The mystery van

Bait Van
Illustration by Maria Bovor

—UPDATE 26/11/2010—

Reposted here because hundreds of people are reading this but still not clicking through to my update post

I have received information from a few people that have changed my mind on some of my original points. I really don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist, I just want to correct an injustice and set the record straight.

  • It has no number plates
    • Actually the van did have number plates on arrival, although there are no clear photographs or videos of it. The best I have seen is this one from ITN.
  • It is painted in the OLD livery of the Metropolitan police.
    • I am told that the police routinely use vans of this age.
  • It has been out of service long enough to get rusty.
    • Several of their vans are rusty, and in fact you can see on this picture that it was rusty even in 2008. We should probably be concerned at the lack of preventative maintenance there.
  • It has a POLICE AWARE sticker on it, that has been there a while.
    • This one was true. Some people have suggested that the sticker was placed there as a joke by a police officer, or that it was placed there to mark the van for attention by a mechanic. I’m not sure I buy that.

I still believe that this van was planted as bait to incite vandalism and provide an excuse for kettling. The only alternative theory I can think of is that the police are really, really stupid. It could be that I suppose.


—Sky news video busts police claims—

Via @a6ruled
Sky news video shows van accessible, police standing near it and crowd all calm. Busted!


ORIGINAL POST

PLEASE NOTE
I am not a journalist. I have simply gathered some observations that looked odd to me, and some of them have been refuted. Please read all of the article and the comments and then weigh up the evidence before you decide.

During the protests in London today the police stated that they had started “containing” the crowds after they violently attacked a police van.  I contend that the van was deliberately planted in order to provide an excuse.

At around 12:30 I started watching BBC News which as showing live footage of the protests from a helicopter. The police were already blocking the route of the planned march with a huge amount of vehicles and offices. I watched that van be driven through the crowd from behind, angering all the people that had to jump out of the way. It was quickly surrounded by furious protesters and forced to stop. A little later, a few (unknown) people started to attack the van, trying to break the windows, roll the van over and paint graffiti on it. Some brave kids tried to stop the attacks, but were eventually pushed aside.

The moment it started:

And some more brave people:

Alternative photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blinkofaneye/5204774374/in/photostream/

But there is something really interesting about this van.

  • It has no number plates
  • It is painted in the OLD livery of the Metropolitan police.
  • It has been out of service long enough to get rusty.

Jump to 28 seconds in to this video to see what I mean. Look just under the windows.

The rust:

And thanks to @psweetman for spotting this. Does that say “police aware” ?

Front of police van showing Police Aware notice

Draw your own conclusions from that.

Despite all this, the protests were mostly peaceful.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/nov/24/student-protest-largely-peaceful

In response to Rob W, here is the ITN video. There is a number plate visible at 6 seconds in, although not clear enough to identify a number.

This picture shows “POLICE AWARE” sticker is aged and has been there a while. (Thanks to Harry Watko for these.)

I think these things are clear. I saw the sequence of events on live TV and it could be verified if anyone can get hold of a recording.

  • The police started kettling several minutes before the van arrived.
  • The van was driven in to the back of the crowd, (relatively thin at this point) pushing protesters out of the way. Some got angry at being driven in to or made to jump away, and pushed or hit, or sprayed graffiti on the van.
  • The police abandoned the van.
  • The bulk of the protesters arrived to find their route blocked and an already slightly gratified van in the middle of the crowd.
  • Some (very few) people started smashing the van in spite of attempts to stop them.
  • The police justified their use of kettling by citing the attacks on the van, which happened after they started kettling.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

162 thoughts on “The mystery van”

  1. As you can see at this video from the 50 second mark, there were at least two police vans of a similar style and livery on the street at that time:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PC3C-gkvUWI

    Number plates: Were there any on the vehicle before people started wrecking it?

    If your suspicion is correct, why would the police draw attention to a “dummy” van by driving it without plates?

    Rusty van — old van — which proves what? That the police don’t replace all their vans at the same time, along with just about every other fleet manager in the world?

    Here’s the unconspiracy theory: The police underestimated the criminal potential of the crowd and lost one of their operational vehicles unexpectedly. Isn’t this at least as likely as your theory?

    1. unfortunately the ‘police aware’ notice on the van completely discredits that. It means its been abandoned. Granted you commented before the update, but i thought i would mention anyway.

      1. It’s a sticker — it’s not as though it’s self-aware and only stays stuck to vehicles that are actually abandoned. Someone probably thought it was a good joke to put one on a Police van, and no one bothered to remove it because it’s just a sticker.

    2. Ok fella left have a crack at this, yes the police left it in the middle of the road for a reason, it was in view of the mainstream news cameras.

      The people smashing up the van look like police agent provocatuers, paid police officers or paid members of the public used to cause violence so the police can crack down and so the media can discredit the protest.

      They have been caught and found out at g20 protests around the world, not only in London, but in Canada, Pittsburgh in the us, in Spain, Lisbon Portugal and many many other countries.

      It is a shared brutal tactic of oppression that has been utilized for the past 100 years or so, probably longer.

      It is used in the same way terror attacks are used to control people, to frighten the people into obeying, frightening people into believing police brutality they are seeing is needed and not oppression, which it clearly is.

      Please follow the link below to see examples of the police agent provocatuers, the video is crude but gets the point accros.

      1. the people on the van were NOT deployed by the police. they are students. however i still agree with this conclusion that the police van WAS a set up.

