21 June, 2005
By Arifa Akbar
It was a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon in June 1985 when a convoy of children, peace activists and travellers made their way to an annual free festival on land beside the ancient ruins at Stonehenge.
The line of vehicles of the 550 people going to Wiltshire led to grassland, next to a bean field where many families settled for a picnic. A few hours later, the convoy erupted into full-scale violence as festival-goers clashed with 1,363 police officers in riot gear. The event, which led to 537 arrests – the largest civil arrest since the Second World War at the time – came to be known as the Battle of the Beanfield.
Twenty years later, many who were there still bear the scars of the bloody confrontation.
Andy Worthington, the editor of a book about the event, called The Battle of the Beanfield, said: “Some of the people were psychologically damaged but for the most part, people refused to be cowed and carried on living the lives they believed they were entitled to.”
Some people believe faulty police intelligence led the forces to think the travellers were armed and dangerous.
The protests took place within an area that had been made the subject of an order banning all “trespassory assemblies”.
Plans to stop the convoy near the A303 collapsed when a convoy outrider spotted the roadblock and directed the travellers down a side road, where they encountered a second roadblock. After a first wave of what travellers claimed were violent assaults by the police, in which windscreens were smashed and the occupants dragged from their buses and vans screaming, most of the vehicles broke into a neighbouring field, further derailing the police plan.
Assistant Chief Constable Lionel Grundy, the officer in charge, ordered all travellers to be arrested. The final assault came at 7pm, with police in riot gear.
Many witnessed scenes of horrifying violence, with women dragged out of vans by the hair, and vehicles smashed and set on fire. Those who tried to escape the violence by driving through the bean field were trapped by hundreds of police.
All of those arrested were charged with obstruction of the police and the highway, although most did not result in convictions.
Ian Readhead, Deputy Chief Constable of Wiltshire, who was then an inspector, said the aggression had not been planned. But he added: “With all the benefit of hindsight, the police operation had not been thought through very well.”
Alan Lodge, now 53, was working at the festival as a photographer and a first aid volunteer. He was arrested and held in a police cell for three days. “I was one of a number of people to take civil court action against the police. Nearly six years later at the High Court in Winchester, we won most of our case and were each awarded damages against the police. On the last day, the judge made an order on court costs that, as we were getting legal aid, meant we got nothing.
“We went through the proper legal process to get recompense but while some police officers got promotion, we got nothing. Nobody was told off, there was no inquiry, and 20 years on, some of us remain impoverished by that experience.”
‘I carried the experience for years after’
Sheila Craig, 50, from London, is a former peace activist. She now works as a freelance teaching consultant and trainee counsellor.
“I still see the total brutality of the attack. It was malicious. We had all travelled there in the spirit of non-violence. People were physically and psychologically wounded, and I carried the experience for years after. I still have the scars. But the scars served a purpose and I became more committed to political, social and environmental change.
My son, who was four, was with me. We were having a picnic. We saw dark figures in riot gear charging down the field. It was unreal. We ran into the bus and they said they’d smash it if we didn’t get out. We got out and they arrested us. We were taken to police cells and [later] they took the children, who were screaming. My son was affected by the separation but he is proud to be in the history books. I later joined a squatting community.”
‘Police slammed truncheons into the vehicles’
Earl of Cardigan, landowner at Savernake.
“With my neighbour, John Moore, a barrister, who also owns a motorcycle, we determined to follow it all. I think we both realised the motorcycle helmet would give us some anonymity, which I was keen on. There was a long period of negotiation, with the convoy asserting their right to go through to Stonehenge and the police saying that was not allowed. After a long period of this impasse, the leading vehicle started its engine and drove through the hedge into a field of beans. Vehicles 2, 3 and 4 followed. Police rushed out on foot, from behind their barricades. Clutching drawn truncheons and riot shields, they ran round to the driver’s door of each vehicle, slamming their truncheons into the bodywork to make a deafening noise, and shouting at every driver, ‘get out, get out, hand over your keys, get out’.”
It was like a scene from ‘War of the Worlds’
Kim Sabido, 50, from Birmingham, is a former ITN reporter, now a freelance media consultant.
