Mayday McDonald’s police entrapment?

The circumstances of the attack on a seemingly unprotected McDonald’s which launched the ‘riot’ on Mayday (along with the van incident at last year’s Euston N30 protest) have led many activists to suspect that these events, rather than just being solely spontaneous expressions of anger, were in fact also a deliberate part of police plans. In other words, that – after six months of planning in the case of Mayday – the police set deliberate traps they knew would be tantalising enough in themselves to provoke an apparent riot (although there is some, possible, evidence of activity by provocateurs too).

With the public purportedly having turned against RTS-style direct action, with DNA tests touted to identify rioters, draconian new laws discussed, with repeated illegal forced identification and photographing of hundreds of protesters, with the police’s Operation Yellowstone aiming to smash RTS (Mirror 29/1/99) and so on, it is very important to get beyond rumour and speculation about possible police entrapment and to find out what real evidence, if any, there exists for it.

To accomplish this I am collecting together and analysing relevant news reports, TV and video footage, witness testimonies, etc. of the Mayday events. Please get in touch if you can help.

If RTS was indeed set up by the police on Mayday, then typical responses of the ‘who cares, we really trashed McDonalds!’ type or the fatalistic ‘the media will always treat RTS as rioters’ or that it’s just a disempowering ‘conspiracy theory’ seem to miss the point, and potentially be dangerously politically nave.

Some people will say it is impossible to ever prove that the police have lied and manipulated events. But police illegality was proved only recently with revelations about policing methods used to block Tibet protesters during the recent visit by President Jiang Zemin.

The Whitehall Whitewash

"Officers made determined and courageous efforts to protect McDonald’s and other nearby premises from attack."

"There were officers in standard uniform outside McDonald’s before the attack. They were forced to retreat when missiles were thrown and were replaced by officers in full riot gear. If those in riot gear had been there from the start, they would have been accused of inciting a riot."

Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Johnston

"12 police officers [were] stationed outside [McDonald’s]"

Evening Standard


Anyone near McDonald’s before the attack will know that this official version of what happened – though plausible enough to convince most non-eyewitnesses – is based upon an outright lie. There were, according to eyewitnesses, no police giving the usual protection one expects to see outside McDonald’s before the attack (even though, at this point, the atmosphere was peaceful and police could easily have stood anywhere they wanted to. Indeed a few had been outside earlier on). The Met claims it didn’t station riot police outside for fear of inciting a riot, yet it had already happily swamped Downing Street with riot police with no such touching concern, after a few bottles and cans were thrown. In case of any troublesome questions arising, the Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner Michael Todd did over 70 interviews "to try to ensure that there was no misrepresentation of events."

"There was no line of police outside McDonald’s – I never saw McDonald’s protected at all" said one Green Party veteran.

Leaving a McDonald’s unprotected in circumstances like Mayday – virtually an invitation, in the eyes of some, to attack it – is certainly unusual, indeed probably unprecedented.

"The confrontation had to happen." Wrote Guardian journalist John Vidal (2/5), possibly the only mainstream writer who didn’t fall for the police’s common sense version that they had defended McDonald’s but were driven away.

"The first 400 people went past McDonald’s barely believing it was there, unboarded and unguarded. The second 300 gathered round it…" and we all know what happened next.

A Sheffield Mayday group report account states that on arriving at McDonald’s – before any attempt had been made to damage it – there were no police or security "anywhere near" and it "seemed like about 15 minutes" before police arrived after the attack had begun (though a group of police were standing nearer the end of Whitehall).

Many press reports focus on a group of non-riot police that were driven away past McDonald’s into Northumberland Avenue by protesters. This, however, was probably just the roving group that had been videoing in the vicinity (e.g. from outside the Whitehall Theatre opposite at one point) and made a half-hearted attempt to protect the McDonald’s rather too late.

The Sheffield group’s report details this activity: "I was astonished to see no cops in front of McDonald’s at all, though about 10 in white shirts hastily pushed through the forming crowd to make a fairly useless cordon…A top cop in a flak jacket came rushing up to the 10 or so in white shirts who’d placed themselves in front of it, and pulled two of them out, apparently telling them they should be on the opposite pavement taking pictures with cameras they were lugging…it was clear that one of them was reluctant to do what he was told and wanted to stay in front of McDonald’s. Hilarious sight of top cop physically pushing one of his recalcitrant minions all the way across Whitehall to the other side." (Where did they push through from? Was this the group that had been videoing from across the road?)

ITN used some footage of retreating police to bolster its misleading report that police had been chased away from McDonald’s leaving the ‘rioters’ a clear run at the target, when in fact it had been an open target for some time. This conspicuous lack of police at McDonald’s before the attack was, naturally, omitted from the report.

If the police had given the Whitehall McDonald’s the same level of protection that was given to the McDonald’s on the Strand or Villiers Street (towards the Embankment) or the one near Manchester’s Mayday action it is possible that the day’s events would have gone very differently. Twenty or thirty police were in the vicinity of the McDonald’s on the Strand earlier in the morning at the London Animal Action event. Why no so-called ‘softly, softly’ (i.e. no police) approach with that much smaller crowd, handing out veggieburgers?

From mud to McDonald’s: a police-planned exodus?