    3. Adrain – the police are claiming it as operational public oder vehicle.
      If that really is the case then it makes me wonder where the metal grill for windscreen protection went to as it certainly (as far as I have seen) wasnt ripped of by those protestors.

      1. There was a grill early on, I posted a link to a picture earlier in the discussion.
        It is a little strange that the number plate and grill being removed early on did not leave more damage.

  2. @ Adrian Short

    I’m as fond of Occam’s Razor as anybody. But that “POLICE AWARE” sticker is a puzzle.

    Also, I can’t find any pics or footage of the van with its reg plates in place.

    Just sayin’.

  3. “Police aware” stickers are put on vehicles abandoned on the public highway so that people don’t repeatedly notify police about it.

    Can we safely assume that the police don’t abandon their redundant vehicles in this way but in fact decommission them and dispose of them properly?

    Anyway, this is all a bit of a sideshow. Say this was a “sacrificial” vehicle that the police hoped would be attacked? It was still a crime to wreck it.

    What’s the next conspiracy theory? The police deliberately left various walls and bus stops in the area undefended so that they could enjoy a PR boost when they got vandalised?

      1. I dont think we are talking about the wrecking of the van being a crime or not. We are mearly talking about the police provoking students into doing it to discredit this protest, and to give them, in the medias eye, a reason to become violent them selves. clearly there were people in both these protests that were not there as they were loosing out to the right to higher education, but it still, if this theory is correct, is not on that police would do this. I wouldnt put it past them either.

    1. so can you come up with a theory as to why that van has a police aware sticker on it?

      entertain me

      1. Yeah, someone nicked one from the inside of the van when it was looted and stuck it on there? POLICE AWARE stickers are not usually stuck above the windscreen. 🙂

        1. You can tell by looking at it that it has been there a long time. It’s aged and faded. It wasn’t looted and stuck on. Why would they do that anyway?

    2. who cares if its a crime or not? is our government infallable? selfless? governments will create laws simply to have more control over the populace and thus protect itself from changes unwanted by the ruling elite. Also, you are verry naieve if you think any major changes can be made to any form of government without breaking laws, laws created by the verry system being opposed in order to keep movements from gaining momentum and becoming a force outwith the control of self-serving scum concerned only with their bonuses and bank balances. Any movement which overcomes these obstacles can unfortunately expect the threatend elite to respond with extreme violence, the beggining of which we have seen in recent times towards protests from across the spectrum,from anti-war,animal rights,enviromental,no borders ect. the brittish police resemble an armed militia more than a police force and i have nothing but respect for the people who refuse to be forced into submission by right-wing media and violent state sponsored thugs, self defence is NOT an offence!

  4. I’ve got absolutely no idea why the sticker might be there. I take it you accept that the police don’t dump their old vans by the side of the road?

    You’re the one peddling the conspiracy theory. So far two of your three pieces of “evidence” are easily explainable as innocent and you can offer no credible sinister explanation for the third.

    Of course you may well be right. But then it’s up to you to demonstrate it, not me.

    1. It could quite easily have been given a Police Aware sticker if it had to be left anywhere for a few hours or overnight. For example, if it had broken down and could not be towed immediately.

          1. You tell me.

            Maybe it was to tip people off that it was to be the subject of a crime that the police wanted to be committed as opposed to one that they didn’t. :/

          1. Correct me if I’m wrong. What you’re suggesting is:

            This old police van conked out at the side of the road one day. The police couldn’t recover it so they put a sticker on it so that people wouldn’t keep reporting the abandoned van to its owners, the police.

            Later, the van was recovered, repaired and brought back into service. Today it was driven into the middle of the march and smashed up by a group of vandals.

            Where’s the conspiracy theory there?

          2. What does not seem particularly likely is that the police would take an old, rusty van with no number plates and a police aware sticker, and then not only drive it on public roads, but use it to police a protest.

        1. The police are not one homogenous unit. It’s likely that a broken down police van would be ‘Police Aware’ stickered to let passing police know and avoid wasting time. Not so strange.

  5. Adrian Short :
    You tell me.
    Maybe it was to tip people off that it was to be the subject of a crime that the police wanted to be committed as opposed to one that they didn’t. :/

    But the fact remains it looks like an old van with a sticker on it that is usually reserved for abandoned vehicles. I think we have a right to question why it was in use, and for what reason.

    Maybe theyre saving money by using out of commission vehicles, but we should be so lucky.

    1. You can question it as much as you like. It still remains a crime to smash up an old police van as much as a new one. No-one made them do it, and of course most people present declined to join in and a few even tried to dissuade the vandals.

      Here’s my theory: Some people just like wrecking stuff. They enjoy it. Police vans. Bus stops. Walls. Things like that. The typical urban environment presents more than enough targets without the police having to lay on extra ones just to be sure that a few things will get broken.

      1. You can try to defend the police all you like, it’s still not fair play to provoke a riot, and driving a van through the middle of a massive crowd is a good way to do that. Even a new van would have the same effect. It’s like a safari park except that there’s more monkeys.
        Is there anything in police riot control guidelines that says “drive one van into the middle of the crowd, that’ll calm them down” ??

