Why a library assistant needs protective clothing

Danny Penman meets one of the army of genteel protesters taking to the streets
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The Independent Online
Ann Baker-Smith, a 57-year-old library assistant, has had a rude awakening to street politics since she joined the growing army of middle-class campaigners trying to stop the export of live animals through Shoreham.

Mrs Baker-Smith has been on the front line of the blockade of Shoreham, in West Sussex, and yesterday angrily attacked police tactics used to stop demonstrators preventing the nightly convoys of trucks loaded with animals for slaughter.

She said she was attacked by a policeman last Tuesday during a demonstration against the trade. She claims that during a sit-down protest to halt a convoy of lorries last week, policemen were wandering between the demonstrators and treading on their fingers and toes.

"I asked the policeman for his identity number and he grabbed me by my hair and threw me across the road. But they all had their identity numbers blacked out to stop us reporting them."

Mrs Baker-Smith then went back into the crowd to try and find her daughter. "But he got me again and then somebody else was thrown on top of me."

Mrs Baker-Smith said she empathised with the younger protesters who, in the past, have been the bulwark of the animal rights movement. "The whole protest movement is composed of decent, ordinary, middle-class people - the youngsters I've met aren't anarchists, they are just concerned about animals welfare and the environment."

She said resentment was growing among the whole community against the presence of more than 1,000 police officers to protect the trade through Shoreham, in particular against the officers drafted into the area from outside.

"You can't blame all the policemen. Some you can have a laugh and a joke with them, but I suppose when it comes down to it they'd put the boot in, too."

The main problem lies, she says,with the destabilisation of society.

"The police don't know what their job is any more - they don't know what they are doing down here - they seem confused and distressed.

"They go on all these riot control courses and they don't have any contact with the public any more.

"They don't know whether they are here to enforce unpopular laws, or to work for the community."

Now, Mrs Baker-Smith said, she has taken to wearing several more layers of clothing to keep out the biting wind - and to cushion blows from the police. She also wears heavy boots to protect her ankles and a woolly hat to prevent the police grabbing her by her hair.

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