Sounds From Memory #3: Riot.

December 12, 2007

The intention of these series of posts is to document sounds that have remained in memory. Not sounds that are particularly pleasant or trigger ‘Proustian Resonance’ but unique sounds that once heard are never forgotten (therefore impossible to reproduce or record). If i get enough – and please add your own – i’ll organise them into a top ten ‘mnemaudio’ chart.

poll tax riot london 1989Miles was the first casualty, and, I always maintain, the inspiration for the violence that took place at the Trafalgar Square Anti-Poll Tax protest in 1989. During what was an admittedly tense but peaceful sit down protest in front of Downing Street, Miles charged at the Police brandishing a metal pole. He was immediately floored, struck on the head by a brick thrown from the police lines*. Seconds later the police panicked and sent mounted riot squads charging into the unarmed protesters, this event ignited a day of fierce fighting in the centre of London. For six hours the police held protesters in the square: The sound that fixed in my memory is the combined roar of bottles and bricks being thrown, burning buildings, screams, police sirens, helicopters, horses, whistles and ambulances which, after six hours, merged into one high pitched continuous distorted scream. This noise stayed with me for weeks, day and night -a kind of hysterical tinnitus.

trafalgar square 1989

*I dragged miles to an ambulance which took him to hospital. A few hours later he discharged himself, concussed, dripping blood from a head wound he returned to the battle pressing home his assault on the forces of ‘law and order’.

3 Responses to “Sounds From Memory #3: Riot.”

  1. I. Khider said

    You do indeed live in a police state, as do we Canadians. That previous post on the noise machine for crowd control seems interesting. Would a decent pair of ear plugs solve the problem? I have seen the authorities act viciously against students protesting post secondary tuition increases.

    With your history of protests, would you still confront authorities or are those days behind you?

    What did Miles say about the experience in retrospect?

  2. crab said

    Not sure i would call the UK or Canada (!) a police state.

    What was interesting about the Poll tax riots was that the police lost control, panicked and had no idea what to do; this was quite refreshing and makes it obvious how fragile the ‘state’ is (for better or worse)…And of course-we should all confront authority at every opportunity! most recently in my case at the g8 fights…if you must know.

    Miles was most sanguine about his experiences. i don’t think he considered the trafalgar battles as anything out of the ordinary.

  3. Birju Tailor said

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    An Image appears here on your website of the poll tax riot 1989 (

    Please could you inform me if you are the original rights holder for this image or alternatively, if not, where you obtained this image from?

    Any help you could provide would be much appreciated,

    Many Thanks

    Birju Tailor

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