  6. Adrian Short :
    Correct me if I’m wrong. What you’re suggesting is:
    This old police van conked out at the side of the road one day. The police couldn’t recover it so they put a sticker on it so that people wouldn’t keep reporting the abandoned van to its owners, the police.
    Later, the van was recovered, repaired and brought back into service. Today it was driven into the middle of the march and smashed up by a group of vandals.
    Where’s the conspiracy theory there?

    arent you the least bit curious why that sticker is there?

    1. Mildly so, but I’m struggling to contrive a plausible sinister explanation for it.

      Now if the vehicle were “bait” and the sticker signifies something amiss it must have been left there by accident. Very sloppy of them. We must assume that having tried very hard to construct an undetectable sacrificial decoy, they overlooked a small but vital detail. Which would be a big mistake that would undo hours of careful planning by the finest minds in the Met.

      But it’d only be a small mistake to lose a genuine operational vehicle to a small number of vandals in a large group of law-abiding protesters.

      Which cock-up seems the most likely?

      1. Adrian, like you I hate conspiracy theories. But this one’s different. The Met are not only the nastiest, most cowardly and belligerent of UK police forces, they’re also amongst the least competent. They continually stuff up. Of course this was deliberate provocation. The sticker, the rust…mistakes. They’re just a bit dim. Are they bothered? Of course not – you won’t see the rust pic on the front of any newspaper will you?

        1. The Met are not the nastiest force in the country by far. South Yorkshire or Greater Manchester are far nastier.

  7. “You tell me”

    I can’t. Because I don’t know. If it’s an “operational vehicle”, why does it have one of those stickers on it?

    It’s a mystery and no mistake.

    1. Yes, and it’s a mystery that you need to explain to support your conspiracy theory. There are several possible innocent explanations. You need to find a plausible sinister one.

      Personally I think it was all done with holograms.

      1. “Personally I think it was all done with holograms.”

        You’re just trolling now. Lets stick to plausible theories or new information that sheds light on the matter.

      2. if there are several perfectly reasonable ones please tell us because I cant think of them.

        Yes, it is still a crime to smash up police property. Yes it was done by idiots.

        but consider this: the protest was entirely peaceful until that point. It may have well remained peaceful. The van was driven into the back of the protest (Actually INTO, forcing people aside) and then abandoned.

        A perfectly plausible reason for the van being there is that the police wanted to incite some form of violence and vandalism so they could come in and control the protest quickly, on their terms, thus preventing bigger acts of violence.

        1. Start a small riot so you can prevent a bigger one? That makes no sense.

          Given that we can reasonably assume that there were some people present today intent on violence and damage, why would the police need to go to any effort at all to provoke them, let alone contrive some subterfuge to do so?

          Of course, if “anarchists” didn’t exist, the police would probably have to invent them. But they do, so they don’t.

          1. What about controlled explosions? A little boom to avoid human limbs flying everywhere?

            Police use bait cars in grand theft auto sting ops all the time and also tag money for laundering cases… So Steve’s theory isn’t exactly the kookiest in the tree is it?

            Police being sloppy? Well, I’m not going there but, I think we could draw on a few examples of that too let’s face it.

        2. yes the police are that bored of policing a peaceful protest that they decided to try start a riot they are much more entertaining to police… moron. grow up get a life…

          This Adrian Short user is the only one on here making sense. you want to debate it you have to provide arguments supported by evidence.

        1. I detailed one above. The sticker was applied for some genuine reason at some point in the past and no-one bothered to remove it.

          Another: It could be a droll practical joke. These things happen.

          The central point remains: It was an operational vehicle today and it got vandalised. It really doesn’t matter where it came from or what its service history is.

          1. “The sticker was applied for some genuine reason “…

            By whom? The police? On one of their own vehicles? You didn’t think that explanation was credible a few posts ago.

            “It could be a droll practical joke.”

            Again, by whom? The police? Protesters?

            If you’ll forgive me, you seem to be straying from Occam.

      3. Hi
        maybe the van was put there to slow down the students ….may have been an old one that was due to be scrapped…the police aware sticker is a mystery but when they normaly put on vehicles they put on the windscreen under the wiper blades …maybe one of the students placed it there as a grievance …. may have picked off another car in the area

  8. Latentexistence :
    What does not seem particularly likely is that the police would take an old, rusty van with no number plates and a police aware sticker, and then not only drive it on public roads, but use it to police a protest.

    You’re assuming that the vehicle had no number plates at the beginning of the protest but you’ve got no evidence to support that.

  9. Wireman :
    “The sticker was applied for some genuine reason “…
    By whom? The police? On one of their own vehicles? You didn’t think that explanation was credible a few posts ago.
    “It could be a droll practical joke.”
    Again, by whom? The police? Protesters?
    If you’ll forgive me, you seem to be straying from Occam.

    The fact remains that none of us know why the sticker was there. You think it’s suspicious but you can’t explain why it’s suspicious. I don’t think it’s suspicious but I still can’t explain its presence.

    The fact that I can’t come up with a credible story for you to explain the sticker doesn’t make it any more suspicious than if I could. You’d still have to explain how the sticker is a piece of evidence to advance a conspiracy theory that still hasn’t been adequately detailed.

    What exactly is being alleged and where does the sticker come into it that makes that hypothesis more likely?

    1. Maybe the sticker was on the van to indicate to the police officers present that it was the vehicle to be sacrificed as part of the kettling strategy?

      or

      Maybe they use them to label out-of-commission vehicles, and just forgot to take it off the baitvan before it was wheeled in?