“I have a vivid picture of the day and its aggression. I was working at ITN. I thought I was going to a gathering of hippies protesting at the gates of a field. When I got there, the police had cut off routes into the field… so I and the crew set off on foot with the camera. We climbed up a tree and over a fence to get into the field. It was like a scene from the War of the Worlds. It was barbaric. I was in a sort of state of shock. I had covered the Falklands War and the hunger strike at Northern Ireland, and I had seen people being shot and beaten. Yet this, in its stark reality, was the most barbaric example of what a so-called civilised state could do to its people. Women with babies were hauled by the hair through smashed windows of their vehicles. The police were banging truncheons on their shields. It was like a war cry.”
12 June, 2005
Tony Thompson, crime correspondent
Sunday June 12, 2005
It looked just like a carnival – at first. The weather was sunny and music played as the 140 vehicles set off towards Stonehenge. The 600 or so Travellers were on their way to attend the annual free festival on squatted land beside the ancient stones.
A few hours later the convoy had been ambushed by more than 1,300 police officers; dozens of Travellers were injured, all but a handful were arrested, and every one of their vehicles was destroyed.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of what has become known as the Battle of the Beanfield. Despite four months’ planning, the police operation to stop the convoy was a shambles. Faulty police intelligence suggested the Travellers were armed with chainsaws, hammers, petrol bombs and even firearms. All this information was false.
Plans to stop the convoy near the A303 collapsed when a convoy outrider spotted the roadblock and directed the travellers down a side road, where they encountered a second roadblock. After a first wave of violent assaults by the police, in which windscreens were smashed and the occupants dragged out screaming, most of the vehicles broke into a neighbouring field, derailing the police plan further.
For the next four hours there was a standoff, while Assistant Chief Constable Lionel Grundy, the officer in charge, insisted all Travellers had to be arrested.
The final assault began at 7pm, by which time all the officers had changed into riot gear. Pregnant women were clubbed with truncheons, as were those holding babies. The journalist Nick Davies, then working for The Observer, saw the violence. ‘They were like flies around rotten meat,’ he wrote, ‘and there was no question of trying to make a lawful arrest. They crawled all over, truncheons flailing, hitting anybody they could reach. It was extremely violent and very sickening.’
When some of those remaining tried to get away, driving their vehicles through the beanfield, the police threw anything they could lay their hands on – fire extinguishers, stones, shields and truncheons – at them in order to bring them to a halt. The empty vehicles were then systematically smashed to pieces and several were set on fire. Seven healthy dogs belonging to the Travellers were put down by officers from the RSPCA. In total, 537 people were arrested – the most arrests to take place on any single day since the Second World War.
All those arrested were charged with obstruction of the police and the highway, but most of the charges were dismissed in the courts. The Travellers’ unexpected saviour was the Earl of Cardigan, whose family owned the forest where the convoy had stayed the night before. Cardigan had tagged along out of interest, and his descriptions of the violence prevented what might otherwise have become a major miscarriage of justice.
Cardigan recalled that in many cases ‘the smashing up of the vehicles and the instructions to ‘Get Out! Get Out! Get Out!’ and hand over your keys were given simultaneously and therefore there was no chance to understand what was being shouted at you, and to comply before your vehicle started disintegrating around you with your windscreen broken in and your side panels beaten by truncheons and so on.’
It remains a mystery why the police felt compelled to use such violence. With evidence that radio logs of conversations between officers on the day have been altered, the full story may never be known.
‘The Battle of the Beanfield remains a black day for British justice and civil liberties,’ says Andy Worthington, whose book on the event is published this week. ‘From the anti-Traveller legislation of the 1986 Public Order Act and the 1994 Criminal Justice Act to the current hysteria surrounding Gypsy and traveller settlements, the repercussions are still being felt.’
· The Battle of the Beanfield, edited by Andy Worthington, is published by Enabler Publications on Wednesday, £12.95.
11 June, 2005
These are a sample of my ‘stills’, taken at events on the Saturday 11th June that I’m contributing to the Sheffield G8 Film.
Sheffield ‘Stop the War’ March [anti-G8] :: The Pictures
Sheffield Peace in the Park [anti-G8] :: The Pictures
Nottingham Indymedia crew making video of Sheffield’s opposition to G8 meetings
Details of the Nottingham Indymedia film progress on the Wiki at:
The main events in Sheffield for the G8 Justice and Home Affairs Ministers, is from the 15th – 17th June.
