Well, looks like I left the protests at Bank just in time. All morning on The Guardian's Twitter page, reports were coming through from their reporters of police beating innocent protesters, using tear gas and so on - but these were just isolated cases. Oh yeah, and Russell Brand was there, apparently. When I got there, the police had the (surprisingly large) crowd surrounded and broken up into separate groups which were penned in. You can see the space they've deliberately cleared in the middle to keep the groups separate. They were occasionally launching into the crowd and trailing people off to be arrested on stupid charges. One lady got dragged roughly across the street because she was holding what might possibly have been a spliff. Then, having nicked more people, they decided to start driving through the crowd with their vans at a considerably greater pace than usual. I'm surprised no one was run over. Anyway, having spent all morning acting as provocateurs, the police finally got their excuse to start clobbering people when a couple of protesters smashed in the windows at RBS. It is reported that things are turning quite nasty, with people being pounded with clubs and left covered in their own blood.
I'm still not clear on what the strategy is behind these mini-spectacles. It's great to see thousands of people turn out to protest against capitalism, despite all the media hysteria and off-putting threats from the police. We need far bigger protests in the future, ideally coinciding with a general strike or something. But it seems as if the idea at the moment is to have a carnivalesque parade, wind up in one spot and get penned in only to have the police mess with you if you try to have a drink or some weed. I don't want to be a negative nelly, but that's not reclaiming the streets, it's getting owned by the cops. No danger of getting penned in at the smaller, but equally lively, Stop the War protest starting outside the US embassy. Though the police did occasionally behave belligerently, there was none of the pumped up hysteria of the cops at Bank.