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Maya Oppenheim: I was hit on the head with a baton, then kicked


For most of the day the atmosphere at Bishopsgate had been peaceful. The police had been standing around in riot gear but most were approachable. I remember chatting to one of them about the England football score.

But something changed later that night. It was as if an order had come from above. Lines of police in riot gear started building and drawing forward aggressively in big lines. People were frantically telling those behind to sit down. But it was as if they were intent on clearing the Climate Camp using any means.

By 11.45pm something had snapped. The police charged forward and started whacking people with their batons. I'm not against the police and was shocked to see them using such powerful weapons on people so complacently. I didn't want to leave on principle.

But then I saw police drawing forward towards me. As I turned, one of them knocked me on the back of the head with a baton. It just touched me but the force of a heavy, steel cylinder shocked me. But what was far more painful was being kicked in the shins – which I have seen police do to people at other protests.

While all this was going I heard them talking to colleagues and into their walkie-talkies, asking if they should use "level two, three or four". There were lots of similar skirmishes with police swatting at protesters. Many just fled in fear. People barely had time to grab their things – one woman had to leave her bag and pram and just run. By 1am I just grabbed my stuff and got the bus home.

Looking back now it feels as if the police changed strategy after the Royal Bank of Scotland building's windows were broken and they encountered trouble among a tiny proportion of anarchists. But the Climate Camp was totally peaceful and obedient, which makes me even more shocked and angry about the police's behaviour.

The next day, my head hurt from the baton and my shins were throbbing. Considering the police's brutal and heavy-handed techniques, I am amazed that just one person died. There could have been many more.

The author is an A-level student who was a member of the Climate Camp