Protests against the Poll Tax 1990

1990, March and April: Police Support Unit deployed on three occasions to deal with community charge demonstrations.300

1990, 7 March: Some 600 protesters gathered at Walton to protest against the community charge and some attempted to force their way into the council chamber. Eggs, bricks, coins and a thunder flash were thrown causing damage to the building. A large number of police units were needed to disperse the demonstrators. No officers were hurt and two arrests were made.301

Poll Tax disturbances: Walton Town Hall: Surrey assisted by Metropolitan Police Territorial Support Group. Walton on Thames had a protest against the Poll Tax. It had got out of hand. Demonstrators had entered the council chamber and were disrupting business.

Outside there were a very large number of angry people. More officers were being mobilised, as the police were not in control. Superintendent Mick Weyland the local boss was in charge on the ground, Chief Superintendent Peter Stevens the divisional commander was at Addlestone police station and Operations were tasked with raising more officers.

New Scotland Yard were asked for some Territorial Support Group officers as they would arrive far quicker than officers called from home. There were always a number of officers on duty as the Commissioner's Reserve and over time, their assistance had been sought on a number of occasions.

The Territorial Support Group soon arrived as it does not take long from central London with blue lights and sirens, and Mike Weyland asked them to wait until he had tried something. He then moved off and when he came back the Territorial Support Group had declined to wait and had entered the council chamber and cleared it.

When told this story later to a Metropolitan Police senior officer, he said that the only way to deal with the Territorial Support Group was to grab the inspector by the throat, tell him who was the boss, and defy him to do something that he has not been told to do. The Metropolitan Police may be close by but it is a world away.

Chris Loveridge: I was late turn in the relatively new Dedicated Station Unit at Addlestone with PC 1101 Howard Unsworth and civilian Jan Radley (wife of retired Sergeant Derek Radley). From memory we knew that we were going to have trouble from about 1600 in the afternoon so had early breaks and from about 1800 it all kicked off with Inspector Richard Bridgman dealing at the scene as he was late turn duty inspector.

Whilst PC Unsworth manned the front desk all on his own, I and Jan Radley ran the radios and stayed on until 2300 hours to allow the night turn Dedicated Station Unit to come in and gradually take over the normal running. As far as I can remember we were eventually assisted by six or so van loads of colleagues from the Metropolitan Police District along with a couple of van loads of Surrey Police Support Unit (PSU) officers.

Martin West: I was posted to Addlestone Division in 1990 and did spells as the inspector at Walton and was acting chief inspector at Addlestone at that time. There were a number of demonstrations when council meetings were being held during the period when the Council (or Poll) Tax was being set. Passions ran high and demonstrations were noisy but not really violent.

I don't recall Police coming under serious attack, but I think a couple of windows got broken and there was, as ever, concern that more dangerous elements would infiltrate local protesters. One incident sticks in my mind: At one of the demonstrations an elderly ex-sailor turned up in his old naval uniform. I think he was something like a chief petty officer and the uniform included a sword belt and sword (which I believe are nowadays rarely carried by petty officers).

Officers pounced on the old boy and were about to arrest him for possessing an offensive weapon. He was only carrying the sword to be 'properly dressed' and I formed the view that he had no real intention of using it, so I relieved him of it, let him continue into the council meeting and had it delivered back to his home the following day on condition that he promised not to bring it to any more demonstrations.

Christian Duckett: Camberley sent a PSU serial on rest day call out and we blue lighted it from the station - PS Dick Grundy was the sergeant in charge of our unit and Richard Hailstone was also there. I recall that an inspector put his head in the transit side door and told us what was happening and we were deployed to the rear of the building.

Someone threw a stone at the building window which broke amidst cheers and then a protester tried to gain entry to the building via a side fire escape stairway and is pulled back by some police officers.

We all deployed on mass to the metal steps and that person was arrested and protesters try to pull him away from us with no joy. Punches are thrown as were eggs and the shout from PS Grundy went up to draw truncheons; with that there was a mass of camera flashes. I attempt to grab one protester who has tried to release the prisoner and followed him into the crowd - what a stupid thing to do and get tripped up.

I was lucky not to get a kicking for that basic error. The prisoner was carted off to Addlestone police station cell block where they found cannabis on him. Metropolitan Police turn up and deploy on mass from their green PSU buses and go into the crowd in pairs, so much so that the situation calms down completely.

1990, 17 March: Godalming: A large number of people marched to the Waverley Council offices to protest about the community charge. Agitators caused a general disturbance which required police intervention but no arrests were made. There were further demonstrations on the 27 March and 10 April.302

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300 Annual Report 1990.

301 Annual Report 1990.

302 Annual Report 1990.

 

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