That much of the crowd would surge out of Parliament Square toward the McDonald’s can have come as little surprise to the police.

The square had been deliberately soaked through beforehand so that many protesters wouldn’t want to hang around (in the mud) there for hours (as people happily, and peacefully, did during other sun-baked and mud-free occupations, such as the Shepherd’s Bush motorway one) and the thin line of police across the bottom of Whitehall apparently made no attempt to prevent people moving up towards the trap police had prepared at Trafalgar Square.

According to the Evening Standard (2/5), "intelligence reports" had warned that McDonald’s was going to be a target, and the Sunday Times had mentioned it the day before. The Whitehall branch has even, apparently, been attacked twice before during demonstrations.

The monuments – sacrificed?

The police did come under fire from the mainstream media for allowing Churchill and the Cenotaph to be ‘defaced’. According to the Sun "English Heritage, custodians of the Cenotaph, said they had offered to board up the memorial…but police rejected the plan." Jack Straw, though, claims the police had advised that both the Cenotaph and Churchill be boarded up. English Heritage, further say that police had promised to specially guard the Cenotaph, but failed to do so.

A Met spokesman, interestingly, told BBC online that "if police had tried to protect specific monuments the crowd might have moved off and attacked other monuments in the area."

"We knew that the anarchist hardcore were intent on attacking Oxford Street and the City and our tactics stopped that happening" another police report states.

This seems to suggest that these monuments were deliberately left unguarded as controlled honey-traps for protesters to attack, a plan which surely more likely applies to McDonald’s, viewed by many as a legitimate target.

Did the police decide in advance to deliberately ‘sacrifice’ that particular branch of McDonald’s to keep the ‘anarchists’ occupied and contained (and-later-trapped, attacked, split, vilified, individually photographed etc.)?

One Indymedia report speculatively concluded, after talking to the Whitehall McDonald’s duty manager, that it was sacrificed with the connivance of McDonald’s.

Euston N30: burning van parallels

"The doomed van was left stranded when 20 other police vehicles were given the order to move out. Its driver, a member of one of Thames Valley Police’s evidence gathering teams, was busy videoing protesters."

The Big Issue reports the official version of events.

If the relatively superficial trashing (it re-opened the next day) of McDonald’s was, in reality, part of a police plan, then we should also ask whether perhaps the van left by the police to be attacked and burnt at November’s Euston protest (N30) was a set-up too.

My understanding of N30 is that the few people who wanted to violently confront the police, plus some of the rest of the crowd, after briefly trying to break out to the main road, were very slowly moved by the police from the eastern side of the station forecourt / bus station back to where the police had, for some time absent-mindedly left behind a K-reg unmarked police van, complete with loose scaffolding poles ( la J18) on its roof. Though during much of this time the van could, I suspect, easily have been driven away, it was left until finally it became a target and was turned over and set on fire – taking many minutes even to ignite! Is it really believable that the police – during an effective precision operation that was praised in the mainstream press – could clean forget about one van as they removed the other 20 from harm’s way? With a mere handful of people attacking the van, surely – under normal circumstances – police lines would easily have moved again to secure the van, especially if an explosion was feared? There are unconfirmed reports of some masked people who attacked the van being allowed to quickly leave through riot police lines, and of course arriving through them.

"Around 30" photographers waited diligently a few metres in front of the van for their pictures of so-called ‘anarchist vandals’ starting the fire. It soon came and the image went round the world, defining the protest for many people.

Even some journalists on at least one national paper privately thought the van was a set-up – but they, naturally, didn’t risk upsetting their readers’ tender sensibilities by actually bothering to report this possibility.

With the set-piece pic of the burning van available, images of beaten and bloodied protesters, the schoolboy with blood running down his face for instance, or the story of journalist Danny Penman – viciously attacked by the police and hospitalised, where his smashed arm was fixed with five metal pins – lost any prominence they might have had.

"This is tantamount to eco-terrorism…" asserted one top policeman, perhaps preparing public opinion to accept the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Bill, with its anti-direct action clauses.

‘Neutralising’ radical movements, the American Way

Anyone who wants to learn about how entrapment, infiltration, psychological warfare, legal harassment and violence has been used to destroy recent radical political movements, will find it revealing to look to the U.S. where the history of the secret political wars against dissent has been well documented (by writers such as Ward Churchill and Brian Glick). The goal of the FBI’s infamous counterintelligence programs (COINTELPRO) was, in the words of then-director J. Edgar Hoover, to "disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralise" groups and individuals such as Martin Luther King (the FBI tried to provoke his suicide) and the civil rights movement, Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, the anti-war, New Left and student movements. A more recent COINTELPRO-style operation (costing $3million) was carried out against Earth First! (U.S.) in an attempt to entrap individuals into bombing power lines.


What did you see?

Does the basic information outlined above fit with what you saw? What do you remember? Here are some questions you may be able to answer…




Written by Matthew Kalman

Please get in touch if you have information on Mayday/N30 or comments:

Matthew Kalman can be contacted:-

Tel. 07957 787847

e-mail - matthewkalman@yahoo.com

Address - c/o BM Open Eye, London WC1N 3XX

Please be cautious when conveying any sensitive information.

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