    2. It’s not a conspiracy theory that police use various tactics to control, maintain control, or gain control. like clubbing, for moving a group of people. You hit them a few times. The monopoly on violence. That’s no conspiracy theory. That’s a technical and philosophic point. accepted as a fact and integral part of the state.

      Maybe the cops don’t care about equipment. It’s all free. Why not abandon a vehicle. probably better an old piece o’ crap. Cops care about power and control. At the moment they can most easily justify whatever means they choose to gain power and control, they will. and probably they’ll have to hit some people, just a little.

      If the people smash a van, all the better. Get a new van. The question should be, are we ok with cops using their equipment the way they do, likes clubs hitting people, vans abandoned for their propaganda value. Or for what the use their power for, as the armed wing of the state, to ensure the ruling class’ control.

      There are democracies where the police don’t hit anyone when they come to the street to express some anger. Even if they break something. After all violence begets violence. Let’s just not forget who gives themselves the right to be violent.

  10. “You think it’s suspicious but you can’t explain why it’s suspicious.”

    I didn’t say it’s suspicious. I said it’s mysterious. I thirst for a credible explanation.

    “You’d still have to explain how the sticker is a piece of evidence to advance a conspiracy theory that still hasn’t been adequately detailed.”

    I haven’t detailed a “conspiracy theory” because I don’t have a conspiracy theory. I merely posed a question. That being: “Who put the sticker on the van and why?”

  11. Isn’t is obvious what happened? The police abandoned the van among the protesters, in full knowledge it would be vandalised. This was the pre-planned police strategy.

    The moment the vandalism started, or even before, the police cut off the planned march route and kettled the protesters. They had a pre-prepared statement ready claiming that the kettling was justified because the protesters turned nasty and attacked the van.

    The baitvan and the kettling were the cause of the rioting, not the other way around.

    This is supported by the smug attitude of police and remarks, when asked why the kettling was going on for so long, such as “that was the van we planned to get home in, hur hur hur”. They all knew what was going on.

    IT WAS A SET UP

  12. I don’t think the details of the sticker or number plates really prove or disprove anything. However, the fact that a police van was abandoned amongst protesters, and its vandalism was used to justify kettling, can only be interpreted one way…

    1. If you need to drive a police van through a crowd of angry protestors then which one are you going to pick? The old rusty one, or the shiny new one that went into service last week?

      1. Point taken. But why on earth did they feel the need to drive it through the crowd anyway? I don’t buy the line on finding out where they were going, because the police had blocked them and they weren’t going anywhere. And why did they abandon it? They were hardly far from the other police, and at one point protesters even asked them to move it!

  13. I was there – I saw someone grab a police aware sticker from inside the van and stick it on the front of the van.

  14. I must say some of what I thought was evidence has been overturned (there was a number plate, and someone claims to have seen the sticker applied by a protester) but I am still certain that the van was put there for protesters to destroy as an excuse for kettling. The police have claimed that the van was following protesters to see where they were going, but they knew where they were going, and the only reason the didn’t go there is because the police were already in front of them blocking the way.

  15. I am sure this has nothing to do with the alleged cosy relationship between the former NOTW editor Andy Coulson (now No 10’s head of communications) and the Metroplolitan Police.

    No way – no chance.

    Methinks I dost protest too much.

  16. “It is painted in the OLD livery of the Metropolitan police.
    It has been out of service long enough to get rusty.”

    The Met has dozens of vans with that livery, many in use at the protests yesterday, they are ’54 reg.

    It’s been *in* service long enough to get rusty.

    1. Are you suggesting that the police don’t do anything to prevent or repair rust on their vans? The would be a massive waste of taxpayers money through inadequate maintenance.

      1. No, I’m not suggesting that, since I have no evidence to make such a fanciful claim – something you might like to consider in future.

        I am suggesting that the Met police have dozens of rusty vans in service, since I see them every day.

  17. Read several tweets yesterday from people at the protest (I wasn’t there myself though) that the numberplate was TR0 JAN. Make of that what you will.

    1. Someone in the police force has studied Classics and paid for a personalised number plate.

      Did they really want people to think the van was a Trojan horse?

    2. Trojan – perfectly reasonable to assume this was a police choice and NOT an accident. How else do they keep track of all their little fit ups? Pretext is nothing new, neither are provocateurs. The only new thing was the protestors, innocents. “Skulling” though illegal is nothing new. Also, terrorising people into admitting to crimes they haven’t done to get a conviction is also a popular pastime for police officers whose hatred of protestors (not criminals) is legendary; and who know that if caught in a lie in court, nothing will be done to them

  18. I’m pretty certain that the police just thought that maybe, after last time it would be best not to send in the new expensive kit, considering it may get trashed.
    Also, it proves very little. Even if it was planted, the idiot students still destroyed it, proving exactly what the police would hope for by planting it.
    It is the minority in this case who are at fault, not the police by any means.

  19. Taken from Student protests: the aftermath at the Guardian.

    12.46pm:

    The Metropolitan police have said that their police van was left in the midst of protesters after its police officer occupants “felt vulnerable and decided the best course of action was to leave the van”.

    Responding to accusations that the van was left as “bait” so that protesters would damage it and undermine the protests, the Met said the van had been following protesters and became surrounded.