More to follow …….
8 June, 2005
They save you visiting lots of websites, to see if anythings changed yet. Very useful for Indymedia Newswire and the like.
BBC Advice page: RSS Feed (Really Simple Syndication)
The really simple future of the web
Here is a selection of feedreader, that you can choose from, depending on free or not, what operating system, mac or pc etc.
Google Directory – Feedreaders
The ones I use [both of which are free] are:
RSS Popper – RSS aggregator for Outlook [this can be used within Microsoft Outlook, and its ver convenient]
For those that want to follow it up, these are the Feed addresses I’m watching for Sheffield G8 stuff and other matters ……
BBC News South Yorkshire
Indymedia UK Newswire
Indymedia Sheffield Newswire
by putting these into a feedreader, you thus would have up-to-date info delivered to your inbox.
Hope this helps
8 June, 2005
NEWS RELEASE FROM SOUTH YORKSHIRE POLICE
G8 Policing Plans Inc reference:
Sheffield is hosting the UK Presidency G8 Justice & Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting from 15-17th June, involving ministers from the eight G8 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States of America).
South Yorkshire Police has the responsibility of ensuring not only that this event takes place in safety and security but also that people have the opportunity to protest within the law and that minimum disruption is caused to everyday life.
This balance is a delicate one, involving a huge amount of detailed organisation, intelligence gathering and assessment, discussion with both partners and with representatives of protest groups, meetings with local communities and others who might be affected by the event.
If we are to discharge this responsibility effectively a combination of elements must be in place: the event must take place in an orderly environment and this will necessarily involve temporary changes to routine; those wishing to protest must co-operate with the police; and powers must be available to enable police to deal with specific circumstances that experience tells us are possible.
The main meeting is taking place at the Marriott Hotel, with functions in the city centre on Wednesday 15th and Thursday 16th. As part of the arrangements for the event some limited road closures will occur at specific times, which should cause minimal disruption. Sheffield City Council and South Yorkshire Police have agreed the following road closures, which will mean that there will be no access for vehicles. These are:
Kenwood Road, adjacent to the Marriott Hotel (between the junctions of Rundle Road and Cherry Tree Road), will be closed from 10.00 am Monday 13th June until 6.00 pm Friday 17th June. Local businesses and residents have been contacted individually by South Yorkshire Police and appropriate security arrangements and screenings put in place.
The Winter Garden and Millennium Galleries will host a formal welcome reception on the evening of Wednesday 15th June. South Yorkshire Police will close several roads around the venue; Surrey Street from its junction with Norfolk Street down to Arundel Gate will close from 12 noon (there will also be limited pedestrian access), Norfolk Street will close to vehicles from 4.00pm and Arundel Gate from 5.45pm. Central Library will close at 4.00pm, access to the library from 12 noon will be via the children’s library entrance at the Arundel Gate end of Surrey Street. The Graves Art Gallery will close earlier than normal. The Winter Garden and Millennium Galleries will be closed all day on the 15th June.
The Cutlers’ Hall will host a Gala Dinner in the evening. Again several roads around the venue will close from 4.00pm onwards including Church Street, High Street, Fargate, York Street and several side roads. Supertram will be affected, terminating at Castle Square and Hanover Way for both inward and outbound journeys from 4.00pm.
Other than these limited local restrictions on these specific dates the remainder of the City Centre will operate as normal.
Our approach to dealing with protest is to achieve a balance between facilitating lawful activities (including the right to protest), protecting life and property and minimising disruption.
In terms of powers available to the police to enable this approach to work, the following will apply:
Section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986 enables police to ban marches and processions in specifies areas.
Section 14 of the same Act enables police to place conditions on public assemblies and restrictions on the locations in which they can be held.
Section 14A of the same Act enables the police to deal with protestors trespassing onto property.
We have applied to the Home Office through the city council for powers under Section 13 and 14A to be available to police from 0001 hours on Wednesday June 15th 2005 until 1800 hours on Friday June 17th 2005 and Section 14A from 1800 hours on Monday June 13th to 1800 hours on Friday June 17th 2005.
