Millbank: Across the great divide

first_imgThe Protestor – Sam BriggsWhen we arrived at Millbank, there was a real carnival atmosphere. Everyone was dancing, and it felt like a party. As we approached the Tory headquarters, I saw NUS marshals telling people to turn back, as there were too many people, and it wasn’t on the route. But others were shouting. “Don’t do what the marshals tell you, this is your event, your protest.” When we got there some of the windows were already cracked, and there was a line of policemen in front of one of them, although they weren’t using their batons. People threw things at the windows, and one group smashed through while the police were occupied by some other protestors. When the whole window pane came out the crowd surged and we all piled inside. It was carnage. Police were guarding the window but we were already inside the bulding. Inside there were so many people, although it sometimes felt like there were more journalists than students. It was about half an hour before any police came inside the building, and when they did, most just stood against a back wall, watching. The atmosphere was still great, people were dancing, and some were on the roof, shooting foam out of fire extinguishers onto the crowd below. Then they threw the fire extinguisher itself, and the atmosphere quickly changed. The entire crowd turned against them, and chanted for them to stop. Everyone was unanimous it they should not have thrown that, including the majority of people who stormed the building. It’s a shame that some people seem to have gone there planning to start violent trouble, although personally I am quite pro-ransacking. A lot of people say that even if we won the battle it will lose us the war. But it was a reflection of frustration against politicians that we voted for, who are now lying going back on their word. I was completely against the violence, and I totally sympathise with the police for doing their job. But the ransacking was different. It will cost a bit to replace the windows but will cost my brother a lot more to go to uni.The Employee – Ben Lindsay I work for an events company called Altitude, which has offices on several floors of Millbank. We could see protestors marching from about 11am, but it didn’t get busy until lunchtime. At the time, we were serving food for a media company launch in our media centre on the ground floor. At about 1.45pm, a fire alarm went off, and we were told to evacuate the building. Already the scene was quite chaotic. Students had entered the main courtyard, brandishing placards and chanting – but their aim was to get inside. About 15 to 20 people tried to push through a police line, and whenever one succeeded, there were cheers. Half an hour later, they had set fire to a banner – this was met with even more cheering. A few hours later the glass had been shattered. Things seemed to be escalating step by step, but no one was stopping the students doing anything.By this point we were back inside the building, working in the kitchens, but keeping an eye on the unfolding situation. It was at about 3.30pm when one chef told us that they had taken out the windows and were occupying the lobby. Once they were in the lobby, they had access to the stairs and could occupy the whole building. One guy in a bandana came into the kitchen and asked how he could get upstairs, but when the chefs turned round he ran away – he must have got scared as a lot of pretty big guys were just staring at him. Some other students started kicking in our windows, but only when our executive chef tried to confront them did the police intervene. Then the other chefs and I ran out. To be honest, I was just quite surprised about how underpoliced it seemed to be. We chatted to a policeman and asked why they weren’t doing more to intervene. He replied that since the G8 protests, they had been instructed not to use force. They were also undermanned, so probably couldn’t have stopped it if they wanted to.I also talked to the students. It seemed as though they were pushing their luck, trying to see how far they could go. There was music and dancing inside the lobby – it looked like a big party. I didn’t see anyone get arrested. At one point I looked out, and there seemed to be hundreds of students to a couple of policemen.At about 4.30pm the whole building was evacuated. We were onto dessert so the event was pretty much over. At first the police were in control, but when the lobby windows went, there was no real way to control what was happening.last_img read more