Why I have a black eye

IssueMay 2009
Feature by Dave Cullen

At around 11pm, despite all the problems with effective decision-making, those of us still at Climate Camp in Bishopsgate orchestrated a controlled retreat. By this point I was right up against the police line on the south end of the camp.
We were walking with our arms linked, being pushed by a line of police using their riot shields. They kept pushing us, but when we got as far as we’d agreed we sat down. Shortly afterwards, they tried pulling people out of the line – they didn’t have batons, but they were punching people, and hitting them with their shields. One guy who was more exposed got hit a lot and was bleeding from the head. We hung onto him, and the line didn’t break.

The line holds

As we were only three or four people deep, they then decided to rush the line. This was clearly an operational decision, as they all did it together. We were sitting down, so we basically got trampled underfoot by them. I don’t know what happened to the woman who had been next to me, but I guess they dragged her away. It was all very chaotic – arms and legs everywhere, and lots of shouting.

As there were loads of people in the way, this tactic didn’t really work for them – I got a police boot in my face, my friend got her glasses smashed, and a thin line of police got to the far side of us – but not enough to tackle our line which still held. But they were now between us and the rest of the camp. This situation was static for quite a while, and fortunately nobody near us was badly hurt. I ended up with a black eye and a fat lip, but was otherwise OK.

Instant feedback

My reaction was to give all the police a proper dressing down. Nothing rude, or aggressive, just telling them exactly what they had done. “You were hitting that guy with your fists, that is completely over the line.” I also called over a legal observer, and had him film the policeman I could definitely identify as having used his fists.

Shortly after this, they began to pull us out one by one. Most of the police who had got inside the lines had left, and we’d also rearranged ourselves. This meant that I was basically on the corner, so I was the first to be grabbed, and I held on for as long as I could and then went completely limp. I was carried by two cops, and laid on the floor.


They told me to get up and I said I’d rather lie there. They began to drag me, and another came and grabbed me by the hair, and yelled in my ear: “I’m going to break your fucking neck.” This hurt enough that I gave up on the limpness, and got up.

The hair-grabber bent my arms behind my hands behind my back and put cuffs on, and pushed them so that they really hurt. I later asked him for his police number, and he refused to give it to me. My left hand still feels odd if I touch it, almost a week later.

I was loaded into a van. After asking where I was going to go, and giving me blood-curdling warnings about coming back (my instructions were basically to leave the van and keep walking), I was released.

Not “bad apples”

People may attempt to portray this behaviour as excesses by some “bad apples”, or those under pressure. This was quite clearly not the case. The decision to literally run over a line of protesters who were sitting down and not harming anyone was an operational decision, as it was undertaken collectively by a line of trained police in unison.

Those in charge are directly responsible for the myriad assaults and illegal behaviour of the police on the day. Far from being an aberration, the attack on Ian Tomlinson was symptomatic of police behaviour on the day.