The Chief Constable will use powers under Section 14 to allow lawful protestors who co-operate with police to have the opportunity to voice their opinions. With this in mind, we are considering two protests in close proximity to the evening venues. We will limit protestor numbers to ensure a balance between the rights of the protestors and those attending the event.
Those acting unlawfully or violently will be firmly dealt with using existing police powers. The Chief Constable has the necessary resources to deal with all issues identified.
G8 MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE, SHEFFIELD
ROAD CLOSURES CITY CENTRE
WINTER GARDEN/MILLENNIUM GALLERIES
Wednesday 15th June 2005.
6am Cones placed on Surrey Street and Norfolk Street No parking and supervised deliveries 8am Enforcement of parking restriction 12 midday Restrictions imposed upon access to Tudor Square 4pm Norfolk Street closed to vehicles 5.45pm Arundel Gate closed to vehicles and pedestrian access restricted to: · Arundel Gate Car Park (access via Pond Street only) · Odeon Cinema · Sheffield Hallam University (access from Pond Street only) · Novotel limited access for guests only
Thursday 16th June 2005
6am Cones placed on St James Street, St James Row and Vicar Lane. No parking. 4pm Restricted access to Cathedral Square from St James Row, East Parade, Church Street and High Street 4pm Road Closures · Church Street junction with Leopold Street · High Street junction with Arundel Gate · Vicar Lane junction with Campo Lane · St James Row · East Parade · York Street
4pm Supertram will terminate at Castle Square and Upper Hanover Street tram stops for both inward and outward journeys. Buses will be re-routed from High Street and Church Street 5.45pm Pedestrian access restricted
· Fargate junction with Exchange Gateway · High Street junction with George Street · Leopold Street junction with Orchard Street · Norfolk Street junction with Chapel Walk
In March 2005, the Environment Ministers met in Derby, for and earlier junket in the G8 series of meetings. As we prepare for events in Sheffield, I thought it pertinent to remind all of the imagery from that event, and what we can expect for the future:
Derby Piccys Pt1 G8 Environment ministers Meeting: http://indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/03/306935.html
Derby Piccys Pt2 G8 Environment ministers Meeting: http://indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/03/306956.html
Yorkshire Post Article
Protests row as summit comes to city : Police accused of crackdown on marches
POLICE responsible for security at next week’s G8 summit meetings in Yorkshire are facing growing criticism from protesters who claim they will be kept away from the participants.
07 June 2005
The Justice and Home Affairs ministers from the G8 countries are meeting in Sheffield from Wednesday to Friday next week, June 15-17.
The series of meetings has attracted attention from protesters who want to demonstrate against the G8 countries’ support for the war in Iraq.
But with little more than a week to go before the start of the summit, they are still waiting for South Yorkshire Police to announce what restrictions will be in place.
However, it is widely anticipated that the protesters will be kept to an area in Devonshire Green when the visiting ministers are in the city centre.
Devonshire Green is a substantial distance from the venues being used to host events in the city centre.
For years campaigners have enjoyed a positive relationship with South Yorkshire Police over the way demonstrations are organised and marshalled.
Members of Sheffield Stop the War Coalition are planning to demonstrate during the summit and chairman Lucinda Wakefield said: “Sheffield Stop the War Coalition has organised demonstrations of thousands of people – in fact the biggest protests of the last few years. On not one of those occasions has anyone come to any harm.”
A demonstration in advance of the summit will take place in the city centre on Saturday, supported by organisations including Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Sheffield Muslim Association of Britain, Sheffield Trades Council, Stop Political Terror, Sheffield CND, Sheffield Respect and Sheffield Green Party.
Organisers hope that event will attract support of thousands of people and a route has been agreed with police, the coalition providing its own stewards.
Ms Wakefield said: “It is a great shame, therefore, that we still have no clear agreement from South Yorkshire Police for our planned protests on Wednesday at the Winter Gardens and Thursday at Cutler’s Hall..
“We want to make our voices heard to the G8 ministers, we would like to be seen by them.”
She added: “In a city where even the council voted against the war in Iraq we consider it of vital importance that we raise our voices to some of the ministers concerned.
“It is not good enough for us to be penned in on Devonshire Green where they cannot hear us. It would be an abuse of our civil liberties, and a great shame in a city that has a proud record of standing up for peace and justice.
