RTS, Birmingham, Aug ’96
Around five hundred people turned up for the Birmingham Street Party on Saturday 17th August. Party goers carrying banners, drums and other musical instruments assembled in a park near the venue.
A Critical Mass bike ride set off and the eighty or so cyclists headed for a major road junction that that they had been led to believe that the police thought was the venue for the party. The people on foot left the park by another gate and met up with the van that was carrying the sound system, surrounding it to prevent it being impounded. At first the police tried to clear a path through the crowd for it, telling the driver ‘not to worry, we’ll get you through.’ Once the police realised what was in the vehicle they tried to stop it going any further by letting it’s tyres down and driving police vans in front of it.
By this time the cyclists had returned from their diversionary ride and had occupied the venue. Eventually, after much pushing and shoving and negotiation, the sound system was set up and the party got going.
It appears the police had information that the ‘London Anarchists’ had infiltrated the party and were planning to dig up the road! Everything that came near the road was checked and one arrest was made for conspiracy to cause criminal damage, then, having stopped the threat to the road the police relaxed a little. As there was never any intention of digging up the road the police found it difficult to find any evidence and the charge was dropped.
At the end most of the party people moved off but about ten people were arrested. The police searched the house of the person arrested for conspiracy to cause criminal damage and having completed their search returned to the bottom floor by lift. It appears that some seven or eight police officers squashed in the lift, overloading it, and thus trapped themselves inside. To escape they had to force the doors open from the inside. The engineers who came to repair it said that this was not the first time that they had had to repair lifts damaged by the police in this way. The local residents group, backed by a letter from a solicitor, are pressing the council to send the bill to West Midlands Police.