    Full statement:

    It is regrettable that students decided to damage the police van. In order to prevent this happening it would have been necessary to deploy a large number of officers and use substantial force.
    Any action we take must be proportionate and in the best interests of all involved. The criminal damage to the van is disappointing, but the safety of the public must be paramount.
    The van was following the crowd to determine which direction they might take. In a very short space of time, protesters surrounded the van. The officers felt vulnerable and decided the best course of action was to leave the van.

    1. No sign of windscreen grille either, so no evidence at all of how the van looked when it arrived.

  20. Even if this was a ‘sacrificial lamb’, I am at a loss to understand why that is a bad thing. A bunch of kids with nothing better to do trashed it. Now they look like total idiots. So what?

    1. Very interesting, so this police tactic has precedent… I wonder what they call it… a sacrificial lambvan? Or perhaps even a #baitvan…

      The official explanations given by the police only strengthen the case for it being a clever ploy on their part. How often do police abandon an armoured riot vehicle because they’d feel safer outside amongst the crowd?

    1. Wow, some paid agent to spook? get a proper life you schmuck! you’re the one who´s a danger to yourself, those around not included…

  21. I can see the police using older vans for 2 main reasons: 1) They may have feared vandalism so used older, less valuable vehichles. 2) They were stretched and so had to use older vans that are kept in reserve. So that, for me, is not suspicious in and of itself.

    But there is an element to this that is genuinely confusing at the very least, though I would say suspicious, particularly given the documented instances of precisely this kind of provocation over the last 10-15 years.

    The puzzling thing for me and the reason why I, as someone who would not normally take conspiracy theories seriously (I tend to take the structural/cock up theories more seriously) am very suspicious is this:

    Imagine you are a policeman. You have just driven a van into a hostile crowd. Protestors are attacking the van. The van has been adapted to suit this situation, with laminated glass, etc. Fearing for your personal safety, which of these options would you take?

    1) Remain in the van and drive it slowly (or even quickly, we’ve all seen the footage from the poll tax riots) out of the crowd, nudging anyone who will not move out of the way. This seems to be to be a relatively risk-free option (especially when compared to the alternative). They still have a couple of tons of tin around them and a powerful engine to push through any resistance.

    2) Get out of the van and walk through a hostile crowd, outnumbered and exposed. This seems to me by far the less sensible option, given that even in riot gear a policeman outnumbered to that extent is in genuine danger.

    You’re in fear for your personal safety. You have to think quickly. What would your instinctive reaction be? Get out into the crowd (that the police themselves said was “violent”) or stay in the van and drive it out?

    For me, this is by far the most suspicious element. The rest of the “evidence” isn’t suspicious on its own, but in view of this does add to my suspicions.

    Can anyone think of a logical reason why the police would abandon the van? The only one that makes sense to me is that the van broke down, but if that’s the case why not just say so? The only alternative I can think of is that they did use it to provoke a reaction.

    And for the people who are questioning what might motivate them to do this, the answer is very simple. The police have, since the G20 killing, been under intense pressure to police protests in a more “hands off” way. So they can no longer get away with the tactic of automatically kettling and raising battons to protestors. They need what can be seen as just cause. The attack on the van gives them exactly that. The protestors are now seen by the public as a violent mob from whom they need to be protected. There will therefore be less public condemnation of what are fairly brutal tactics. This is the short-term motive.

    A possible long-term motive runs along similar lines. In order to effectively suppress protests that are likely to get bigger and more militant as the cuts start to bite on more and more sections of society, the police need to use more forceful tactics. The more property that is damaged, the more people think of protestors as a threat to their personal security, the easier this gets. So they “unintentionally” leave items of property in the way of protestors, knowing that said items have symbolic significance to the cause (police as the protectors of the government and ultimately enforcers of the policies against which the protests are directed). In this case, there is also a more direct provocation; they knew that the van had just been driven into the back of the demo, putting people at risk and forcing them to jump out of the way; if that’s not provocation I don’t know what is. They don’t need agent provocateurs; they know full well that the crowd is angry and young, and so can bank on at least some of them vandalising the van. People see these pictures and it is then easier to justify more brutal police action in future. And I think they will need to use more forceful tactics fairly soon, since this government is becoming less popular, and people angrier, by the day.

    In justifying the use of force by the police, it also gives the police themselves more freedom to use brutal measures if they so wish.

    So, there are possible motives from both the police and the state itself.

    I am not saying that these ARE the motives, nor am I saying that it was cynically orchestrated. Rather, I am asking a question; what possible explanation can there be for the police to get out of the van? I am also presenting a possible motive, as people above have claimed that it is not in the police/state interests to do this. I have shown how it could indeed be in their interests.

    1. Excellent analysis.
      It’s beyond doubt that the van was deliberately left there to incite violence. The press needs to report this. There needs to be an enquiry.

      1. Now that’s more of a waste of taxpayer money than letting vans get a touch rusty.

        These people shouldn’t have attacked the van at all. They’re in the wrong.

        1. Yes of course they shouldn’t have attacked it. But the police shouldn’t have incited them to attack it by kettling them in the first place.

        2. Who says the government, nevermind whoever was overseeing the police operation, are concerned about saving taxpayers’ money? They are not. They are concerned about retaining power, nothing more. Why would saving taxpayers’ money be the first consideration? It certainly isn’t in any other are of policy.