“We are currently seeking legal advice on this possible ban, which does not even seem to concur with the law. We shall not be silenced.”
Sheffield’s Liberal Democrats are also concerned about the way the G8 protests are being handled.
The city council’s Liberal Democrat leader Paul Scriven. said: “Many streets in the city centre including Fargate will be closed off to the public. It is already public knowledge that protesters will be penned into an enclosure in Devonshire Green and not allowed to march, with exclusion zones operating in the city centre.
“The Liberal Democrats believe that people have a right to protest and should not be penned into a small area a considerable distance away from the actual event. They also believe that people should be able to move around the city centre lawfully with as little disruption as possible.
“We are worried about civil liberties issues and that the overly restrictive controls have the potential to cause unnecessary unrest amongst protesters and unnecessary inconvenience to local people,” he added.
South Yorkshire Police are planning to give precise details of the powers they will use shortly. A spokeswoman insisted the force would only “seek those powers that are considered appropriate for the summit in Sheffield”.
7 June, 2005
Press Release 06/06/2005
Wiltshire Police are encouraged by the success of the operation to prevent raves being set up in the county, particularly in Savernake Forest, and intend to continue gathering intelligence to identify other likely targets throughout the summer. Inspector Jerry Dawson, who is based in Marlborough confirms it is still the intention to vigorously enforce current legislation and take positive action.
Operation Acoustic gathered information from a wide range of sources, including the internet and local residents. It was clear that an attempt to hold a rave in Savernake Forest was planned for the bank holiday week-end at the end of May but news of Wiltshire’s stance persuaded organisers to look elsewhere. The Police press release, carried by the BBC Wiltshire website, was copied onto several rave forum websites and the chatroom content clearly showed plans were being changed.
A couple of links stated that Savernake was an ideal location for a party and it was such a shame the venue had to be changed due to “Old Bill crawling all over the forest”. In the event a large event was staged in Wales.
The first part of the operation in Wiltshire was very successful as a smaller rave was also stopped during the setting up stage by resources at Walkers Hill in Pewsey on Saturday 28th May.
The second part of the operation, concerning the 20th Anniversary of Beanfield, had been widely advertised on the internet – but so was the police planned operation against it. Many links to the police press release were posted on websites; however, up to twenty vehicles containing New Age Travellers turned up at Postern Hill, Savernake during the day and were turned away. A makeshift sign was placed alongside the A346 road by individuals who attempted to direct other persons to Postern Hill Picnic Site in Savernake. This sign was removed by Police.
At around 7.00 pm on the 31st of May 2005 a barrier was broken at Hat Gate, Savernake and a large log that was blocking the entrance to the picnic site was dragged out of the way by a heavy vehicle . Eight large vehicles and their numerous occupants then began to set up a party with loud music but Operation Acoustic officers on duty closed it down and moved them on before they could enter the picnic site and become established.
Comments posted on the internet after the week-end have confirmed that the actions by Wiltshire Police prevented a large rave from occurring over the bank holiday week-end and thwarted the plans of many groups which would have resulted in misery for local residents and criminal damage to the area. Inspector Jerry Dawson said:
‘Operation Acoustic will continue to monitor activities throughout the summer and whatever action is necessary will be taken to ensure such unwelcome anti-social behaviour does not take place within the county.’
5 June, 2005
and about time too
check out BBC2 tonight at 10pm
Two contemporary issues that frustrate liberals are the prevalence of fast-food outlets and the continuing outrage of the British libel laws, which stack the odds in favour of the plaintiff, especially when he, she or it is powerful.
Both these preoccupations are neatly brought together in McLibel, a hilarious and engrossing account of the seven years in which McDonald’s attempted to extract damages from two penniless London activists.
Great moments in the film include the appearance of McDonald’s executives, defending their fare and the bizarre transformation of the protagonists from neophytes into seasoned cross-examiners. The dramatic courtroom reconstructions were filmed by Ken Loach, and are very funny. Call me biased, but I learnt more from this film (and laughed much more) than I did in Super Size Me
made by http://www.spannerfilms.net/?lid=161
and of course M c S P O T L I G H T http://www.mcspotlight.org
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