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Saturday, February 05, 2005


Animal rights and wrongs

Small Demo in town today. A dozen animal rights protestors, a few ‘Reclaim the streets’ eccentrics and a lot of hostility.

Since that business where a woman’s remains were dug up because her grandchildren ran a guinea pig farm, the Animal Rights mob have been persona non grata in our neck of the woods. As a protest that stunt had to rank up there with self immolation as a career option. The locals were not at all happy to see them and were beginning to make their voices heard. Just snatches on the refrain from “Grave robbing bastards.” To the more sarcastic “Why don’t you go dig up some old mates?”

Tony, who heroically has declined sick leave after yesterdays kerfuffle, and I were tasked to keep an eye on the traffic flows and play our part keeping the streets clear. The CSO’s and the real Police patrols were highly visible. I really shouldn’t have pissed off the senior management last month over some evidence laid out in my pocket note book – I know they were in the wrong, but they are in a position to put me in situations I’d rather not be in, like this one. We were both rather concerned and ready to leg it if trouble broke out.

To cut a long story short, one of the local retailers, a ‘serial offender’ in Cop-speak, took the opportunity to have a go at Tony while he was booking a Rover 75 with its front wheels on double yellows and rear wheels outside the restriction. No overhang about it, this guy was committing a ‘contravention’ as it is known nowadays. I think it was one of his customers. Said retailer bowls up to Tony and starts giving him serious verbal abuse. A couple of the demonstrators take notice and decide to take issue against an authority figure, just because he’s wearing a uniform and enforcing regulations. I’m on the other side of the street booking a Range Rover in a disabled bay. CSO’s and real Police are too busy with rest of rent-a-mob who are shouting about whatever it is they were shouting about. There’s Tony in the middle of four or five very angry people. I finish booking Range Rover and make my way over the street, logging a call with CCTV to get us some support with the intention of extricating Tony from his predicament with the “Got a moment mate?” gambit.

The “Got a moment mate?” Gambit is a way of getting a mate out of trouble without getting the aggression turned on you. It’s very simple. Circle round incident and get to one side of besieged comrade so he can see you without having to turn his head. Tap him on the shoulder, say “Got a moment mate?” To him, then a brief “excuse me sir – won’t be a moment” to whoever is giving him grief and gently lead him two or three paces away from the scene and away from the cause of the aggro. If aggro follows, use the “With you in a minute sir – shan’t be long.” And ignore any further rantings, thus giving comrade space to finish what he’s doing and get clear.

This was a bad move. Tony gets clear but now I’m in the firing line. Retailer and demonstrators are not willing to be fobbed off. Time for what Mohammed Ali, the boxer called the ‘rope-a-dope’. Again this is very simple. Stand very still. Face cause of aggravation; look into their piggy little eyes and cock head slightly on one side as if hanging on every last syllable. Look carefully at contorted face in front of you and pick a peculiarity, say an unusual muscle twitch, poor dentition, bad skin, etc. Now focus intently upon it and switch off. Nothing they shout should now register except as “BLAH-BLAH-BLAH-LITTLE HITLERS-BLAH-BLAH-YAKKITY-YAKKITY.” Do and say nothing unless their hands come up. Now edge slightly inside their reach. This way, any punch thrown hasn’t had time to pick up full energy and won’t hurt unless assailant is a real Martial Arts expert. Also; edging forward puts would be assailant on back foot, so helping you dominate and defuse the situation. The coup de grace to the ‘rope-a-dope’ is delivered as follows; At the shouted cue “ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME!?” Simply deliver “Beg pardon sir?” with a slight frown, by which time most normal people will have run out of breath and be ready to storm off. Do not smile at any time. Bared teeth originated as a primeval threat gesture and make people think you are taking the piss, which will only make them try haul off and hit you. This is not the object of the exercise.

The problem with the above is that it doesn’t always work. Fortunately, Tony has now slapped a ticket on the offenders windscreen and we are ready to get the hell out of Dodge. He gets me out of the line of fire by tapping me on the shoulder and saying “Scuse me sir – just need to talk to my colleague for a moment.” Which is my cue to give chummy the high shoulder and walk away while seemingly deep in technical conversation with Tony. Said Retailer is having none of this and tries to carry on his tirade. He must be fitter than he looks. CSO’s and real Police are still busy, so no help there. A small crowd has gathered and it is time to beat retreat. We’ve done what we came to do so we turn away with a polite “Good day to you sir.” Not having responded to the anger before strolling around the corner and out of the line of fire. Retailer and demonstrators do not follow. Hallelujah, we are saved. Not.

We get round the corner only to find that one demonstrator has taken tickets off windscreens and throws them at us before legging it to his mates having shown how brave he is. Tony looks at torn up parking tickets on floor, then says “Looks like another incident report form, then.” I nod, pick up shredded tickets and place in nearby litter bin.

We shrugged our shoulders knowing that whoever ripped up those parking tickets has not done the offenders a service. It just means they are unlikely to be able to pay the fine at the discounted rate. We have photographs of said tickets affixed to windscreens in our rinky dinky little hand held computers. We have ticket details in our pocket notebooks. The offenders will receive notification by post within two weeks no matter what happens. CCTV has a record of the whole incident on tape, which covers our arses and stops management kicking us. We could of course reprint the tickets and go round replacing them, but we’re not feeling that brave right now. Besides, it would be a pointless exercise in bravado. The tickets are issued; the process has begun with almost glacial unstoppability until offender coughs up amount of fine. Job done.

Then all we had to remember was exactly what was said then write it all down. That took up the rest of our shift. Turned out okay as it’s been weeing down all afternoon and we’ve been sat in our nice dry rest room filling out these interminable forms. We were tempted to have a damn good whinge about the risks we face in light of the recent pay problems, but decided not to. Why? Well in the words of the three ex squaddies on our team; “If you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t have joined.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, IMHO, 'Reclaim the Streets' & the violent animal rights protesters are just simply immature people who have problems with authority. It's a waste of time to try to get a coherent argument out of them. I once asked a Reclaim the Streets supporter who he was reclaiming them from & for whom. He didn't get much beyond 'them' & 'us'. He just couldn't comprehend that my my old lady neighbour had been scared witless watching the riots around Westminster on the TV & now hardly goes out unless someone's with her.

I liked that the idiot tore up the tickets - he wouldn't have thought that he was doing the drivers a disservice, probably would have had a go at them for polluting the environment, it's just childish defiance.

Saturday, February 05, 2005 11:58:00 pm  

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Location: British Columbia, Canada

Exasperated expatriate expostulations all the way from British Columbia, Canada. As if anyone really cared. Oh, I also watch Icelandic Volcanoes and seismic activity. Don't ask me why.

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