Siege of Normandie Tower.
report by Stan C
On the 14th of August Norfolk constabulary mounted a large scale operation in response to what was initially reported to be a domestic incident, however it quickly became clear that the situation was far more complex and as it unfolded it underlined many of the failings of the modern police force. It may be difficult to maintain the narrative of events as information, at least from the police’s end, is not readily available and they have forced the local papers not to run the story. I am relying on what I saw myself, the information I got from the two protagonists of the drama and what little we got from a journalist who had spoken to some of the officers involved.
I first became aware of the situation when, lying in bed hungover to fuck, I received a phone call from the hosts of last night’s party. She told us that the police had surrounded Normandie Tower and that her and her boyfriend had been forced to barricade themselves in their flat as the police were trying to arrest him on suspicion of domestic violence, a charge she vehemently denied. The call to the emergency services had been made by a member of the lad’s family after hearing an argument between the couple whilst on the phone to them and using this as the basis for wild allegations. The whole situation stank to high hell and myself and other friends of the couple were drafted in to try to reason with the officers and appeal to the public from the outside of the building. Knowing our friend had a mental health condition we feared the police would overreact and mishandle the situation.
Our suspicions were confirmed when we arrived at the central Norwich tower block and found four cop cars, a van and two unmarked vehicles as well as a smattering of PCSOs. The building was tapped off, with access to the back being controlled by the boys in blue, however we were able to enter under the pretence of being residents. When we reached the eleventh floor, where the so-called incident occurred, the lift doors opened to three officers who immediately began to shout aggressively. We appealed to reason; had our friend been assaulted she would not have denied this, asked the officers to leave, and then called for our support when they failed to do so. But we were ignored and berated more. During this exchange officers pushed and shoved at us and allowed the doors to repeatedly close, trapping limbs and heads.
We regrouped and, after getting the offending dibbles badge numbers, went out onto the street, heckled and sneered at by the coppers as we left. Having realised that, as per usual, reasoning with the police was out of the question we unfurled a banner and the eight of us tried to draw the interest of the public to the gross miscarriage of justice which seemed to be unfolding. The banner was immediately snatched at by one especially arsey officer who told us in no uncertain terms to fuck off or get nicked. As we argued our various counter points he was joined by a colleague, between them they threatened and attempted several arrests, and also fought to confiscate a phone being used to communicate with our friends inside, although in all counts were ultimately unsuccessful. We were forced to retreat down the street, after being shoved and shouted out more.
The police failed to form any meaningful dialogue with those who had additional information and insight to the situation. It was pointed out to the belligerent officers that it was the alienation of communities from the police force and lawmakers, the same failure to provide information, or to enter into dialogue, that served to help provoke the UK wide riots only the previous week. Their readiness to use aggressive tactics against those who were there to defend their community mirror the wanton violence of riot police who attacked demonstrators outside a Tottenham police station.
At this point we attempted to contact legal observers and anyone in the network with a bit of legal nous, we also spoke to a journo, who had been fed an entirely different version of events by the pigs, after setting him straight we settled down and continued to liaise with our friends in the flat. They were in high spirits knowing they had support and apparently spent a good portion of the afternoon eating pizza and watching telly. They also told us that the police were treating it as an ad hoc hostage situation, although it had been made clear at several points that both of the couple were continuing to stay in the flat of their own free will. Presumably the police chalked this up to an intense attack of Stockholm Syndrome.
As we sat and observed a CSI and firearms (?!) teams were also dispatched but very little headway was made until the situation was handed over to the police negotiators. With them on the scene tensions started to fade and it became apparent a grievous mistake had been made. Efforts were made to get our friends to leave the flat so they could be interviewed, under assurance that no one would be arrested. However, understandably, shook up and mistrusting of their besiegers at this point they refused to do so without signed documentations that no charges would be bought. After a while; and the suggestion that if they didn’t take the cops word they would be nicked for wasting police time; both had left the flat within an hour. No one was arrested in relation to the incident and the pigs quickly cleared off, curly tails between their legs. The whole affair had taken over six hours to resolve, but it is quite clear that had a more clam and rational approach been taken that it could have been averted at its beginning.
The next day the media were approached to make sure that the story wouldn’t contain any misinformation and could be balanced by having the experiences and views of the couple that were trapped in the tower included as well as the version of events that were given by the police. We have learnt that the story was to be pulled from the paper on police instructions, a stub article remains on the EDP website, however it reflects the ‘official’ version of events and fails to address any failings of the police force in dealing with the matter. This partial cover up and the failure to contextualise the scale of the operation and sheer waste of public money that this entails shows how much embarrassment the police force must be feeling. Moreover the heavy handed manner in which this situation was handled shows that the police force as an institute are failing or refusing to learn from even the most rudimentary of their mistakes. The continuation of this cycle of police oppression and repression means that whilst the civil unrest may have been reduced to a simmer it is only a matter of time before it again reaches boiling point.