          Here’s another thought for you to mull over: When Thatcher was conducting her savagery, she increased the police budget, knowing what was coming. She may have been an evil old witch, but she wasn’t an idiot. She knew she needed to keep them onside and that they were, ultimately, the people who would ensure that her programme was carried through. Now we have Cameron and his public school fag Nick Clegg instigating an attack on an even bigger scale. But, whilst Thatcher had obviously read her Machiavelli, these two clearly have not. Thus, the police are facing 25% cuts too. Is it really a stretch of the imagination to think this is the police saying, “we are thin on the ground as it stands, carry through these cuts and we won’t be able to protect you.” This would also explain the slow reaction at Millbank. Not all arms of the state have the same interests. Sometimes one element will challenge another. This could well have been one of those times.

          I am no conspiracy theorist; I know 9/11 was conducted by Islamic militants, as was 7/7. I think JFK was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. I’m not even 100% certain that the Reichstag fire was a conspiracy. But there really is something strange about this.

          There are two reasonable possibilities (that I can think of; this is probably not exhaustive): Either someone cocked up big time and is covering their tracks, or this was done in order to serve a wider agenda. Normally I’d put my money on the former, but given the wider context I’m really not sure.

    2. “a powerful engine to push through any resistance.”

      Sorry, how does that work? Protesters might have been standing or siting directly in front of the van. Are you complaining that the police didn’t run them over?

      They might have tried driving it out and found that they couldn’t get anywhere, or not fast enough for their liking, because people wouldn’t get out of their way.

      1. They weren’t though were they? This is a perfectly standard police tactic, I have seen it consistantly employed on protests and demonstrations for years. Where people are standing in front of the van they simply nudge forwards slowly; people either move or are pushed out of the way.

        So, I’ll ask again, if you were in the position the police claim they were in, what would you do? Stay in the relative safety of the van, or get out into the vicious mob of dangerous half-warewolf students the Daily Mail is crying about?

        I am not saying that the police should have run people over, I am questioning why they took such an unusual course of action. When, other than when a vehichle has been turned over or in some other way immobilised, have you EVER known the police to abandon a vehicle in a hostile crowd? I cannot remember a single example.

        1. I haven’t ever known the police to abandon a vehicle in a hostile crowd, it’s clearly an unusual occurrence. But that doesn’t help us explain why they abandoned it, because its clear that they did abandon this time.

          I don’t know of any previous times the police have abandoned a vehicle out of concern for their safety, and I also don’t know of any previous times police have abandoned a vehicle in order to give protesters something to attack. This doesn’t help us choose between one story or the other.

      2. In addition, why would they get out of the van to leave if they weren’t getting out fast enough in it? This makes no sense. If the crowd are able to slow down a van they’re not going to have much trouble slowing down a couple of plod on foot, are they?

        I don’t know exactly what happened, but I am almost positive that the real reason for the abandonment is not the one we have been given.

        1. No, it’s easier to slow down a van than a couple of coppers — assuming the person driving the van isn’t prepared to run you over. You just stand directly in front of it. I still don’t think its possible for the driver to use the van to ‘push you out of the way’ if you refuse to move. They might be able to push you forward, if you resist that they can either run you over or wait for you to move.

          It’s probably more than a couple of plod on foot, could be anywhere up to a dozen or so, and if you refuse to move out the way they can choose between walking around you, pushing you out of their way, battoning or kicking you.

          None of has a seen a video of the point when the police left the van, so we can only speculate on what their motivations were. How will do that will inevitably depend on what sort of stories we prefer to tell. I prefer a story of people being angry with the state and deciding to smash a police van, and I believe I’ve seen any convincing evidence that that story is wrong. I think a lot of others prefer a story of people being unwittingly manipulated by a scheming police force.

          1. Barney, if you read what I wrote you will see that I was watching news footage live at the time. What I saw was footage from a helicopter over the crowd. As the police drove the van in I was shouting at the TV in shock at the way they drove through the crowd.That is my main reason for believing this to be a plant.

      1. So what? If you’d actually read my post you would realise that I make only a brief reference to the age of the van, and even then only to say that its age is not suspicious in and of itself.

    3. you’ve encapsulated my first reaction when watching the footage yesterda… how did the officers who had presumably driven the van to where it was get out/away, and how on earth was that the better option?

  22. I was trying to work this out. It appears it is a Territorial Support Group vehicle, and those are their current colours. There were other in-service vans looking the same outside the kettle.

    That amount of rust isn’t odd for a 2004 sprinter. I should know, I’ve just bought one 🙂

    all i can make out of the numberplate from a guardian video is LX54CPY but not sure about the P as the plate had already been kicked by then. Looks like new tax was bought this month (although I think they get it for free)

    Shame nobody got the chassis number or we could pull the MOT failure details 🙂

  23. I don’t support the objectives of the protest and I’m against violence and damage both for the reasons that it is unacceptable and because it gives protest a bad name.

    But freedom of expression and peaceful protest are essential ingredients for any democracy to work. Without them there is no true democracy only feigned democracy.

    I watched the protest evolve on BBC News 24, which was giving continual coverage with reporters and cameras on the ground, a helicopter and most commentary coming from studio reporters.

    I noticed the first kettle being formed; it was quite clear but got little if any mention on the BBC until 2 hrs later.

    · Some damage to a van parked right in the middle of the protest route was to be expected.

    · The damage is being used by the police to justify stopping the march and imposing a kettle. (BBC evening news over video of the damage being caused over 2hrs later).

    · The van happens to be at the ideal spot for a kettle and the police appeared to be already organised for a kettle at this spot (look at the other vans carefully drawn up and the lines of police already there.)

