26 March 2011

Armchair Army reports live from the front line of the March 26th Demo

Sitting at home as part of the armchairarmy due to a horrendous cold going to follow things in the media.

11.00 Twitter Message from @March26March says ‘media saying 400,000’. @unittheunion say ‘we’re off’. Ed_Milliband starts tweeting away like billio. Better get back in the fold quick Ed. Oops, too late.

11.10 Embankment is rammed. Sheer weight of numbers meaning a late start for some. Unite saying ‘amazing atmosphere’ ‘Great mood’, everyone is being ‘patient and understanding’.

11.20 @gbctoilets say if you are kettled and need a kettlebog give them a shout.

12.16 Getting a bit crowded. Kettling ‘on Essex Street’ rumours abound. @unitelondon ‘approaching houses of parliament, brilliant atmosphere, banners, flags and whistles aplenty’. @Emily_arms’ unborn baby, ‘a not yet born agitator’, is ‘kicking lots’.

.21 Broadcast media; Sky have nice graphic of route of march which swoop and turn. Reporter on Westminster Bridge does live report bigging up the ‘family day out’ schtick. Interview with Government spokesman Francis Maude sees him blabbing about how he is protecting jobs and frontline services. Gives the usual Tory schtick about ‘inheriting’ the public deficit from Labour.

12.27 Sky shows some nice footage of the crowd and children waving flags. News feed on bottom of screen says its the largest union organised event in 20 years. Maude says they ‘will listen’.

12.30 Sky has an interview with fast talking James Mills from Saving The EMA. ‘Poor teenagers are demonstrating to get their voice heard. £550 million is what the EMA costs. EMA is received by 80% of young people who come from under 21K households. Half the British public oppose its abolition’.

12.31 Locally, @Whitstable_Twit is ‘in Tesco’s’ and @eastkenttom ‘has just had a bath’. Rock on.

12.36 Police concerns about how they want to ‘keep it as peaceful as possible’. Say ‘different groups may high jack front of March with their banners’. They highlight potential flashpoint at Downing Street. Sky using the route of the March graphics way too much; something like every 5 minutes. Live interviews from the street about ‘why they are marching today?’ with trades unionists actually on the March.

12.41 Main BBC channel news gets straight to live coverage at Victoria Embankment. Unison balloons look great. Shots of police in a line down the back streets in normal uniform. ‘It’s a festival atmosphere’. Numbers greater than thought. Now BBC says 5,000 police when they said 4,000 earlier. Numbers now ramped up from the 100,000 estimate from the BBC earlier to 250,000 now. BBC have the coverage in the 10 minute bulletin knocking Libya off the top slot.

12.45 Back of March at Aldwich ‘still not through’ says live reporter from BBC in their news channel outside Parliament. Very ‘good natured’. More live voxpop interviews on streets with union members. ‘Vuvuzelas or bagpipes?’ asks @March26March. Head of ‘March now in Hyde Park’. Still tens of thousands haven’t even set off yet.

12.51 ukuncut asks then answers his own question; ‘weather fine so why are some marchers covering their faces with scarf’s? For trouble afterwards perhaps’. At 12.47 the BBC lose their link suddenly. Shots from Hyde Park show only a few there so far.

12.54 Sky roving the streets live. They are still focusing on the massive Unison block. Lots of working class accents; which is great to hear. Some woman says she hasn’t marched since the 80’s. Two other live feeds in (Picture in Picture) PIP down left hand side bar.

13.00 March is now lead story on BBC 1 News. Hyde Park is filling up fast. However they use the same report and the same footage they used earlier. They’re bigging up Milliband as the main speaker. Ben Ando loses his sound in Trafalgar Square live. Overcut images from Hyde Park. They all seem to be having great fun playing with the technology live.

13.05 BBC; police standing back. Vans parked in side streets. Portraying ‘a withdrawn presence’. Police assure ‘kettling will be kept to a minimum’. In Parliament Square a middle aged Connexions worker with blingy shades dips her head towards the microphone but articulates her concerns well.

13.06 Sky lead with Libya then the March. Intense fighting in Addaiya. BBC show aftermath.

13.10 BBC has a split screen; Hyde Park filling up and interviews on the LHS one. Sky start repeating older interviews on LHS feed though.

13.26 Sky helicopter showing some great footage around Houses Of Parliament. Announcement of one arrest made. BBC says ‘small groups of black clad youths are filtering off’ main march. Sky; March held up due to ‘incident’ at Downing Street. No footage though. Police tweet; rear end of march at Piccadilly now. Sky now have a 3 way split onscreen. Tail end of March not in Piccadilly contradicts reporter. People ‘still joining march’. Voxpops of young teachers having a whinge. Sky finds the Breakaway Group with ‘love police’ on the back of their shirts and follow them on the ground. They’re having a sit in outside the Trocadero. Tourists take photos. They then stand up and rejoin main march.

13.33 Sky split screen report. LHS from the round at Hyde Park as Paul Novak Head of Public Services at the TUC tells us ‘the governments cuts aren’t working’. On the RHS screen, live shots from the March as it walks past; a placard hangs in view for a good minute plus; ‘Do I look like I’m made of money’ and ‘millionaire tory scum in bed with the rich but still fucking the poor’ and ‘up yer bum tory scum’.

13.39 Breakaway Group outside McDonalds now. Must be stopping for a burger. They’re sitting in the road again now. Having a rest. Police monitoring.

