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Kettled: what's it like in the middle

Tristan Welch gets 'kettled' plus the official story

Published on January 31st 2011.

Kettled: what's it like in the middle

Marching against the government cuts sounded like a good cause. What I didn’t know was that I was going to find out what it felt like to be ‘kettled’.

I joined the procession as it left the University of Manchester and made its way happily down Wilmslow Road towards Platt Fields. The mood was good, plenty of chanting and banners, and the meandering walk was enjoyable if hemmed in by a full fluorescent border of a huge police presence.

At Platt Fields we were welcomed by loud music and a festival atmosphere. The speakers were forthright, thanking us for our attendance and surprised us with the news that there was a revolution coming, each giving a similar message of horror at being betrayed by the current government cuts. They promised that united we could change the world.

We, after all, pay the taxes, have the debt, the worry. The idea being played out was that politicians couldn’t possibly know our problems because they live in a different world.

The speakers didn’t have it all their own way. Given what they were saying, especially at its extremes, there were murmurs of disagreement, shouts of denial, speakers lost out to more chanting. Some of the crowd thought the speakers weren't being radical enough, there were cries of 'war criminal'. As the talks went on a large group had clearly heard enough, separated and started to leave.

Word went out on twitter and a lot of people were suddenly back on the street heading towards the city centre.

The first flashpoint came half a mile later in Rusholme, with the police surrounding and kettling protesters. A few minutes of calm gave way to a rush on the police line and people sprinting up the road. This happened another three or four times with masked protesters breaking free again and again. A few arrests were made, more tension grew and it looked genuinely bad for a moment until the police allowed everyone to walk on. The mood calmed down fast and gradually it felt more like we were just pedestrians walking around town until we got to Albert Square and, anarchy.

The police were trying to surround the crowds outside the Town Hall but another group of protesters rushed in behind them from Cross Street, and everyone started running, first towards the Triangle, then St Ann’s Square, Kendals, all over.

At the Hilton Hotel the police were ready. Within minutes we were blocked from all sides, the mood changed fast and people were thrown out of the way as ‘trouble makers’ were identified, grabbed and everyone else pushed into a corner outside La Quila.

The police blocked us in, we were kettled. And something surprising happened, protesters broke out into song led by a man with a megaphone. There were spontaneous Mexican waves, biscuits, laughter and jokes and rounds of hokey cokey. Kettling was almost fun.

A couple or so hours later we were told we could go. Megaphone man was carted away, our names and addresses were all taken, and we were told if we congregated in groups of four or more we’d be arrested and held overnight. Lots of people headed to the pub, I was cold and hungry so I headed home.

Who knows what was achieved, except suffice to say that in the UK we have the right to protest, and protest we did, our right was exercised. People disapprove of the cuts in education and to so many other public services, the protest made that clear, which ever direction it took.

The Police version of events

According to Greater Manchester Police, up to 3,500 people took part in the protest. The police say: 'The final number of arrests following yesterday's demonstrations is 20. Those arrested - all men - were arrested on suspicion of a variety of different offences. 13 were arrested for section five public order offences, six for breach of the peace and one for obstructing a public highway, there were sixteen arrests and two policemen injured.'

There are no reports of the public being injured. Generally the rally organised by the National Union of Students and the Trades Unions was described by the police as ‘ very good natured, very convivial.’

Assistant Chief Constable Neil Wain goes on to say: ‘Unfortunately, about 150 individuals decided to break away from the rally and march towards the city centre. This was not done with the consent of the organisers, and I have spoken to the organisers who have completely disassociated themselves from what happened. It is clear these people were nothing to do with the organised demonstrators.

‘We made several attempts to negotiate with this breakaway group and facilitate a peaceful march. However, on a number of ocassions these people attempted to break through the police line which posed a risk not only to themselves, but members of our residential and business communities.

‘It is clear this group were intent on getting into the city centre to incite violence and cause damage to people living and working in our city centre. We have intelligence to suggest a number were armed with chef’s knives and one of those arrested was found with a number of razor blades.

‘We eventually contained this group on Deansgate. This was a necessary and proportionate response because this group were intent on committing violence and disorder, and were also running in front of traffic, putting themselves and others at risk. Containment was needed because clearly, there could have been a serious injury if these people continued to run in front of traffic in our busy city centre.'

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45 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJanuary 29th 2011.

Nice set of pics.

AgricolaJanuary 29th 2011.

I love the picture of the police trying not to smile as the girl offers to hug them

Michael WestJanuary 29th 2011.

Excellent Tristan :-)

Loudhaler JohnJanuary 29th 2011.

I particularly liked singing "We all live in a terrorist regime" to the sound of the beatles yellow submarine, but that was nothing to when 'we shall not, we shall not be moved' started ringing out. I'm not sure the feds understood the irony.

NormalityJanuary 29th 2011.

They're not 'feds' as we don't have a federal system and this is the UK. I like the police's measured response. Protest by all means, just don't kick off.

AgricolaJanuary 29th 2011.

We don't live in a terrorist regime. How childish. Cuts proposed by a democratically elected government which can be voted out in four and a bit years is not terrorism.

Loudhaler JohnJanuary 29th 2011.

We didn't. The only violence I witnessed was police intimidation. You seen the pics. The splinter group Sky News made out were terrorists were mostly responsible looking adults, families with kids or well spoken students. If the police say people in the containment area had knives then why weren't we all searched on release? It's rubbish.

BENNEYJanuary 29th 2011.

When are they going to get the water cannons out on this lot of scrounging dross?

EditorialJanuary 29th 2011.

Listen Benney, and anyone else, all comments which aren't reasoned or at least witty will be removed. Let's not have the sort of asinine shouting match that destroys most comment sections on sites. Debate, argue, discuss by all means, but don't call names.

Brian CJanuary 30th 2011.

When you live in a democracy you should protest if you feel strongly about an issue. On the flip side be sure that you know what you are on about. I heard some silly woman protestor/spokesperson on the radio who was patently up for a good bit of vocalism, got a great chance yet in three or four sentences confirmed she hadnt a clue about facts. Twits like her get these sort of important issues into the 'ignore them they are just arseholes' category for the rest of us who are unaffected by their causes anyway. But it is us (the common people of Britain) who force change. Also anyone who wears a mask to a democratic protest should be pulled out immediately and given a kicking by our Police. Thats what they turn up for, plus it gives the police some fun and it keeps attention on the real march and real protest. (can I add people with red hair and dreadlocks? or is that me being a bigotted fascist?)

John HarrisJanuary 30th 2011.

May as well protest against the wind and rain

Simon TJanuary 30th 2011.

Some nice youtube footage of the breakaway group, frustrated by the official TUC event and the very uninspired speeches, making their way back into town as described by Tristan. Here they're in Rusholme walking like Egyptains!

BENNEYJanuary 30th 2011.

I will say what i want and what most people believe Mr Editor or are you part of the socialist workers movement too ?

John HarrisJanuary 30th 2011.

How do you know what most people believe Benney?

DescartesJanuary 30th 2011.

I guess he assumes most people have the same opinion. Hang on, isn't that Communism?

Jonathan Schofield - editorJanuary 30th 2011.

Benney, say whatever you want within reason on this site, just don't swear, don't insult aimlessly. Argue, debate and that's fine. Perhaps calm down before you rant though.

YerwhatJanuary 30th 2011.

Terrorist regime. Anybody watching Egypt? More than 3500 there, the police using more than 'kettling'. Let's be thankful that our protests are still like this, and that our police don't have guns. Let's hope the government doesn't push things too far and that the protesters don't like their class prejudice blind them.

AnonymousJanuary 30th 2011.

I'm sure we'll see guns on the street if our protests get anything like Egypt's. The pepper spraying in London today proves the police are ready to use whatever force 'they' feel is necessary, which seems to whatever toys they haven't been able to get out in the past.

Eddy EngelsJanuary 30th 2011.

