The grubby demonstrators took great delight in telling us this was just a warm up for the big one on 31st March. They knew it and I for one believed them. I don't know about the big master plan for policing the demonstration that day but somebody somewhere got it horribly wrong. I think they believed it might go bent but not so early in the day. This might explain the lack of PSU's on the event. There were several football match's that day and the reserve PSU's were to police those and be called up as and when disorder took place.
My Inspector played a blinder and got a promotion on the strength of it. He got us kitted up without being told so we were jogging up Whitehall just as the uniform line was pushed out of Trafalgar Square. You've probably seen that footage and it's clear there was no Plan B at that point and no public order reserves in position to take their place.
My PSU entered the square to relative silence. It was a weird atmosphere as if everybody was waiting to see what happened next. The bulk of the crowd on the actual square were there for the rally and the black bloc had placed themselves by Northumberland Avenue, where a building site provided a ready supply of missiles. A couple of these were thrown and we ran forwards to keep a sterile area in that corner. As we stepped back we caught a volley from the crowd to our immediate right.
It's hard to explain what it's like when you get hit. I felt like a cartoon character who has an anvil dropped on their head. I actually saw stars, had a ringing in my ears and my face exploded with blood pouring from my nose and also filling my mouth. I coughed this out thus covering the inside of my visor morphing from cartoon character to a scene out of Alien. That was me out of it. It must had looked bad as a young WPC screamed "Oh my God!" as I trudged through the police line like a bloodied boxer leaving the ring, having suffered a first round knock out.
A quick ambulance ride to our delegated hospital luckily had me at the front of the queue. A very nice army doctor had been drafted in to gain experience of dealing with mass casualties. Some running repairs by her without anaesthetic had me back on the road in no time. My mate was also in the queue and was missing several teeth and his lip was hanging off. Oh how we laughed - really we did, me more than him obviously. Things didn't feel as bad on seeing the state of him. By now the police injured were arriving in police vans so I was able to get a lift to Whitehall. I rejoined my PSU back in the square and the remaining protesters were pushed out of the area into the West End. Unfortunately this led to theatre goers being abused and shops being looted.
You don't need to know what happened next but let's just say order was restored and not all looters were arrested. This was the nearest I'll ever get to anarchy and I don't want to see it again. My memories consist of the quickest ever pub clearance and a protester attempting to roll a rubbish bin into the path of our carrier before realising we were actually heading his way. We missed him just ! driver obviously never saw him.
The management afterwards tried to put a positive spin on things, but operationally it was a disaster and we got hammered. All of my PSU sustained injuries of varying degrees. Any dreams I had of being a male model ended that day with another scar added to my body. In the years that followed I've added many more alongside the mental ones. Poor intelligence, Poor preparation and poor tactics in sweeping protesters into the West End. Remember that when complaining about kettling cordons.
My PSU that day were brilliant and didn't shirk anything. Nobody bottled it and despite being in the thick of it, could look each other in the eye and know we were one and would never let each other down ever. Honour and Fidelity, words best describing the discipline of the team that day.
I won't go into details but the missile thrower got nicked on the post operation investigation. If it wasn't for my Nato helmet I could have been killed or ended up with a concave face, and that's not an exaggeration. I wonder if he cared that I was newly married and living in a police flat within a socialist enclave who'd hiked up their poll tax rate. I doubt it very much but hey crusty .. I forgive you .. it's what we do right?
Three police forces present that day should you think I'm showing out.