13.40 Breakaway Group Heading for Oxford Street.

13.47 Suddenly cuts from Breakaway Group to Brendan Barber’s speech live from Hyde Park. He whips up crowd. ‘The NHS stands for something special’ and ‘is not for sale’ apparently. The crowd like that and cheer. They boo when he mentions the city bonuses. It’s just like a pantomime. ‘They’re taking us for….’ The feed then cuts off for 2 minutes.

13.52 Back to the split screen. Ed Milliband on stage waiting to go on. He’s looking relaxed. Masked Breakaway Group now in Oxford St. Anarcho-syndicalism flags and black masks scare the shoppers. ‘You bled us dry’ reads a banner. EM compares resistance of unions to the cuts to the anti-apartheid movement. Smoke bombs let off in Oxford Street outside Top Shop. A policeman has white paint all over his face. Going to see that in all the papers tomorrow as the paparazzi swarms round him. They cut away from the split screen and go to footage of police lined up outside Top Shop in Oxford St and have EM’s speech on top like it is commenting on the ‘lively’ violence. The Breakaway Group set off more colourful smoke bombs. EM says ‘we are the mainstream’ as the masked Breakaway Group contingent jostle with police.

13.56 Back to split screen. The Breakaway Group throws paint bombs at Top Shop windows. ‘Government destroying the things we value in our country’ says EM. The Breakaway Group mainly young men just walk off. A South ‘London Solidarity Federation’ banner is displayed.

14.00 police vans with blacked out windows arrive and nip down a side street. Tweet; ‘the police won’t be keen to arrest people as they’ll have to add them all as guests on the census’. BBC has footage from overhead. Top Shop door soaked in paint. Media took a few paint bomb hits. Atmosphere described as ‘lively’ by reporters. BBC still has the march as top story. Breakaway Group Top Shop incident on second. Sky; showing shots of people feet.? Banner ‘we’ve had enough’.

14.01 BBC route of March graphic far inferior to Sky’s. ‘And still they come’ say the BBC.

14.02 March at standstill/moving slow due to ‘sheer numbers’.

14.03 ‘Good natured’ say BBC.

14.04 Two people have a lovely hug behind BBC reporter. BBC; Top Shop window cracked.

14.05 Breakaway Group antagonists moving quickly to next target in Great Portland Street swiftly followed by police in crash helmets. Breakaway Group now looks around a thousand or so. An anarchist flash mob? BBC show overhead footage of scuffles between the phone boxes and an arrest.

14.06 Parliament Square march still thick with people.

14.07 ‘I’m for the state and against privatisation’ says ‘a lady of a certain age’. Sky tellingly say; ‘no smell of ammonia here’.

14.08 Buckinghamshire Firemen in red ‘cuts cost lives’ t-shirts stand in the background. ‘Globalise resistance’ flutters a flag - BBC. Sky cop in studio says ammonia filled light bulbs wouldn’t surprise him. No real evidence of this happening though.

14.10 On March Sky says ‘it’s a carnival’.

14.11 Met police now ‘official’ on confirming ammonia story.

14.12 Back to the Breakaway Group scuffle as overhead BBC footage shows a police officer getting a paint bomb right in the face. The press are right on him and give him a damn good ‘papping’. A red flare is thrown and the paps get some good pics through the smoke of an officer kicking it away.

14.13 Maude interview from earlier replayed on top of marching footage.

14.14 Back to EM droning away. ‘who is the voice of the mainstream majority in Britain. Let us say we aaaaaaah!’ Pointy finger. Lead balloon.

14.15 He’s off.

14.27 BBC cut back to Breakaway Group. Anarchy signs and paint on walls of bank. ‘ammonia in light bulbs’ thrown now up on twitter. Police van attacked, smoke bomb, purple on roof of van as it tries to drive off. London Socialist Historians say March is in top 5 protests in UK history. Breakaway Group melts away. Sky show great shot of a pap covering in paint. Sky; eye witness says police pull 4 HSBC perps out of crowd after being identified.

14.33 Hyde park is now really rammed. Twitter; ‘have they agreed to stop the cuts yet? My back hurts.’

14.34 Union bod talks on LHS over the top of speeches live on RHS

14.35 ‘Does my society look big in this’ on a t shirt.

14.36 ‘This is the worse London Marathon ever’ @s77NDP tweets.

14.37 ‘Top Shop paint damage sale starts tomorrow’.

14.38 ‘Huge banger just went off. Fright of my life.’

14.39 Someone chucks an arrow road sign at McDonalds and skulks away.

14.40 Breakaway Group splits into smaller Breakaway Groups. Police in helmets and shields come onto streets and loiter in groups on the corners.

14.41 Still rammed round Parliament Square.

14.42 @ukuncut getting fingered on twitter as the Breakaway Group perps. Maude still doing a sterling job defending government position on sky as his old interview from earlier looks like its on a permanent loop.

14.43 @ukuncut tweet ‘every tax dodger shut on oxford st’.

14.44 Breakaway Group attack Santander by leaping out from ordinary marchers then melting away. Police baffled.

14.45 BBC stress Breakaway Group is ‘tiny’.

14.46 Breakaway Group attacks the Ritz and kick a police helmet around the street.

14.47 Police move in. A guy with a black flag provokes them.

14.48 Breakaway Group milling around entrance. Paps more wary now. A few got paint bombed earlier.

15.01 @guardiannews says ‘march swells to 400,000”

15.02 Important call from friend sees your intrepid reporter off to the pub...