My Day in the Cells


I was arrested outside Fortnum & Mason after the UK Uncut protest on suspicion of Aggrevated Trespass and Criminal Damage. Below is a summary of my experiences of the arrest and of being held. But before I write it, I want to be clear – I am not asking for sympathy and I am not the victim here. A day and night in a police cell is nothing to the impact of these cuts.

When we were inside Fortnum & Mason, the police made it clear to us: if we left, we would not be arrested. At 6pm or so, we left, together. The police kettled us outside the shop. I was towards the back, and so could not see exactly what was going on, though I could see in front of me people who had left about an hour earlier, having been let out by the police.

It then became clear that they were, one after another, leading people away to be arrested. So, we shared notes on what this was likely to involve, and sang songs to keep people cheery.

Eventually, it was my turn. I was placed in handcuffs, asked on camera for some basic details, then led down a side street by my arresting officers – one of whom later turned out to be a part time officer, full time German language student. I was told why I had been arrested (suspicion of trespass and criminal damage) and was asked a few basic questions & told we were in for a long night as they struggled to find enough places in stations to fit us all. Others who’d been arrested were in front and behind, and so we shared friendly banter in the street while we waited to be led away.

After about 30 minutes or so I was placed in between my two officers in the back of a people carrier, with another arrestee in between their officers in the row in front. I imposed friendly banter on the police as they drove us around London for the next two hours, and, to be fair, most of them responded in kind. I even had a good chat with one of the officers, who reckoned that most in the police force basically agreed with our points, though he didn’t quite accept my arguments about the multiplier effect. Otherwise, he played "Tap Zoo" on his phone, and listed various PCSOs who he and his colleagues thought were bad at their jobs.

Once at Ilford police station, they led us into a room called "the cage" where we met a handful of others who had also been arrested outside Fortnum & Mason’s. I waited there for an hour or two as the others were led off ahead of me to be processed. Again, I maintained friendly banter with the officers, who were by this point, pretty exhausted. Once the others were gone, though, an older policeman told me that being arrested "isn’t fun" (I do realise). "You ever planning on going to America?" "Want to get a job?" (er, I’ve got one I like, thanks) "well, if you want to go down this path…" He clearly didn’t appreciate the chat.

Then, my turn. The Sergeant at the station asked various questions – my home address, my date of birth, where I was born, whether I had a history of mental health problems, etc, etc, etc. They also told me I had a right to a phonecall (though they never offered it to me). They took photos, and all of my stuff, and sent me to a cell to change out of my clothes and into a set of plastic overalls. They then led me to have my fingerprints and palmprints taken, and returned me to my cell with a tray of lasagne.

Throughout the night, we heard the various noises you’d expect in police cells on a Saturday – a guy shouting for hours from down the corridor: "If you fucking hate me so much, why don’t you just fucking kill me"; "why don’t you just put a bullet between my eyes" etc. He was later taken to have a shower and wash "the skidmarks" from his boxers.

Hours later, once the sunlight pushed through the bottle-glass – 2 inch panes held in concrete – someone eventually pulled up the small flap on my door and asked if I wanted breakfast: "yes please".

I spent most of the morning drifting between sleep and boredom and hunger and the gentle headache of a caffeine addict. My breakfast and coffee never arrived. The duty sergeant had allowed me to take, for entertainment, a 1×2 inch copy of ‘my rights in the EU’ that I keep in my wallet. I read this. Twice. I pranced around my cell. I even did sit ups and press ups for the first time in a decade.

Then, eventually, an inspector arrived to interview me. I asked him the time: 2:30. "Can I have some food please," "What, you’ve not had anything all day?". He told me that he had been travelling all round London, and had to secure a decision about what would happen to us but hoped to get me out of there as fast as he could – apart from anything else, so he could finish his shift. My food arrived about half an hour later, along with a coffee. The cup was amusingly emblazoned with "Kenco" – never miss a chance to advertise.

Around 4.30pm, the inspector came and took me out of my cell to be charged. In the middle, the solicitors I had requested rang, and reminded me not to give any comment. I was charged with aggravated trespass, criminal damage charges had been dropped. Our date in court is in early May, and until then, I’ve been banned from the City of Westminster.

A few of the bits of stuff I had arrived with were returned to me – my wallet and some food. But, as they had indicated the previous night, not my phone, not my clothes or shoes. These are likely to be kept for months, I’m told. I was given a pair of plimsolls, and released into the public reception of the police station, where someone else arrested outside Fortnum & Mason’s waited. We took it in turns to ring legal monitors and our families, and to buy food for each other as the other 4 who had been taken to our station dripped out in their plastic jump suits. Once the six of us were out, we set off together, to start our journies home, sharing stories and complaining about our lost phones and our lost clothes and our lost day.

I got back to the house of the friends I’m staying with a couple of hours ago, warmed by supportive messages from Twitterers and friends. It seems that everyone arrested alongside me has been released, and been given the same charge – I do hope everyone is OK.

ADAM RAMSEY writes for Bright Green Scotland. He can be reached at: adamramsay@gmail.com.


Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving