About Ollie Brock
Ollie Brock is a Translator in Residence at the Free Word Centre in London, and a front-page editor at openDemocracy.
Articles by Ollie Brock
This week's guest editors
Crisis in Ukraine
Ollie Brock (London, Voices from the Crowd): Walking over London Bridge at 11 a.m. yesterday, you could have been forgiven for thinking the hype around the G20 protests had been excessive: it was one part protesters, one part police and two parts media. All groups were represented: anti-capitalists, environmental campaigners, the odd laid-off banker. And they all needed time to co-ordinate. One word to sum up the feeling so far? "Confusion..." said one protester.
Sure enough though, turning onto King William Street heading towards Bank produced the expected crowd, as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse assembled outside the Bank of England. Faced with the choice of being trapped in a police ‘kettle' and wandering free, Voices from the Crowd chose the latter and went in search of some of the more creative statements on show.
The European Clown Bank held firm their corner on Threadneedle Street. Managers of ‘hedgehog funds', they offer wooden batons in an honest ‘stick exchange', and money made of lycra - "it can be stretched out to the end of the month." Clown banker Johann explained the true meaning of E = MC2: Money times Clowns in the Square mile leads to an Emergency...
On the other side of the cordon, police exchanged their bobby hats for riot gear, and VFTC turned a corner. Cordite smoke gave way to smells of cannabis and patchouli: the Climate Camp's occupation of Bishopsgate was in full swing. In stead of riot shields it was flapjacks, brownies, and peaceful if nebulous ideas. Here the riot police van was surrounded not by angry protesters taunting the officers, but a few teenagers using a tent pole to try and free their stranded beach ball from the van's protective grille.
The most active pocket here was the Golden Block: a spontaneous dance group clad in all shades of yellow. Having planned to join one of the marches, the Block decided in the end that they were enjoying themselves where they were, and stayed in one spot, swinging the day away. Dancer Emanuel explained the ethos: "Before making changes you have to find peace in yourself. Once you have found your own happiness, you can start to spread it to others."
Blood on the shoulders of police jackets and surging throngs outside the Bank of England told another story - but outside the noisy nuclei of the protests, positive feelings reigned. A single word to sum up the protesters' feelings was still a lot to ask, but one green campaigner nearly managed it: "Optimistic... weirdly." Not the Financial Times, a satirical newspaper born this week, provided much of the April Fools fun. A privately funded publication that hit a circulation of 25,000 today, it welcomes any contributions: http://ft2020.com.
So what face did the protesters give to Britain for its worldwide performance? Reports today of a death at the protests will certainly do it no good, though reading on one sees that the death has been declared as being of natural causes. As for the solitary window break at the RBS building, this is a small focal point for a media that was as ready for a punch-up as the Met. It seems matters as broad as those discussed in the G20 talks will bring out the full spectrum of protesters and protesting styles, from the anarchist Black Block to abundant free cake. We can only hope that, amid the myriad images of truncheons and the odd bleeding head, the world saw some of the clowns too.
Voices from the Crowd exists to create individual and crowd portraits at protests and public political events. It is also, simply, a way of experiencing an event you couldn't make. This is a young project, and we invite your submissions! Write to Oliver Lamford or Ollie Brock at voicesfromthecrowd [at] gmail.com with your idea. We look forward to hearing from you...