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1968: Arrested at Grosvenor Square

Mick Brown's career as a protester began early.

He joined the CND at school and attended several ban-the-bomb marches. In his late teens he became interested in the anarchist groups growing from the anti-war movement.

But his taste for big demonstrations ended on 28 March 1968 at an anti-Vietnam War rally. He was arrested for assaulting a police officer - a charge he denies - and imprisoned for six weeks.

There was quite a lot of excitement and anticipation when I got to Trafalgar Square [central London].

I don't remember much about speeches down there or what time I got there, but I remember the march up to Grosvenor Square. I walked with the anarchists, who I expected to see a bit more excitement. I probably thought of it as excitement then.


" The police told people that if we had got into the embassy the Americans would have shot us "

And I remember seeing Vanessa Redgrave walking along, though I didn't know much about the Workers' Revolutionary Party until much later.

When people got into the square itself they started pulling bits of fence up and throwing it towards the embassy.

The police told people that if we had got into the embassy the Americans would have shot us.

And I think this was greeted with a certain amount of disbelief. I don't think people realised the seriousness of it, because there had never really been a fight like this at a demonstration before.

Rescue

The police weren't that unfriendly. When they were saying that I think they were genuinely trying to protect us. Then I decided to go.

The whole thing was disorganised. The police weren't lined up and charging the way they would be now. There was just a general melee.

It was probably not intentional but this young girl of about 18 got trapped underneath a [police] horse and was in a state of panic.

I'm not sure the rider was that aware of what was going on. All I did was pull her out. To do that I had to bend down more or less underneath the horse and so the policeman hit me over the head.

Assault charge

I left the square - I was a bit stunned.

When I was outside the square I saw a friend of mine quite close to me. He leant over to a policeman who had his back to him and he tipped the policeman's helmet off.

He turned and ran. The policeman saw him so I stepped in front of him. I didn't hit him, but I must have obstructed him.

And he said, "Right, if I can't get him I'll get you."

I didn't realise the seriousness of it and he arrested me. He charged me with assault.

He took me to a bus with some other people and then on to Bow Street Police Station. I was held there overnight. If you're not experienced at this it can break you - you just want to say anything to get out.


" I pleaded 'guilty' - but I'd seen no statement about what I'd done "

We were told we were going to court the next morning. The police said if I pleaded "not guilty" I'd be found guilty and put in prison.

But if I pleaded "guilty" it would be my first offence, so I'd just be fined or given a suspended sentence.

As far as I was concerned I chose what was going to get me out of there.

I pleaded "guilty", but I'd seen no statement about what I'd done.

Prison

The magistrate asked the policeman to give an account of what I did and he told them that I'd grabbed him round the neck and punched him in the face several times. But there wasn't a mark on him.

I was shattered.

Next thing I knew I was down in a cell waiting, taken in a bus [to Brixton prison], running the gauntlet of the prison officers - people who got arrested at demonstrations were quite unpopular.

It was dreadful. It finished my demonstrating career off. I wouldn't do that again, I try and keep away from crowds even now.

In Context
Mick Brown was released after serving six weeks of his two-month sentence.

He now lives in Cambridge and works in printing. Although he has never been on a big demonstration since his arrest, he is still interested in radical politics.


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