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Human Rights and Human Wrongs
By 'blackstarliner', urban75 bulletin boards 03.05. 2001

"I think crowds are like gases: the smaller a space you confine them in, the higher the pressure grows." John Wisehammer, Urban 75 message boards

Cold, damp bodies huddled together gazing upwards at a naked protestor perched atop a street lamp. He's small and slight; his clothes in a duffle bag slung over a small hook. On his shaking hairless chest the word HUMAN seems all the more poignant as he rails against the greed culture and points in the direction of FCUK. "F*** them," he shouts.

His oratory rapidly draws a crowd of admiring pink haired Italian girls and all around him the banter is anti-capitalist but good-humoured. I walk up to a line of police obstructing movement towards Oxford Circus.


There's something very alienating, sinister about a cordon of five deep riot-shield-toting police, faces obscured - contrary to police guidelines for protestors - by visors and balaclavas; tooled up to cause damage to the human body.

Human bodies that, at present and throughout six hours imprisonment are remarkably well-behaved.

My friend Graham is specially dressed for the occasion: a peach coloured sari with fright wig and leather jacket. Oh, and a decorative fan with two eye-shaped peepholes through which to watch the world go by.

As we pass through the first wall of officers, one swipes angrily at Graham's fan demanding that he puts it away. "You're not allowed to obscure your face." "It's a ladies' fan," Graham replies laconically, and we move on into the centre of the 4,000 strong melee.


All around us people with joss-sticks, with children, with friends, with banners, the kind you'd find unremarkable at a village fete are wondering why they are confined behind police lines.

A teenage girl asks permission to relieve herself. "I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about that, " the grave-faced officer replies. "But I'm bursting," says.

"Can't you get one of your officers to escort me to the corner of the street at least and I'll come straight back?" The officer looks her coldly in the face. I guess that's a no then.

Later on, Graham generously lifts the swathes of fabric wrapped around his slim frame so that those desperate for relief are able to cover some of their modesty.


Big Brother-esque loudspeakers inform us that we were being contained in the interests of preventing damage to property.

Somehow this is a fitting juxtaposition of the issues of the day. Private capital given a value above human life.

Meanwhile, a woman who has walked into the fray on her usual route from work to home explains calmly to a police officer that she is epileptic and could she be released through the police cordon so as to return home to take her medication?

"I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about that," the grave-faced officer replies.

(This report appeared on

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