“This my dear, is the greatest challenge of being alive: to witness the injustice of this world, and not allow it to consume our light.”
I was in Newcastle on Sunday. I attended a planned peaceful rally outside the Civic Centre, meeting with others to voice our concerns about the introduction of ‘vaccine passports’ and plans to give children as young as 12 years old the covid vaccine, potentially without needing parental consent. I strongly oppose both.
Apparently the previous march in Newcastle had been an upbeat and well attended event and the police had only made their presence known more forcibly towards the end. I was looking forward to getting our message out in the city, to maybe plant a few seeds for the general public to think about and also to feel the strength and friendship between those of us marching, to know we are not alone in our fight for civil liberties and our determination to protect our children.
Like many who attended on Sunday, I am still processing the shocking scenes which unfolded quickly around us – which were 100% brought about by a police operation intent on stopping the march, silencing our voices, trashing our reputation and most alarmingly causing us harm. We have to ask ourselves, why?
Within minutes of us congregating outside the Civic Centre, where everyone was hugging and chatting and waiting to start a walk through the city, we were surrounded by large numbers of police, some on horseback. They kettled us in, pushing us closer and closer together and shouting for us to move behind the Civic Centre (we had met at the front). At first we all stayed still and there were a few shouts of “we do not consent’ followed by a bit of laughter. We were all in good spirits but beginning to feel slightly uneasy by the sudden overwhelming police presence and how they were already shouting at us and trying to move us into a smaller area away from public view. A few men had megaphones and were speaking into them, saying things like, “we stand for freedom” and “ we must protect our children.” Some of us were clapping here and there, to show our support. There was NO aggression shown by anyone in our gathering. None. Then some of our crowd at the front began to move behind the Civic Centre (there was nowhere else to go because we were surrounded) and the police tightened their circle around us and then got their batons out. I started to feel a terrible sense of foreboding as I quickly realised the police were prepared to use force to keep us pushed together out of view.
People had to take one of two routes to get around the building to the back and in the chaos and confusion that followed I managed to leave the main group and find a couple of familiar faces from my local Stand In The Park. We watched from the sidelines as the police presence grew rapidly and they quickly sent in another set of police who ran towards the crowd with their dogs. And then more and more police arrived in vans and lined the streets around us. By this time our crowd (which had been relatively small anyway) was dispersing and splitting and many like me were standing at the sides. This left a core group who were still remaining calm and asking the police to let them through. It is crucial to understand that these people were peaceful and the police were not. The police also hugely outnumbered the people, were dressed in riot gear and had weapons and dogs with them. The people who had gathered together had flags and leaflets and megaphones and music. Can you see the contrast?
What happened afterwards was horrific. I could see and hear some of it unfolding but have since seen video footage and spoken with friends who were also there and have confirmed with me what happened.
The police were surging and grabbing people, hitting people with batons, including a 13 year old girl. She had been talking to the police at the front line, asking them questions alongside her mum. Then there was an order to push back and she asked the police officer, you won’t hurt me will you? He said no, but the police officer next to him heard the order and shoved his baton into her. A 13 year old child!
Families with children had to escape into a pizza shop to take shelter from the police officers on horses who were wielding their batons about aggressively. The police were also seen charging straight into anyone in their way, including a woman with a baby in a pram
Men (peaceful men) were targeted and violently set upon by the police. One man knelt before the police line pleading with the police to think of their own children and grandchildren. He was chased through the streets and pinned to the ground by the police, who THEN set a dog on him who mauled him. There is video footage of this, which is very upsetting to watch but exposes the police brutality. The video leaves the police nowhere to hide.
Everyone who was there on Sunday is completely shocked by what happened. The police set out from the beginning to intimidate and incite violence and all credit to the protesters who remained peaceful throughout. The police were behaving like violent thugs, totally unprovoked.
When I finally left the area with a few others, we came across a young woman still standing outside the Civic Centre holding a tiny cardboard sign saying ‘leave our kids alone’. She was stood staring at a line of police officers with tears rolling down her face. I went to give her a hug and we tried to persuade her to come away with us but she said she would stay and look all the officers in the eye and try and appeal to their humanity. I will never get the image of her out of my mind. Set against the aggression of the masked police line with their shields and batons, she was alone, silent, peaceful and breaking her heart.
A small group of us walked to find a pub garden to sit in and talk through what had happened. We were all shaken and upset. For quite some time, we struggled to hear each other speak over the noise of a low flying police helicopter. More scare tactics? By then the rally had been violently stopped by the police.
I don’t know why the police were so determined to stop us marching. I don’t even know if they were our usual police as many of them at the front did not wear a number. What were the authorities frightened of? What was it about a relatively small, peaceful gathering in Newcastle that triggered such a huge police operation? Who knows. What I do know is this battle to have our voices heard has just turned a significant and very dangerous corner and we must be careful not to let these dark acts bring us down or dampen our resolve to meet violence, oppression and injustice with love and light and peace. These bully tactics will have successfully silenced some people because it is now, in this country and across the world, a brave thing to speak up against our governments and media lies. But I also know these acts on Sunday have united us and made some of us even more determined to speak up and challenge, whatever the cost, because there is a much greater cost to humanity if we stay silent now and give into the bullies. Where will this end if we do?
There are other serious issues being highlighted from the events now too – the man who was mauled by the police dog has been refused the plastic surgery he needs because he doesn’t consent to taking a test or wearing a mask. Our NHS hospital turned him away. And so the injustice and cruelty continues, upheld by those in uniform (police and nurses and doctors) who we have until recent times relied on to protect us but who now hide behind their uniforms and masks, following rules which divide us, injure us and trample our spirits. The state and its agencies are losing control and in many homes and communities in the North East this weekend, they have lost all of our respect.
Please take a read of this open letter to Northumbria Police, sent on behalf of 800 women in the North East, many of whom were there on Sunday and some of whom I am fortunate enough to call my friends – good, honest and brave women, working tirelessly to protect our children.