    · The kettle was formed either before any damage happened to the van or within moments of the first minor damage. Far to fast to be credible.

    · The van is a rusty old bus, which has previously been broken down and not used since (police aware sticker) i.e. it is the one the police would have been most happy to loose.

    · The reason it was there does not make sense neither is there any reason for them not to have recovered it.

    This was either it was an underhand plan to incriminate the peaceful protesters along with the very few loonies or it was utter incompetence plus a string of coincidences.

    It could well be that the police had a plan designed to stop a peaceful protest happening by provoking minor vandalism (most of the damage occurred much later when people in the middle of the kettle let of steam). Is it legal for the police to work that way?

    One thing is clear though – if the van had not been there the police would have had no justification for their tactics.

    It stinks.

    1. What if everyone had simply left the police van alone? I’ve seen plenty of police vehicles in my time and I don’t remember ever being gripped by an irresistible urge to smash them to pieces.

      1. That’s all very nice, but the police took a load of very angry people, thwarted their attempts to protest in the way that they had planned, then drove a van in to the back of the crowd. Is it any wonder that they turned around and thumped it? I don’t know who took the vandalism (not violence) further, perhaps an agent of the police, perhaps not, but they were definitely provoked in to attacking the van.

        1. I don’t accept that at all.

          Out of thousands of people, all of them managed to restrain themselves (whatever they might have thought about the police) apart from a dozen or so who attacked the van.

          It seems that this supposedly outrageous and irresistible provocation was ignored by just about everyone.

          I’d direct your ire at the criminals if I were you. Thank goodness most of the demonstrators had more sense.

          1. You are completely missing the point. (You’re not a policeman by any chance are you?)

            Nobody is trying to excuse the vandalism.

            But what we are saying is that the van may have been used to provoke said vandalism in order to justify the tactics the police wanted to employ. Like it or not there are several historical precidents for this. Orgreave being a prime example.

    1. why are you being a troll? why do you think we condone the actions of the kids who vandalised the van?

      We never said that they did the right thing. They did the WRONG thing, and it was stupid. But it was also a very small minority of the peaceful, very young protesters. who were then subjected to a breach of their democratic right to peaceful protest, and mistreatment at the hands of the law, Because the police baited the very few violent people in the crowd.

      and they will do it again. And they will do it with more force. The chief of police himself has said that ‘it went very well’ and that the ‘game has changed’

      We no longer have the right to peaceful protest. This means bad things will happen. Very bad things.

      1. So why all the focus on whether the police baited the crowd? Why not put the focus where it belongs, on the people who went to the protest intent on causing violence and damage and those that tacitly supported it?

        There are hundreds of protests and demonstrations in this country every year that get no interference from the police. But then those are peaceful, lawful protests. This one wasn’t and nor was its predecessor. If people want to have a protest on this issue they should make sure that everyone understands that it’ll be kept within lawful bounds rather than advertising Riot Part 2. People who enjoy smashing up police vans don’t give a stuff about the issue, nor your rights or democratic principles. Mayhem comes first.

        1. Adrian, as a police officer, I’m just wondering, are you not a bit ashamed by the way the Met handled the whole thing? There’s a lot of angry parents out there and a lot of kids who will never trust a police officer for the rest of their lives. This isn’t going to go away any time soon.

          No one was there to cause violence, they were just kids who had been cooped up, shoved around and sneered at just enough to make them see red. Many of them were drinking too. The mayhem did not come first – the kettle began while everything was peaceful, it was all going fine until the kettle was used, and then the van got smashed.

  24. There was no conspiracy. The police enjoy provoking protesters & that’s what they did by driving a van into the crowd. They knew their actions may provoke a reaction & the van could be damaged so they used an old abandoned van instead of an expensive operational van. If they needed to go from point x to point y they would have used one of their regular vans & not a rundown ‘police aware’ one.

    1. Hey I’m the photographer behind that photo and I thought that I’d provide you all with some lovely cropped photos of the illusive sticker 😉

      The sticker itself doesn’t actually have anything written on as can be seen in the photo below

      http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5166/5207321943_1bce6982a7_o.jpg

      and is this photo below you can see quite clearly the sticker is also present under the window riot sheild

      http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5290/5207919754_41b1d4a445_b.jpg

      The reason that Im so interested in this, is that I was running around trying to stop people from touching the van at points telling people to leave murdoch’s van alone 😉

      But yeah! If you need anymore photos if got thousands, i’m a photography student so im willing to dish them out

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/watko/

  25. Its all very simple. The police aware sticker was most likely placed there by a bored officer. the sort of events those vehicles are used for can become tedious for officers so silly little things can increase moral. Its a bit rusty so stick an abandoned vehicle sticker on it. The reason that the vehicle is so old (and I’ve seen one of the same age floating around Merton borough) is because of how much they cost. They are extremely tough those carriers (they’re not called vans) Ah I’m getting distracted, the reason it is so old is simple, these are the most expensive vehicles the met have. They cost about £60,000 new. The windows are specialist plastic which can withstand that kind of disorder, there are equipment racks, driver guards, reinforced grab handles and all sorts of other modifications.

    The only thing that is slightly odd is that it didn’t appear to have its windscreen grill. How ever it may have been removed because it was being used for more general duties, its not unheard of.

