As previously recounted on this blog, RampART social centre was a squatted activist space in East London.
The RampART collective were active during the G20 protests in London in 2009, the building serving as an information point meeting spaces and crashpad for people coming from out of town to protest against the G20.
On 2nd April, the day after the main demo/kettling/mini-riot in the City of London, Rampart was raided by police. This was generally done whenever there was a large-scale protest: social centres, squats and activist meeting places were raided, harassed, kept under surveillance. Though especially true of protests associated with the 21st century anti-capitalist campaigns against the ruling class ‘summit meetings’, if you look back in history, police have always targeted such spaces, going back to Reclaim the Streets, Stop the City, the anarchist and socialist clubs of the late nineteenth century… as far even as the Rotunda in the 1830s…
During the raid, despite the occupants offering to cooperate with their search, the police fired a taser, assaulted five to six people, delivering punches and kicks to the head, throwing people down the stairs and into walls.
It was suspected that they didn’t have a proper warrant for the raid (they left the ramparters with a document that appeared incomplete.
This raid coincided with a very similar one on the Earl Street anti-G20 convergence space, which happened at almost the exactly the same time, with similar tactics and police violence.
A short timeline of the raid:
Police started searching anyone entering or leaving RampART under section 60.
A member of the RampART collective was searched on his way into the building and refused to give details. He was told repeatedly that he would be arrested if he didn’t give them the information.
We could see that the police were escalating their presence (more of them, different uniforms, forming lines), and so one of us went outside to confer with them and to be amenable to their interest in Rampart. He told them that if they produced a warrant we would let them in through the front door, but he was ignored.
The police raided the building, smashing in the door from the roof and the front door on the ground floor. We were raided by riot police (wearing black, padded uniforms, balaclavas, helmets and carrying riot shields and taser guns). The total police force at RampART seemed to be about 40-60 men and women.
The riot cops smashed the door and rushed in. Those of us in the hallway and stairs put up our hands and called out that we were not resisting. Alan was pushed down the stairs, (not far as he was only a few steps up) and then pushed to the wall before the hall doorway, with hands still up and saying “no one is resisting”. He then witnessed a tall young guy with long hair pushed hard down the stairs from the top of the halfway flight. He hit his head quite hard on the hardboard that was leaning against the wall adjacent to the front doorway. Alan called out for the police to take it easy (the young guy had given no resistance whatsoever). The riot cop in front of Alan then whacked him on head with his fist, not particularly hard, but hard enough to knock his spectacles off his head. He told the police officer that he would comply, that no one was resisting here. The riot cop on his other side then tried to knee him in the groin twice, but did not succeed, whilst Alan repeated the thing about non-resistance and his glasses. Still standing there, the riot cop to his left grabbed the back of Alan’s head and forced it forward, whilst the one in front tried to knee him in the face, all still with his right arm extended upwards holding his glasses.
The riot cop holding the back of his head then threw Alan through the main hall doorway and then again down onto the ground. Another guy with dreads who was standing in the main hall was thrown to the ground right next to Alan. Alan kept asking the riot cop arresting him to take his glasses to put them somewhere safe, but he seemed a bit confused by his behaviour and instead kneeled on his upper back and then the back of his neck. He lost grip of his glasses and was cuffed.
Police kicked in the door to Ben’s room and fired a taser gun at him. He dove out of the way. Two cops jumped on him, punched him in the face, kneed him in the back and kicked in the back of his head twice, all the while constantly shouting and screaming that he was “an anarchist cunt.” He was taken to the next door room where there were other people. An officer from the oracle unit num “hf 915” looked at them all and singled Ben out for arrest for criminal violence and damage.
There were seven people on the second floor, five in one room and two others in another room. The room with five people was near the stairs to the roof. People were seated around a table having coffee. The police smashed down the door and a cop stormed in pointing a taser gun at us and screaming “get down!”, “get down!” Peter witnessed a cop punch Paolo on the left side of his face.
G asked “What is this for?” A police officer replied “For yesterday” (April 1 G20 protests) and then explained we were not under arrest but just detained. D was told that they were looking for “people involved in the incidents at Bishopsgate the day before” and that they had “intelligence” that they were in the building in Rampart Street.
At one point, D heard a cop radio that there were two women in the room. One female officer turned up and attended to one of the women. The other woman was guarded by a man but later searched by the woman.
Everyone was hand cuffed with a mix of plastic strap cuffs and actual handcuffs. The police asked for our details. We were detained for about 1.5 hours. It was scary and humiliating. The police “banter” throughout was derogatory. At one point, D caught snatches of a conversation in which they were implying that they were pleased that a demonstrator had died during the protests the previous day. We were filmed and photographed front and back, with attention to our footwear.
Police leave RampART after arresting three to four people, all of whom were released 10-12 hours afterwards. Police confiscated their clothes. It appears as though no charges were laid as a result of this raid.
RampART was evicted later that year.
Here’s an account of policing of the G20