August 21, 2005 by cosmoakacitizensmith
the riot cop seems polite, like he is wanting to make conversation. i am about a hundred yards down from the field i was nicked in. it is only about 10 am and it is still grey and cold.
“i’m not sure i want to answer that question,” i say.
“makes no difference to me,” he says. “i’m off duty after this.”
by “this,” he means the whole stupid nonsense his superiors have decide to put us through. i am standing in line with about fifteen protestors, each of us flanked by a riot cop on one side and a regular cop on the other. we are all being taken to a van, photographed, charged and locked up in meatwagons one at a time. everybody, coppers and protestors alike, is tired, hungry and pissed off.
the riot cop i’m talking to seems like a laugh, but the one in front of me is just a silly prick. he is talking to the protestor next to him, but the protester is giving nothing away. “no need to be like that, ” says the cop. “i’m just trying to make coversation.”
he isn’t. he is being a snooping, objectionable little prick. so i decide to have some fun.
“so what’s the name of that castle behind us?” i say.
“erm, not sure, ” says the copper up ahead.
“any idea?” i ask the coppers near me.
“ermm…i think it’s glamis castle,” one of them replies.
“oh, really? i say, “you get to see all the sites doing this protesting lark.”
“i’m sure you’ll see some sites today, son” the copper in front says narrowing his eyes.
“yes, i’m sure i will!” i say, smiling.
after the joys of being charged and photographed flanked by the two coppers, i am slung in the back of the van. inside are two women from the queer block, one english and one finnish, and a young, disingenuous-looking israeli guy. what a motely crew of dangerous, international terrorists. hope they shoot us all.
i say the back of the van, but in reality it is a small cupboard in the back of a van. it is cramped and airless inside, despite a vent up above us. we all have been handcuffed behind our backs with the kind of cuffs that get tighter and tighter the more u struggle. so even if u feel uncomfortable and shift your hands about, the problem gets worse. the cuffs are lacerating my hands and they are starting to feel numb.
after a while we are taken to what turns out to be stirling police station. they park us round the back and keep us there for what seems an age.
inside, we all try to have a laugh but deep down we’re all scared and exhausted. the finnish girl seems worst, but the atmosphere is very supportive. none of us can figure why they are not taking us inside.
there is some laughter as we all have to ask each other if it is ok to shift around because it is so cramped. the english girl says “ok, i think all personal space issues can go out the window under the circumstances,” and we all crack up. but between the laughter, we all space out in our own little worlds. after a while, there is more space than laughter. like i say, we are tired. and things are getting a bit scarey.
and why the hell are they keeping us in the van?
we can hear the coppers outside talking and laughing. we all agree this is ridiculous. i explain to everyone in the van that i have asthma and that maybe i should get them to open the door so i can use my inhaler. we all agree that would be a good course of action.
so i bash my head against the door to attract their attention. nothing happens. i do it again and again but to no avail.
holy shit, this is getting serious.
so we talk again. i ask the israeli guy about what happens when u get nicked on demos in israel. he explains that compared to this, he has been treated a lot better.
in israel, where there’s a full-on civil war? the cops treat people better than in the uk where we’ve had sixty years of peace? so u learn something new everyday!
at this point the english girl suggests that we try again to get them to open the doors. in all honesty i am getting a bit breathless, so she bangs her head on the door and shouts out “this man has heath problems, he needs his medication!”
sure enough, at the sound of a woman’s voice, the two pigs outside open the door. they allow me my inhaler, then chuck me back in the van and lock the door again.
back to square one.
but i think the prospect of my imminent demise speeds things up and after about forty-five minutes in total in the van, we are let out one by one.
it turns out we are lucky. i find out later that some people were kept in vans for hours at a time.
inside i am taken into a room with the two pigs who were guarding the van earlier and a woman behind a desk starts asking me all these questions and taking all my stuff that they find in my pockets.
since my arrest i have been behaving in the most matter of fact way i can. it helps me to give the impression i am not intimidated and i think they’re not sure what to make of it. the woman behind the desk looks impressed when i tell her i am a lecturer at a college. not yr average criminal here, mate.
