Harassment, alarm and distress: royal wedding hysteria and the golden jubilee
With another sickening waste of taxpayers money – aka the royal wedding – taking place in a few weeks, this is a look back at what happened last time there was a major royal event – the Queen’s jubilee in 2002, and the media hysteria and police repression of the event. Little has changed.
In articles containing an uncanny resemblance to the media storm currently taking place, the Observer regaled us with stories of “Anarchists plan Jubilee mayhem” with supposed plans to throw fireworks and take control of the Millennium Bridge alongside the, usual at the time, media hysteria about Mayday.
It was a time of intrusive policing – FIT outside every political meeting and at every protest, using endless flash photography, following known activists at protests for hours at a time, and repeated stop and searches. As one told me once, “I know who you are. I’m going to be your shadow for the day”.
On the day of the golden jubilee parade, there were no major protests, but 41 people were arrested, most of whom were sitting in the pub having a drink when the cops entered, told them they were under arrest for breaching the peace, and commandeered London buses to take them to police stations. If UKUncut protesters were surprised at being arrested for occupying a shop, try imagining the surprise of people nicked for drinking in a pub. All were released without charge, and 23 people sued the police resulting in an apology and a total payout of £80k.
I wasn’t with them given I was already in custody having been arrested the previous day on dubious charges for which I eventually received compensation. I wrote this account of what happened several years ago, but in light of recent events, and promises by Assistant Commissioner Lynn Owens for a “robust” response to protests, and calling for “the application of the Human Rights Act” to be “different” for the royal wedding, I felt it was worth revisiting the events of 2002.
The sun graced the Queen’s Jubilee weekend. God bless her. We sat outside an East London squat having what was advertised as an Anti-Jubilee Party and was, in reality, a few friends sitting in the sun, drinking potent punch and inhaling the aroma of sizzling Soya as the vegan sausages barbequed.
I arrived with Adam and Kate. We were not expecting a police presence. It’d been advertised, but it was never intended to be any form of action. We saw the car first, then caught sight of them on the opposite pavement, brandishing their camera. CO906, a prominent FIT officer, unctuous and ugly in his piggy little glasses.
“Afternoon Emily,” he called.
“Fuck off,” my now standard response.
“Why don’t you get a proper job?” Kate asked, flicking her blonde hair and turning her back on them.
“Hey, I’m on overtime here Kate, what are you on?”
Adam gave them the finger.
“Good afternoon to you too, Mr Stevens.”
The squat was on a residential street in Stoke Newington. Painted in bright blues, reds and greens and with strawberries growing in tubs outside, it was set up as a Social Centre, a community resource where local residents could come and have free food, Spanish lessons, drumming classes and, of course, get information on radical politics.
“Nice banner,” I complimented one of the residents, pointing to the Welcome to the Police State banner draped out of the top window.
“Couldn’t resist,” he grinned at me, “there’s punch inside.”
About thirty people had turned up to drink to the queen, including members of Movement Against Monarchy, resplendent in royal fancy dress. The rest were the usual mismatched scruffy bunch, with hoodies, tattoos and piercings. Most were familiar faces and I spent a while catching up, before settling outside with Adam and Kate.
I drank and joked, but I felt their presence. Occasionally I glanced up and felt their eyes leering, their lips smirking. They cast an ugly shadow on the beautiful June day, a vision of state repression shimmering in the sunlight.
A few drinks later, a plan was circulated to continue at another party at The Foundry in Old Street. Around fifteen of us left, processing down Stoke Newington Church Street led by our bedecked royals. The cops followed, but we were tipsy and loud about our escort.
We caught the bus, spreading out over the top deck while the cops stayed below. As we neared our stop, we heard sirens, saw ominous flashing lights. We looked out of the window and saw lines of black streaming onto the bus, two riot vans boxing the bus into the stop.
“What the fuck?” Kate asked.
“Surely, that’s not for us,” Adam said scratching his head.
We tried walking down the stairs, but our path was blocked.
“Stay back. Stay back.” They shouted.
We were allowed off the bus, one by one. As I got to the bottom of the stairs, I heard CO906 saying, “That’s her, grab her.” I tried to get away but there was nowhere to go They threw me against the luggage rack, twisting my arms painfully behind my back.
“Are you at least going to tell me what you’re nicking me for?”
“Breach of bail conditions”
Shit. I racked my head trying to think what bail conditions I’d breached. They dragged me off the bus, threw me against a fence and cuffed me.
“Smile for the camera!”
The flash went off in my face before I was able to look away.
I was taken to one of the vans and watched in bewilderment as the van gradually filled up with cops and drove away.
Back at Shoreditch police station, I accumulated a Section 5 charge (causing harassment alarm and distress) for wearing Fuck the Jubilee stickers on my trousers and a possession charge for the small bit of weed I had in my pocket. My pile of We are Everywhere WOMBLEs stickers also disappeared into an evidence bag, but they never clarified what they were evidence of.
Metropolitan Police Service
INCIDENT: Breach of Bail Cond/Sec 4 POA/Poss of drugs
ARREST: Emily Apple
Mon day the 3rd of June 2002
at 18:00 time at Old Street, London 100yrds from the junction with Old Street roundabout.
Officer Reporting Mark Keller
On Monday 3rd July 2002 at about 1745hrs I was on duty in full uniform in the company with other officers in a marked police carrier (U233) when at the time we were directed by specialist operations (GT) to attend the vicinity of Old Street, N1 to intercept a bus that contained a female called Emily APPLE who was wanted by police for breach of bail conditions. We made our way @ speed and arrived at about 1758 having driving 100 yrds into Old St, N1 from the Old Street roundabout. The bus was slowly driving towards us. I could see the hazard warning lights flashing and police officers standing adjacent to the driver. The driver stopped and opened the doors. I got onto the bus and went to the bottom of the stairs to prevent Emily APPLE from leaving the bus prior to being identified. PC WOODALL was aboard next to me. We were directed to allow people to filter slowly off the bus via the open back door. People slowly exited the bus. The bus was densely crowded with both males and females of all age groups. Within a very short space of time a white female with short black hair, blue denim jacket and a skirt came down the stairs towards me. I could see over her shoulder she had a large cream coloured satchel with a white sticker clearly displayed on the side. I did not read the sticker as I was watching her hands. A member of the forward intelligence team pointed to her and said she was Emily APPLE. As he did this she tried to push ahead of the queue towards the open door. To prevent her escaping PC WOODALL took hold of her right arm and I took hold of her left. Miss APPLE tried to pull away from us and she was shouting loudly at me although I cannot remember what she said. At this point about 1800, PC WOODALL said to her “I am arresting you for breach of bail conditions.” She started struggling again, PC WOODALL cautioned her fully to which she made no reply. Once on the pavement area and off the bus she was still struggling and was therefore handcuffed by PC WOODALL to the rear stack position. These were checked for tightness and double locked. At this time PC WOODALL informed Miss APPLE that she had breached her bail conditions by failing to sign on @ Wandsworth Police Station as directed when she was charged with an offence under Section 4 of the public order act in Kenley, Surrey.
She was placed in the rear of U233 and conveyed to SHOREDITCH POLICE STATION. On arrival I noticed the sticker on her satchel said “BOLLOCKS TO THE MONARCHY. And on her right thigh was a sticker that said “FUCK THE JUBILEE – BOLLOCKS TO THE ROYALS.” Once I read this I was disgusted and alarmed that I could read this and its contents. I am employed to keep the Queen’s peace and am offended by derogatory words said or written down which is against our Queen. I find it offensive and unacceptable. At 1820 PC WOODALL further arrested and cautioned Miss APPLE for displaying writing, signs or visual representations which cause and are likely to cause harassment alarm or distress contrary to Section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986 – she made no reply to caution. She was searched by PC22 184 CUNNINGHAM and PC22184 found a Kleenex tissue packet containing a small amount of herbal cannabis. I recognise it as such due to its smell, appearance and texture. At 1835 PC WOODALL further arrested her for possession of cannabis, she made no reply.
I was charged with the three offences, the breach of bail conditions being a failure to sign on regularly as part of the original bail conditions I had when I got out of prison. Bail conditions, I believed, had long ago been dropped by the court, but I was still worried. If I had been due to sign and I was found guilty of the breach, it was likely I would be remanded back to Holloway, and I couldn’t contemplate being back there. However sure enough, at court the next morning they could find no proof of the breach, and I was released on unconditional bail for the other two offences.
Back at home, I got stoned and let the hard-edged street persona crack enough to reveal my feelings. The months, the years, of arrests, assaults and harassment were getting to me. I felt tired and drained, bruised around the edges, frayed like a tatty screwed up, never finished sewing project.
I sat on my mattress on the floor, looking at the off white duvet embroidered with elegant pink poppies and stained with ash that had missed the tray. I caught a glimpse of myself in the dirty, smeary pine mirror leaning against the opposite wall, a contorted and confused image like in the fairground mirrors I remembered from my childhood, making me either tall and super thin, or short, squat and fat. I turned around and stared in disbelief at the image reflected back at me. I raised my hand to my face and felt the smooth skin, noticing the angry red wheals that still graced my wrist.
I turned my attention to my journal and watched the jet black ink from my italic pen glide across the page. I allowed a therapeutic wave to wash over me as I began to assimilate yet another traumatic encounter
It should be noted that I was either acquitted or had charges dropped for all offences referenced in this piece. Other people in this account are fictional but based on amalgamations of people I knew. All cops are accurate and their witness statements are genuine.