Let me make clear that this post is my personal opinion about the events of the last two days for G20, and I do have considerable public order experience. In fact I have policed real riots and seen anarchy in the UK. I also have the scars to prove it. I do not have personal knowledge of the big picture plan or have detailed knowledge of police numbers involved.
My first observation is that this event was over hyped by the press, and potential comparisons to the Poll Tax disturbances were well off the mark. They even pissed off the anarchists by infiltrating one of their meetings. I don't know if this had an impact on numbers attending but as things turned out things were relatively calm bar a couple of windows at the Royal Bank Of Scotland. Apologies if you were in the line at Threadneedle Street but I'm trying to put things in perspective. The City was not in full lockdown and premises were not boarded up, including RBS which was right on the plot. In fact take out the photographers, reporters and legal observers and the main event outside the Bank Of England would have been rather bland. Still the press got what they wanted in the end.
Those naughty anarchists obviously had better things to do and the small groups who did turn up made more of a fashion statement rather than a political one. Of course it only takes a couple of idiots to set off a crowd and I'm confident that the intelligence teams have some lovely images of troublemakers who should expect a visit soon. The environment was well suited to the policing operation and the event was well contained. A low level approach was taken until it went bent but why flat caps and not beat duty helmets on the line? Didn't see any chin straps either or am I getting old?
This is the first point for discussion. The tactic was obviously to contain the initial demonstrators and prevent latecomers from swelling the numbers. Outer cordons kept others back from the main event. This containment means no leaving at all, so no toilet facilities and no sneaking off to the Climate Camp in Broadgate for a peanut butter sandwich, organic of course. This is a recognised tactic used in the Capital for several years and very effective. I don't know if discretion was permitted but hope that common sense was used to allow some out who were obviously peaceful demonstrators who'd made their point. It must be said that this tactic prevented worse trouble in reducing the crowd numbers and a break out. Once a crowd gets a taste for action even peaceful people will get swept along and mob mentality takes over. It happens at football all the time, crowd sticking together and directing venom towards what's in front of them, usually a police line. We are tribal creatures after all and two of the seven sins came to the fore to cause this, Greed and Wrath.
When the crowd was released the troublemakers were more mobile and intent on causing damage. Everybody else obviously headed for the nearest loo. Another containment down the road after swift policing split the crowd preventing damage to HSBC and the small violent mob were held despite attacking police lines. More police than naughty people game over before rush hour.
The Climate Camp in Broadgate had made their point and it was time to pack up and go. It might have been a peaceful protest but the road was blocked and it was time to leave. I understand that this was not cordoned all day and people were free to leave. Those who chose to stay were going to be moved otherwise they'd still be there. Don't fight battles you can't win - it was cleared no doubt because it could be. It leaves a little bit of a bad taste in the mouth as these were more the party hippy people, but life had to be returned to normality. I would had suggested a police/camp chill out dance then joint meditation before calling a wrap. They would have got better publicity and peace would have prevailed. If the camp had remained it would have taken huge resources at even more cost to police it. It would also have provided a focus point for other groups. I'm disappointed at reports people were held there for several hours before being let out if that's the case. And yes I've seen the videos on youtube.
So lessons to be learnt on both sides here. This was a police success operationally in the land of the giants, but shows how much aid will be needed for the Olympics in 2012. Fatigue and long hours takes a toll and the blue line was stretched for this. Nice touch on day two closing down two Anarchist squats.
Are we going to see a Summer of rage? On this showing I would say no. It would take a massive demonstration that extremists could turn to their advantage. It really does boil down to numbers on both sides and how many police we can put out to control it. There is just a feeling of apathy across the country and people just can't be arsed to get out on the street. In fact European agitators had to show ours the way.