Britain's Consort Demo
from No Compromise Issue 7
 

By Martin Balluch

There were approximately 500 loud, angry, compassionate people prepared for anything at the Consort Beagle Breeder's Facility and this is a force to reckon with!

Protesters gathered outside the premises. There were a number of police present and many more officers hiding around the area and inside the compound. Protesters waited until the last ones had arrived and then, suddenly, moved off, down a track, and around to the back of the beagle breeding place. There, police had put up a fence with barbed wire, and some 15 police officers--some with dogs--tried to keep off the crowd. About 100 yards behind the police was the actual breeding place which was again surrounded by a wall with razor wire all around.

Suddenly, without much build-up of emotion, people stormed past the police to the razor-wired wall and fence. Some tried to climb it (and a few managed with success), but most just got stuck outside. Two guys were able to enter the compound and take one beagle dog and flee up onto the roof of one of the buildings inside. By this time, people were seriously tearing on the fences outside, and the riot police moved in. The riot police surrounded the building with the two men and the dog visible on the roof.

It was at this point, when all the people in the crowd saw the rescued dog and the two men surrounded by police and barbed razor wire, that the protesters showed their true strength of feeling: they tried with all means to get into the area to free the men and the dog.

First, some of the fencing on one side was torn down and people managed to get far enough inside to wreck two sheds and destroy everything inside them, dragging out things and setting them on fire. This included a small tractor. However, even though they were showered with rocks, riot police were able to stop the protesters from moving further inside the area.

Next, some protesters further down from the torn-down fencing managed to overcome the barrier by putting bits of an asbestos roof over the razor wire fence. But, again, riot police were able to beat people back.

One has to imagine the scenario at this stage: There are these two masked liberationists on the roof with the beagle dog. The house on which they are standing is surrounded by maybe 50 riot police in full gear, with helmets, shields, batons, the lot. Then there are some more 50 or so police buzzing around inside, many police crews filming everything, and a helicopter above the scene, also filming I'm sure. Around all those police officers is a heavily-protected fence with a rock wall on some parts and razor wire and rolls fixed over it all the way. And all this is surrounded and besieged by an angry crowd of protesters, attacking from all sides, determined to get those men and the dog out.

Next, a large crowd of protesters attacked again from the entrance gate side, this time smashing up the windows of the cars of employees as well as the manager of the place in the car park. Protesters were not aware of one arrest that had been made earlier, with the arrestee sitting in the police van in this very car park. As I shared a police cell with him in the following night, he told me that he felt all those rocks raining onto them, but police had pushed him firmly to the ground so that he couldn't show himself to protesters. Otherwise he might well have been de-arrested.

For those not used to such protests, in order to give you a full picture, I would like to add that most protesters were totally masked up. It was not just one or two activists throwing rocks--it was really everyone. And the people on megaphones shouted, "Go on! Do it! Don't be afraid! Smash the bastards!" It was mayhem. Also, protesters continually changed clothes with each other so that no particular protester could be pointed out. Protesters were constantly on the alert against police snatch squads and effectively de-arrested immediately when such a squad tried their luck.

Then some protesters managed to break through the razor wire by dragging a bath tub to the fence, tearing the fence down, and putting this tub over it. So, within minutes, hundreds of protesters entered the inner area, surrounding the house with the two men and the dog on top. A line of police posed little resistance, and soon hundreds of people reached the side of the house, smashing up the garden fence and invading the front area. Police with batons stormed in from one side and riot police from the other, but protesters resisted. A wall was broken down and split into handily-sized rocks used as missiles. Another fire was started in the garage and sheds just beside the house.

About five protesters were cut off by police inside the garden, as the police had managed by then to move protesters slightly backwards. At this stage the two men appeared on the roof just above protesters and lowered the beagle dog straight into the arms of the protesters. One of the men followed. I don't know what happened to the other. The protesters had managed to resist riot police attacks by then, long enough so that one of the guys from the roof and the dog were safely hidden in the crowd.

Afterwards, half the protesters moved off, broke through police lines, and managed to get the beagle safely out of the immediate area. About 40 people made off with the beagle. Unfortunately, they were spotted by two over-enthusiastic police officers, one with a police dog, who gave chase. Also, the police helicopter was alerted and stayed above those protesters. At this stage, all of the 40 protesters took their jackets off and rolled them up and held them in front of their hands as if they were holding a dog and made off in different direction. This confused police and the two officers chased different people in different directions. However, the people were not running fast enough, so more and more of those running off were caught and checked, and more and more police officers were getting involved in the chase, being drafted in from the roads.

After a two-mile chase, the people with the beagle dog were discovered. The police dog was set on the people and two were severely bitten. Thirteen protesters then piled together onto a heap, hiding and protecting the beagle with their bodies. More and more police officers were drafted in and eventually moved in and beat the 13 away and took the dog. All 13 were arrested under suspicion of theft.

In the meantime, protesters continued to fight police in the area of the beagle breeding farm. It was then that CS gas was used, and many protesters ended up requiring hospital treatment. Also, the road was blockaded in protest for a while, using equipment taken from a nearby road building site. Later on in the day, three employees and the manager of the beagle breeder had home visits and got their houses thoroughly smashed up.

Altogether 24 people got arrested. One was immediately released as the arresting officer could not be found. The reasons for the arrest for the remaining 23 varied from theft to burglary, criminal damage, and assault. As far as I know, no one was charged and everyone was released during the same night and the early hours of the next morning.

I was arrested under suspicion of burglary and theft. Just prior to my arrest, I was attacked by a police dog and severely bitten. The dog-handling police officer encouraged the dog all the way through this attack and praised him/her afterwards. I had to remove the dog by stuffing my sweatshirt into his/her mouth and removing him/her manually.

On the drive to the police station, I had the beagle dog on my lap while I was handcuffed which made it impossible to comfort the poor soul in the way she needed. The dog was a young female and pregnant. Later during the night she was retrieved by an unknown man from the police station. Protesters who besieged the police station managed to initially drive him off, but, eventually, with a heavy police escort, the dog was removed. Most likely, she is dead by now.

Apart from the sad end for the beagle, every second of this demo was worth it. It was such an empowering experience and show of what 500 compassionate people with bare hands can do against an army of well-armoured riot police with batons, CS gas, and barbed razor wire.

I am humbled by the selfless determination those protesters showed. There was no fear--there was just simply no fear.