The truth about kettling? It's just boring, even for the police

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The Independent Online

To some, "kettling" is an affront to civil liberties; to others, a protection against violent disorder. To those on Whitehall on Wednesday, it was just cold, boring and frustrating.

In the biting winter air, efforts to break through the police lines didn't last long. Initial fury turned into stoic resignation. And that, of course, is the point. Abandoning their attempts to push through to Downing Street, groups of people began to huddle round small bonfires, burning any papers or pieces of wood they could lay their hands on. Others danced – anything to keep warm.

Police initially adopted a "robust" attitude. They brandished batons in a bid to push the crowds back, even where there was no effort to resist. The front row, which included me, was locked between police shields and the protesters behind. Later, though, they relaxed; some even indulging in jokes with protesters: they didn't want to be there any more than us, they said. "Let us out," some cried, while others cheered the few people who managed to break the lines.

Elsa, a 16-year-old high school student from London, said that, if the police had interacted more readily with the protesters, there would have been less anger directed at them. "If you are shut in like that, it is scary, especially when you can see they have officers on horseback," she told The Independent.

Another, also named Elsa, who was held for seven hours, said that she and her friends tried for a long time to get out but were unsuccessful. "We got bored and started just milling around," she said. She was not alone as thousands huddled together to wait it out.