatcher.  Animal rights (AR) protests are notorious for repression, harassment and general over policing.  However, whilst climate camp protesters, and even anti militarists, fill the column inches, Animal Rights has been ignored with a few high profile actions demonising the entire movement.  When two climate camp people got stopped coming into the country under anti-terrorist legislation, the liberal media went mad.  However, when it happened to two AR activists returning from a gathering two months earlier, they weren’t interested.

Passionate speeches and tea and cake provided by the amazing Veggies started the day.  Policing was minimal towards non-existent with none of the familiar faces from the Public Order Unit on the streets.  Two local Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) cops lurked in a van, quickly winding up their windows when we approached with cameras and notebooks but it was a pleasant surprise not to be met with hordes of cops, the usual smirking faces and intimidating flash photography.

Loud and vibrant, echoing to megaphone chanting, the march took to the streets towards the university.  Up ahead, at the first junction, FIT were waiting, the civilian camera man brandishing an enormous camera.  We approached, holding placards towards the camera, but were quickly pushed away.  This pattern repeated itself throughout the route of the march but with more people trying to block the camera it was clear the crowd were not going to tolerate their presence without objection.

Arriving at the university, private security blocked the doors, and the intensity of the chanting increased.  FIT retreated to a high unreachable ledge and I went to speak to them. I wanted to see if they had leaflets about why they were filming and wanted to question them about what their duty was in filming the protest.

A few questions quickly led to a call for back up, and yet again I was pushed away.

“Next time this lady gets hands laid for anything on her she gets arrested – obstruction of police officer”, ordered one of the cops.

The FIT moved, climbing to the top of a grass verge.  We followed still asking questions.

“Can you tell me why you’re filming today?” I asked repeatedly.

One of the cops who’d been repeatedly pushing me pulled out his handcuffs out and started walking towards me.  I ran back down and into the crowd, but with nowhere to go and cops everywhere, it wasn’t long before I was thrown to the floor and arrested.

Forced onto the floor in the back of the van, a cop kneeling on my legs, I tried to shift position to make myself more comfortable.

“Stop struggling”, ordered one.

“We haven’t double locked your handcuffs,” another smirked, “which means every time you struggle we can tighten them.”  He leant over me, ramming the ratchet on the already cramping cuffs, and the next two hours passing into a blur of hazy sweaty pain.

At the custody desk I refused to give my date of birth and informed this makes me an unknown person despite repeatedly stating my name and address.  Meanwhile other cops started searching me and I pulled away, trying to focus on getting my details recorded, worried any noted refusal would be excuse enough to deny bail.

They forced me onto the floor and dragged me backwards towards the cells.  A woman detention officer chased us, brandishing her metal detector, trying to hit me on the legs.

“Come on love,” I laughed at her, “you know you want to.  You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”

In the cell, they forced me onto my front, pressure pointing me deeply, applying Velcro leg restraints on my ankles and thighs before turning me over and completing the search.  The belts removed, they leave me, ignoring my repeated requests to speak to my solicitor, telling me I’m too violent to be given my rights.

After a couple of hours, I’m eventually allowed to speak to my solicitor and see the doctor.  I burst into tears with the doctor, repressed emotions bubbling over, the bravado gone. Whilst not hostile, he’s more bemused than sympathetic, giving me painkillers without making any effort to document my injuries.

Charged with obstruction and released in the early hours, I’m welcomed by friendly faces, hugs and tobacco.  After a few hours sleep at a friend’s house, I head straight back to Cornwall to collect my beautifully buoyant six year old.  Mum hat firmly in place, I play and laugh, dismissing the nasty graze on my face as a bad fall.

Hot water bottle made, story read, child asleep, Tom Waits on the stereo, I sink into a hot bath.  This isn’t an isolated incident, it’s an ongoing theme, a constant narratological thread.  I’m jam packed of violent incidents I’ve conveniently put in boxes and locked away somewhere in my subconscious.

It’s the gruff refrain which catches me unawares, causing the tears to start flowing.

“I want to know the same thing

We all want to know

How’s it going to end?”

The salty stream smarts my grazed face and I want to scream.  I am not a victim, I am fighting repression, I am trying to do something about it.  I don’t want to feel weak, whinging about what the nasty police have done to me, but it’s also necessary to acknowledge what they’ve done.

And the same rough refrain resonates, the same ambiguous unanswered question.

How’s it going to end?

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