Love Is A Four Letter Word. So Is Riot – Part 4

30 01 2010

Our hero has now achieved some level of independence. Still in love with Victoria, he finds himself torn between desires. Can he still be a Yuppie whilst retaining the love and respect of his left-wing social circle?

And now the conclusion………

Towards the end of 1989 two momentous events caught our attention. In Germany, the Berlin Wall ceased to be an object of repression and in the UK the Conservative Government decided that domestic property taxes needed to be updated and introduced legislation that they called a Community Charge, which was soon known as The Poll Tax.

This was a plan allowing local authority services to be paid for by the residents of the relevant area.It was meant to be a tax that would encourage local councils to curb their spending as they would be directly accountable to the electorate as opposed to the government. The apparent collapse of Communism was greeted with cheers, the poll tax with jeers.

Victoria hated the Community Charge. Despite the fact that she didn’t pay it, she saw it as another part of the Conservative policy of creating an underclass in the UK who couldn’t afford to better themselves. In November, she joined the All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation, a militant socialist body who called for a mass demonstration in London on 31st March, 1990 which would be exactly one week before the implementation of the legislation. The plan was to march from Kennington, in South London towards Trafalgar Square which would be the scene of a mass rally with speeches from Labour politicians and members of Red Wedge. It was assumed that I would attend.

The day of the demonstration was cold but sunny, warm enough for long sleeves and no jacket. We took the Northern Line from Camden to Kennington and met up with some mutual friends who were eager for a good day out which would probably end up in the pub. The turnout was fantastic, nearly 200,000 people had gathered to protest and the atmosphere was electric.

We set off around 1.30PM, holding hands and shouting anti-capitalist slogans which sounded like football chants to the uninitiated. I had a small radio in my hand and as we walked North, I kept hearing that Trafalgar Square was bursting at the seams and that the police presence in the West End was becoming more aggressive towards the demonstrators. The BBC kept mentioning the words “riot police” and I was starting to become concerned that a peaceful and legitimate march might become hijacked by others with more destructive intent.

We both knew some anarchists, I even played football with a guy who had the words “Class War” tattooed on his left arm but the thought of getting into conflict with police armed with riot shields and tear gas was not what I would call a good day out. At 3.30 we reached Whitehall and as we tried to get to Trafalgar Square, the police began pushing us back. Suddenly the crowd split and riot police charged towards us, brandishing truncheons and lashing out at whoever was in range.

Those at the front were taking a fearful beating and the crowd reacted furiously, scaling scaffolding and raining bricks onto the uniformed constabulary below. People were now covering their faces with scarves and throwing whatever they could find at the police blocking our way, to the right a group of men had surrounded a police van and were shaking it violently. As the van toppled over, the crowd cheered and rushed forward breaking the line of uniforms behind riot gear.

I grabbed Victoria and we ran down a side street, past a McDonalds which had already had windows smashed and away from the violence that was beginning to scare us both. Behind us the sounds of conflict in the streets, police sirens and fire engines racing to bring a semblance of order to a situation that had quickly got out of control. My heart was racing, a mixture of adrenaline and fear and I squeezed Victoria’s hand harder as we dodged through the backstreets. We seemed to be alone and, glancing around, I was confident that we had not been followed by any of the boys in blue.

And then we saw the car. A black Porsche 911. A car that I couldn’t afford but one whose owner would not consider the Poll Tax as anything more than a minor financial inconvenience. Without saying a word, I walked towards the Porsche and stood silently glaring at the vehicle.

I reached into my pocket, pulled out my lighter.

But when she dared me to burn the car, I realised that I couldn’t.  I wasn’t the anarchist that she wanted me to be.  Love can only take you so far.

I put the lighter away. Victoria looked me and the smile had vanished, her face a mix of disappointment and anger. I could only think of one thing to say and that was “I’m not sorry”.





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