Tuesday 26 January 2010

Poll Tax Riot Twenty Years On - 31 March 2010

Doesn't time fly by? The end of March sees the twentieth anniversary of the day when an anti-poll tax rally in Trafalgar Square, at the end of a 150,000 strong demonstration, turned into major confrontation with the police in central London.

Those of us old enough to remember that day will recall that with the square almost full, the police closed the top and bottom of Whitehall and then at around 4pm, mounted riot police charged the crowd in Trafalgar Square. After four shielded police riot vans drove into demonstrators and fires started at the South African High Commission, rioting spread to Charing Cross Road, Regent Street and Covent Garden (where I had headed with my then-girlfriend). Four tube stations were shut and there were 391 arrests, many of whom were later acquited thanks to the efforts of the Trafalgar Square Defendants Campaign, who used video evidence to show that the police had fabricated or exaggerated charges.

Over on Ian Bone's blog is news of a Poll Tax Riot Reunion at 3pm on Wednesday 31st March, the first event in a 'coherent anarchist intervention' in the forthcoming general election.

Coherent? That would be a first. But I think I'll pop along anyway if I'm near the WC2 area.


HarpyMarx said...

Ahh yes, the Trafalgar Square Defendants Campaign. Bloody great, well organised campaign.

I couldn't go to the Anti-Poll Tax demo as I was revising for exams. Recall listening to the radio and hearing reports of rioting and thinking I shoulda gone.....

Also, some NALGO activists from my union branch attended and they totally missed the 'riot', didn't know anything had happened until they got the coach back and met other people....

I knew someone who got found guilty was sentenced to 18 mths in prison, totally politicised sentencing that was.

Solomon Hughes said...

Hi Kevin, you might be interested in this: - as part of an Freedom of Information inquiry back in 2006 I got the entire police radio log from the Poll Tax Riot. I did some excerpts in the Morning Star - click through my name to see the article.

Ineteresting notes:- (1) The police were in a bit of a panic because they had armed officers as part of the diplomatic police gaurding South Africa House, and they wanted to make sure they were pulled away from the scene, in case things went wrong

(2) The Police soon realised that "kettling" people into Trafalgar Square was a mistake

One officer reports (4.29pm) the "crowd being pushed towards Trafalgar Square, where officers are under attack. This is the wrong strategy."

(3) The "Gold" and "Silver" commanders just seem to give up as they lose control after 5pm

As early as 4.24pm, a "bronze" reports: "We are unable to hold at Northumberland Avenue and will withdraw to reinforce the cordon across Whitehall."

By 4.52pm, officers report: "shield serials are not making any headway into the crowd." At 5.04pm, they note that a "mounted charge has had no effect. We have lost the ground we had gained."

Even though the police reported (5.15pm) "looting in Charing Cross Road junction with Trafalgar Square," they are in no position to take command of events. Aware of their lack of control, an officer reports: "Holding line outside South Africa House. I do not presume to push further."



Birju Tailor said...

Dear Sir/Madam,

An Image appears here on your website of the poll tax riot 1989 (http://www.blowe.org.uk/2010/01/poll-tax-riot-twenty-years-on-31-march.html)

Please could you inform me if you are the original rights holder for this image or alternatively, if not, where you obtained this image from?

Any help you could provide would be much appreciated. Please email me on editintern@spiritlevelfilm.com

Many Thanks

Birju Tailor

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