Following the completely unexpected popularity of my blog post about the van at the 24/11/2010 London protests, I need to clear up a few points.
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 blocking the route 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 graffitied 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 containment (kettling) by citing the attacks on the van, which happened after they started kettling.
- The police claim that the van was following protesters to gather information on where they were going. They knew full well where they were going, since they had already blocked the route! There is a possibility that the van was in use by FIT (Forward Intelligence Team, explanation here) to take photographs of protesters.
- The police claim that the officers in the van abandoned it because they “felt vulnerable and decided the best course of action was to leave the van” (Source: The Guardian)
I have received information from a few people that have changed my mind on some of my original points.
- 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.