I stood in the cold bright sunshine watching No Tesco squat protestors being removed from the roof by baillifs.
It took all of yesterday as many of the squatters had secured their bodies to the premises.
About 200 supporters stood vigil too, cheering and clapping them.
Some had a sound system (which blared out Ghost Town at one point, aptly), a musician played Klezmer on a clarinet.
A disturbing spectacle played out on the roof of the old Jesters comedy club which Tesco wants to turn into its sixth supermarket within a mile.
I don’t want a Tesco in Stokes Croft.
It’s a funky up-and-coming area with some of the best food shops and cafes in Bristol.
Herbert’s Bakery, the Radio 4 award-winning Thali Cafe, the Radford Mill organic farm shop, Licata the family-run delicatessen, Galliford’s late night corner shop, Bell’s diner, The Bristolian and Cafe Kino are some of the local businesses that would be at risk.
Supermarkets kill local business and the character of local communities.
There are two main strands to this protest.
1) The No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign which has already collected over 4,000 signatures.
2) The squatters, who have been occupying the old Jesters comedy club since February after hearing about Tesco’s plans.
I admire the squatters for putting their lives on the line for a just cause.
I am not saying they are perfect.
For instance, a protestor in a Halloween mask squirted liquid at a balliff.
I thought: surely that is not in the Gandhian spirit of passive resistance?
I felt moved to turn to a nearby policeman (one of 70 including several on horseback) to explain this was not non-violent direct action as I understood it.
The policeman said he sympathised. He had not wanted a Tesco in South Bristol. (Local Bedminster residents successfully saw off Tesco but now has Sainsbury’s to contend with).
Another protestor had attached himself to the top of a tripod.
The baillifs used a blue cherry-picker with a crane to get him down.
When they were not looking, he slid down the tripod and onto the arm of the crane, hugging it with his body, trying to skate its length.
But a bailliff grabbed him from behind, and five joined him. He tried to shuffle down the crane’s arm. They kept yanking him back and it must have hurt – he yelled with pain.
Of course the baillifs succeeded. It was six against one.
This is the way society is structured. The law of the land is upheld by physical force.
And the law is not always fair or correct.
In my view the planning laws need to be changed to protect local shops.
The protestors were using their bodies to express a need to change the status-quo.
As the tripod man was escorted to the ground, a section of the crowd chanted: “Let him go.”
The mounted police surged forward. I smelled horse manure on the ground.
Most of the squatters were not arrested. Four face charges for public order offences, according to the BBC.
“The police let them go, bless them,” one of the supporters said.
The BBC video clip has highlighted the most dramatic bits, natch – there is also a quote from yours truly.
Meanwhile Tesco has one more planning hurdle to negotiate and the No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign – along with 100s of others taking place all over the UK – continues.
Still time to add your signature to the Bristol City Council petition.
PS A few blogs ago I announced I was standing for the Green party in Bishopston. Last week I withdrew from standing. I am currently a full-time carer; I just did not have the capacity to do it properly. Huge decision. Hard to make. Feel relieved. Green beliefs means respecting nature’s limits – I had to respect mine!