Contrary to popular belief the police are not tools of the state but working people who are being shafted as much as the rest of us.
It warms the cockles of the ruling elites black hearts when they see the lower classes fighting amongst themselves. Police officers should be standing side by side with these protesters because as sure is eggs is eggs this government will be coming for them, their jobs, their pay and their pensions at some point.

BENNEYJanuary 30th 2011.

Listen Schofield i'm fed up being told when and when not to speak , along with a large section of the community , dross is NOT a swear word , these students/socialist anarchists seem to think they can do what they like . so i suggest if you want a website that suits YOUR views you advertise the fact.

SAMJanuary 31st 2011.

Well done Benney the editor and many followers of this site are so stuffy and opinionated , unless you agree with them of course , we are all supposed to love the student anarchists! well we dont!

Eddy BarclaysJanuary 31st 2011.

Thats quite a queue for the cashpoint.

H PadelJanuary 31st 2011.

As far as I can see the editor is merely saying don't swear just use reason either way. As for being socialist I'm not sure that's what Confidential is. The article is a peice of reportage from the inside of the kettle with the police view for balance. Good job I say.

H PadelJanuary 31st 2011.

Good pics as well

J E SibberingJanuary 31st 2011.

Picture number 3 has the best banner.

'Down with this sort of thing'

Covers all bases, multi-purpose for any event or protest.

DibigoJanuary 31st 2011.

Nice one Benney. Too right. The numebr of times I've heard 'the editor' say posts must be witty. Why must they be witty? What has wit got to do with this article? Schofield, Chief Inspector of the Wit Police.

Jonathan Schofield - editorJanuary 31st 2011.

Intelligent or witty, or to the point, Dibigo. Not aimless diatribes from the streetcorner idiot, jabbing a finger and saying nothing. And you're right I am Chief Inspector of the Wit Police. Our kettlings are like Mock the Week.

AnonymousJanuary 31st 2011.

My favourite is the 'welcome to Manchester' banner over the town hall with the gate shut and 100 police blocking the entrance.

Still not loving the police, great

tomegranateJanuary 31st 2011.

"fed up being told when and when not to speak"

Says the guy advocating that people voicing their political opinions be water cannoned. Freedom of speech, but only for you, hmm?

AnonymousJanuary 31st 2011.


ADJanuary 31st 2011.

Problem is you get these vocal minorities and they go out making a lot of noise and assume they are a majority and that anyone without their viewpoint or who doesnt want their city center full of protesters is part of a ruling, wealthy,Terrorist/facist/rightwing elite who have to be stoped regardless of the cost. Which couldnt be further from the Truth.
The majority of people are moderate and in the middle ground, they dont like cuts and they dont like higher taxes, so what choice do they have? One thing the silent majority do like is safe streets 150 people running through the city center sounds quite dangerous for ordinary people shopping in the city center. Good on the police for keeping those people safe.

AnonymousJanuary 31st 2011.

OK, so some people believe that the Coalition has no choice but to treble tuition fees, scrap EMA, do away with concessionary bus travel, threaten libraries, privatise forestry land, preside over rising unemployment, especially among the young etc etc - all the time sheltering tax avoiding companies, the bankers and their bonuses, and the City of London. But those of us who think that the likes of Philip Green and other tax sheltering millionaires should pay their taxes same as we do, and who think that the Government should be investing in our young peoples' futures not denying education to the poorest, then what do we do?? Who says we're a minority??? The Coalition have no mandate for their actions. So we take to the streets. And will continue to do so. As it happens, I think we're the vocal minority speaking on behalf of the silent majority. I don't think the majority of the British people support running down the NHS, deterring the young from getting an education, or allowing the richest to benefit from tax loopholes that are closed to the poorest.

Temporary HeroJanuary 31st 2011.

Who to side with. Protesters that are angry because the government let us all down and seems intent on taking more money off us and delivering less.

Or with the government who are letting the bankers take their billion pound bonuses yet again, after they caused a recession.

Surely it's a no brainer AD?

AnonymousJanuary 31st 2011.