meanwhile both the pigs in the room put on rubber surgical gloves. one of the pigs, an older guy with grey hair, keeps pulling them up and letting them slap on this hands, as if to give the impression that he is going to strip search me and go searching right up my backside at any moment.
still i keep up the matter of fact bullshit. the pig has a smug little grin on his face. playing games like that at his age, what an impotent little fuck he is.
having relieved me of my shoelaces to ensure i don’t hang myself, (ooo how they flatter themselves), i am finally led to a cell. it has made of concrete and painted dark red with one toilet at the side that has no flusher. i find out later that u have to summon a guard in order for them to flush it for u, using a handle outside the door.
oh well, it’s been compost toilets all week. i guess this is what they call moving up in the world.
and finally i settle in to something i find to my joy is one of the few things i can do without any problem in the nick: sleep.
and boy do i do just that.
a knock at my cell door.
i have no idea what time of day or night it is or how long i have been there. some coppers at the door are telling me that CID is here and i have to answer their questions.
what the hell…..?
i am led into a room with two stern-looking suits who sit me down. i am bewildered, tired and confused. “i want a lawyer,” i explain.
they tell me i can’t have one. hang on a minute, this isn’t what happens in the bill. scottish law is not like english law, they tell me.
at a stroke i curse myself for not checking out more about scottish law before i went on this protest. how could i be so stupid?
i realise i am feeling like someone out of a kafka story. i have no idea what is going on, how long i am going to be held and what is going to happen to me.
and it’s all my own fault!
it soon becomes apparent that i am under no obligation to answer their questions. but i can hear myself babbling on to them. i realise i have been concocting explanations about my behaviour in my head for no reason while i was in the cell, and right now they are all dribbling out my mouth like i have no control over them.
i find out later that unlike in england, there is no police and criminal evidence act in scotland, which means what they were doing was perfectly legal.
rule one next protest: find out about the law before u go!!!!
i manage to get out before i started confessing to all of jack the ripper’s killings amd masterminding the 9/11 attacks.
back to the cell. and despite my ordeal, back to what i seem to do best in this situation: sleep.
another knock at my cell door. it is later that night, i am sure, but again i have no idea of the time and no idea of what is going on.
i am told i am going to be moved along with some other prisoners to a holding station in falkirk.
i need to look lively. again i am knackered, even more confused and even more bewildered. this is just crazy.
franz kafka, u knows it, clart!
before i lnow it i am led out of the back of the police station and into the back of a van with a load of other male protestors who got nicked that day. it is the dead of night outside.
there is the israeli guy from before, a couple of polish guys and an australian. everyone is babbling away in the language most familiar to them. it is almost a relief just to be able to talk to friendly faces.
this time, we really are in the back of a van. but there is a small cubicle in the corner and suddenly the back door opens and a young man is stuck in the cubicle.
“how long till we go?” he asks in what appears to be a french accent.
“two minutes,” comes the reply.
of course well over two minutes go by and we are still in the stationary van. u get used to this constant wearing down in a funny way.
a bang comes from the little cubicle containing the french guy. “you said two minutes!” he shouts.
“well i was wrong,” came the voice of a pig outside the van.
“then u are fucking liars!” shouts the french guy and starts banging his head on the walls of the cubicle. this guy is taking no shit.
the rest of us in the van get talking to him. he is only 17 and it appears he is facing quite a serious charge. full respect to him and all the people who have come over here to protest and who put themselves in the firing line like this. if it was me in a foreign country with an unfamiliar language i think i would have well and truly cracked by now.
finally we are driven to falkirk and of course kept waiting for ages in the back of the van. then we are taken in and processed and put in three to a cell. i am with the israeli guy again, and one of the polish guys. we talk for a while, but again we find ourselves staring into space quite a lot as the exhaustion creeps in.
we are taken out one at a time and questioned by CID but by this time i am familiar with the routine so i say very little. i ask one of them what is going to happen to me as i have no idea of the law here. he explains that i will go to a magistrate’s court in the morning and should be let out after that, unless i break my bail conditions.
so that clears that up a bit, but i am so messed up in the head i’m not sure what i believe anymore.
back in the cells, the three of us fall asleep with the light in the cell shining down relentlessly on us.
it is only later that we find out we could have had it turned off.