    The van is in the current livery of the MPS, the jam sandwich stripe, which has always been favoured by the met. The difference is its white instead of silver which most newer vehicles are in. The only Met vehicles which have baton burg on are traffic (fast roads equipped) vehicles. The new met carriers are the same as LAS ambulances.

    Many officers regard the old carriers as being better than the new ones so I think they would have been very reluctant to scrap it, especially in this way.

    If this is supposed to make protesters look bad, why has it never been done before, surely it would have been more beneficial at g20 for example.

    For the record the police do not treat their old vehicles like that, simply dump it and stick a sticker on it, it would have been decommissioned, all the police bits removed and sold on.

  26. i’ve seen the police make the same mistake with brand new equipment. israeli embassy the pushed a load of people down a side rd which led to basically a backstreet police carpark. not a camera in site, several vans got trashed, the cops looked frankly embarrassed, the ones in the vans and cars getting trashed looked pretty scared

    i wouldnt put it past the police to use the tactics you are suggesting but i’m not massively convinced this is an example of it.

  27. I think you make the mistake of claiming that all agent Provoactuers are Police. What about just general thugs? I was at a protest in Glasgow a couple days ago about the rising student fees, which happened to coincide with a Rangers game (Rangers are a heavily supported local football team with intense supporters which includes a violent element known as Casual’s) I noticed that in the centre of the crowd of protesters were 3 or 4 guys who had rangers tops hidden by their jackets and they were attempting to start trouble. They didn’t manage to fortunately and I also overheard policemen on the radios talking about casual’s who had turned up for a fight. also in this protest the police allowed us to march peaceful and stopped us getting run over by traffic, they surrounded/kettled us when we stopped in George sq but they allowed folk out. These same police also stop the casual’s tearing apart Glasgow at every game so credit to them. In short I dont think that police are the devilish agents of the state that you make them out to be. Police are good and bad same as you and me however they do an incredible difficult job where they are either criticised for being too soft or too hard. Its wrong to try and blame all the problems on the police or the protesters one provoked the other but is it right to assume the police should have superhuman resolve in the face of people attacking and spitting at them? or is it better that the protesters should have been allowed to run free doing what they wanted and face a much worse reaction as police tried to clamp down on a group as a whole or is it better isolating the problem in way that can be seen as heavy-handed but might prevent further problems? is it right that when a protest begins to turn violent everyone involved is harmed? these are the questions we should be looking at, with the aim of finding a balance rather than this conspiracy theory bullshit that just makes everyone involved look like a crazed paranoid fool.

    1. There was not a single problem until the police intervened and blocked the route of the protest. That isn’t to say that elements of the crowd didn’t want to cause trouble, of course there would be some, but they weren’t the primary problem, the police were.

      1. Going by that logic if there were no police there there would have been no problems? c’mon mate. So the police are essentially not normal joe bloggs public like you and me in a hellishly diffficult job where they are dammed if they do and dammed if they dont they are actually evil stormtroopers of the state who relish provoking violence? remember police are the ones who have to deal with (almost) every single problem that results from any rioting. Of course there are bellend in the police just like there are bellends in the protesters this does not mean one side is wholly evil. I think people should stop wrapping themselves in the cotton wool of their beliefs and look at the world as it is not through the distorting scope of a narrow mind.

        1. You’re right, of course not all police are thugs, and they do a difficult job. I’ve always been in favour of a zero-tolerance approach to criminals. However watching the footage of this protest has really changed my opinion of the police force as a whole. Kettling and bully children is not acceptable. Snide remarks at traumatized, illegally detained kids like “You look nice and warm, hur hur” are not acceptable. Their behaviour was vile. A number of officers on the day looked genuinely uncomfortable with what they had been ordered to do, and at the behaviour of some of their colleagues.

          The decent police shouldn’t be standing up for these riot squad thugs in uniform. They think they are above the law (because they are) and that they can get away with murder (because they do).

  28. Have you seen these pictures taken?

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/blinkofaneye/5204176793/in/photostream/

    I am facinated and concerned with what is going on with the government and the students. I am in Australia and we are pretty boring and sheep ( no jokes now).

    Is it the start of more protests like was in the Thatcher years :/,with the mines and poll tax?

    I get why they are protesting but I do not think that all the students are the ones who are strating the riot. My take is it is the usual angry violent moronic people who come along and stir things up. This is a highly emotional issue.

    I have heard similar to what Batavian ( family there but no photos or videos taken cousin has one of the 25% that poo themselves) has but actual footage and eye witness would be more beneficial for you.

    Fingers crossed someone can help with this.

  29. If I were the police sending vans to a protest I would try as far as possible to put the oldest ones on the front line and keep the new stock well out of trouble. Sensible police move. Safe guarding tax payers money to help me get a better education (and no I don’t go to a private school).
    bob

  30. I think its damage limitation rather than bait.

    1) Van is parked in police lot, is a bit knackered so gets a ‘police aware’ sticker to notify police mechanic it needs a look over. (Not stuck on the window as they usually are, but in a place that doesn’t prevent it from still being driven if necessary)
    2) Police need a van to take to potentially-violent student protests. Do they take a shiny new one or the old knackered one… hmmm…

    I do WANT to believe your theory, on the basis that all coppers are indeed bastards, but i’m sorry i cant.

    1. Perhaps the age of the van is irrelevant. It doesn’t change that the police drove it through the protest, not around it, then abandoned it in the middle when they could easily have got it out.

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