I completely agree that we should have the right to protest peacefully. And this is what most seemed to be doing. I wondered therefore why they felt the need to cover their faces with scarves ??

John HarrisJanuary 31st 2011.


So far as I can work out what you're saying about the student/anti-cut demonstrators, I think I agree with you

It's just that my hackles automatically rise whenever I hear anyone claim to speak for the "majority".

Give your own opinion (and I don't mind if it's a sweary one) just don't claim to speak for me or anyone else while you do it.

Previously known as the silent majority...February 1st 2011.

As a teacher in one of Manchester's local colleges I feel quite angered by a lot of comments so far but none more so than those around the idea of the minority of people standing up for silent majority.

I believe this to be true because I used to be one of those people and there are still probably millions out there who do believe in what those people were protesting about on Saturday yet are too apathetic or hungover or busy to find time to do it. I used to be one of them.

I could go in to a whole bug rant but when you see things like the ema cuts resulting in some families not being able to send their kids to college I believe you should protest. Not all families or learners need this and some abuse this but then some companies abuse the tax system...

The fact is these various forms of financial support were designed to aid those who do want to learn and improve education across the board. All this will result in is the dumbing down of our younger generations which I actually think is just what the government want.

They don't want them too smart... they don't want them too know too much...

The anger is down to one thing and one thing only, there is no balance to the governments decisions. Like someone has already stated. The banks and companies have been relatively protected from any hardships (so far) and people's anger is down to this fact.

I think people would be willing to take a hit if they knew it was the same for everyone.

Ironic teacher...February 1st 2011.

And please, no comments about my grammar. I don't teach English.

John TorodeFebruary 1st 2011.

I think the question on everyones lips is, what was the food like?

AndyFebruary 1st 2011.

Nice article. So what did happen to the plouvce allegations of kinfe and razor blade carrying? Are they going the same way as the totally fabricated allegations of anti-semitic chants against Porter.

Dear Mr Benney, if you don't like moderation I can commend a product called VBulletin. This enables you to create your own forum where you can argue your way out of a brown paper bag using as much derogatory language as you wish.

AndyFebruary 1st 2011.

That should of course be "police allegations"

AnonymousFebruary 1st 2011.

Well, as one of the people in the kettle I can tell you what happened.

We were held for around three hours before being let go. I didn't see a single person get searched - Which seems odd if the police chief thought we were carrying weapons.

Sharon SharpeFebruary 1st 2011.

Would it be wrong to ask why everyone's going mad because EMA will be withdrawn? Both my children didn't qualify for EMA just because me and their dad actually got off our bums and worked for a living. Why is that fair to reward those who don't work, just to turn up for college? I am sick of getting the sh*tty end of the stick just for grafting - you don't get 'owt for nowt. My kids had to get a job as well as college while the majority of people at college got EMA.
The tutor for my son said he couldn't understand why my son kept turning up for college when he didn't even get EMA!!! It's called the work ethic - an alien concept methinks.

Sick of easy targetsFebruary 1st 2011.

Look Jim Shoeshine, if you don't like the bankers why do you STILL BANK WITH THEM?

Why don't you just take your costum somewhere else? Oh, you are in debt and can't leave?

Then you should be grateful that someone gave you money you obviously didn't deserve in the first place.

Face the fact: you are a gambler, just like the Irish...

Pay the bankers backFebruary 1st 2011.

Yes, zip it and pay off your debts - the only way to get out of this mess!!

EdTheRedFebruary 5th 2011.

'Intelligence' that people were carrying chefs' knives - but no knives.

Someone carrying razor blades - replacements for their razor, perhaps?

Very different from today's event in Liverpool. Very good natured, plenty of banter with the Police, who handled the peaceful and orderly march perfectly calmly.

Excellent speakers, including Lizzie, a 17 year-old who'd been hoping to study Politics at Uni before the fees were trebled. As she put it herself, her family at times struggles to find £10 to put in the electricity meter.

As for Tony Benn - what a speaker! First time I've heard him speak live; now I know what I've been missing.

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