Lawrence Flowers, a local tax adviser, was one of those people trying to get inside All Saints Centre in Lewes last Saturday to hear a talk from Katie Hopkins. He is 6' 2" tall, and a former rugby player, which, when you read his story, explains how he managed to do what he did.
Here is his very detailed, personal account of what it was really like. If you think the protesters were good humoured upstanding citizens, think again.
All Saints opened at 18.15 and I aimed to arrive shortly after that. Turning off Pinwell Road into the car park I heard the noise of a demonstration - shouting, chanting, horns, hooters - even drumming.
Walking through the car park it got louder. When I reached Friars Walk it was complete mayhem. There were maybe up to 200 demonstrators in the churchyard - on the path, grass, graves, anywhere. Some held placards and were chanting. But the way to the church was blocked solid, entrance completely impossible.
After the placards & the stragglers is when it got more serious, progress blocked by a line of loud, jostling thugs ten or more deep. It was impossible to make headway against them. A frail old man was being shepherded out from the church through all this by a frantic relative, pleading for help.
As I tried to get through, a young man planted himself right in front of me. I asked him to move as I wanted to get in - usual nonsense reply (‘I’m not blocking you!’) When I moved to go round him he jumped in front of me again. And again. Eventually, in exasperation I put my hands under his armpits, lifted and swung him round out of the way. Immediately six or more jumped in his place shouting and threatening (‘What do you think you’re doing!’ ‘Don’t assault him!’) then they barged/shoved me back down the path.
With a solid phalanx of jeering hooligans in my face, a tall (6’4”) hooded, masked thug sneaked behind me, grabbed my rucksack and started tugging/pulling me back. I had to struggle out of it to stop being yanked further back. We had a face to face confrontation, and he shouted various threats (‘I don’t want to have to hurt you’ ‘Are you going to make me do that?’)
Now clutching my rucksack in front of me, and somehow disengaging from him, I managed to gradually force my way through the mob. They were obstructing/blocking/shouting insults but I persevered; eventually reaching a lamp post I wrapped an arm round it. But here was the toughest barrier. Linking arms the thugs had formed a solid wall, anchored to a lamppost at each end, with a crowd in support behind them and on each side. Every attempt to break through failed, and was met with jeers and insults. Despite all their threats and abuse, after much shoving, pushing, heaving I somehow got past them. I reached a couple of very hard-pressed security guards outside the doors who were just - only just - managing to hold back the surging mob. There was also a young policeman there. I told him they should have arranged more cover.
After my ticket was checked by a bigger, older policeman inside the door I was allowed into the vestibule. There were maybe three dozen or more embattled-looking men and women, of all ages. Only a very few had got past the thugs. The rest would have been there already, maybe watching earlier presentations.
Once inside we were literally under siege. The howling mob crashing & banging against the doors, eggs thrown at the windows - at one stage we thought a large window would come crashing in from the violence of the egg-throwing and fists hammering against it. Somebody pointed out, on the back of my jacket, the sticky remains of an egg thrown at me as I battled my way in. Large numbers of people had obviously been frightened away completely by the violence & intimidation.
The security guards I’d seen on the front door suddenly rushed through to the back of the building. A break-in by the mob? I followed them to give assistance and arrived backstage. A rather surprised older man nervously asked who I was, obviously thinking it was the mob. I said I was one of the audience, coming to give assistance, if required.
Shortly after, back up in the vestibule, another security guard came rushing in, apparently with some sort of corrosive substance on him. He ran frantically to the loo to rinse it off.
Now the mob were targetting an emergency exit at the side of the building. A man maybe late-30s stood by the door, recording on his phone as they hammered against it. I stood beside him and hung onto the bar of the door, pulling against the thugs trying to yank it open and break in. With all the tugging and pulling eventually the screws started working loose. One of the girls working there rushed down with a screwdriver and screwed them back in, but this was a temporary respite. As this crashing, hammering tug of war continued they worked loose again.
The bar was getting looser by the second. Then it just came away completely - I was holding a loose, unattached piece of metal. With nothing for me to pull on they got a purchase on the door and started pulling it open. I pushed myself into the widening gap to block entry. Soon it had been yanked wide open and I’d wedged myself in the gap, braced against two men shoving and pushing at me, trying to get in. Then the furthest reached through and got his hand round my throat, shouting ‘Go on, hit me first - you just do it and see what happens!’
Eventually, I couldn’t hold them anymore and they burst through. The nearest of the two, the biggest, must have launched himself at somebody behind me - I glimpsed them struggling on the floor. A very big man wearing a crash helmet & jacket burst past me and threw himself horizontally on top of them. I rushed over and hauled him off. Briefly, I got my knee across his neck, pinning him down.
Others broke in too but I had my hands full and saw nothing. Then I saw the first man again. He had blood on his face and was screaming for revenge. Grabbing a metal pole, he rushed down the corridor ripping open doors, bellowing what he would do to the other man. I raced after him to support our man but he was nowhere to be seen; he must have gone right out of the building. The bloodied man was shouting & roaring what he would do to him, absolutely beside himself with rage. Now totally uncontrollable he was capable of extreme violence, and worse.
Eggs were being hurled in through the broken door. Of the others that got in, one was an old, grey-haired woman, shouting her outrage/horror over this man’s bleeding - conveniently ignoring the extreme violence & law-breaking of the mob she was a part of.
Back near the vestibule the big, older policeman was in the broken-open doorway, blocking it against the mob harassing him from outside. I jumped next to him and we managed to haul the doors back together then hold them shut (broken LH door trapped inside the other) Pulling back on the bar against the hammering and crashing outside, I had a rather surreal conversation with him (‘All in a day’s work for you?’ ‘We needed a dozen of you guys (police) tonight...’)
Eventually the thugs who’d got inside were pacified by the management staff and agreed to leave peaceably. The policeman and I released our hold of the door and they filed out, smirking.
Later, those of us inside were evacuated from the building - via the broken side door then out through the back of the churchyard, bumping/stumbling over tombstones in the darkness.
I got to Waitrose a bit after 7pm, feeling very shaken, badly needing to talk to somebody, to unburden my feelings.
Whilst inside All Saints I’d talked to various people. The unanimous verdict - they just don’t get it do they - the irony of protesting against so-called hate speech with more of the same, plus all this violence too.
Mr. Flowers summed up what happened in the following bullet points:
- There were only two policemen on duty at the venue, one on the door, the other inside.
- A baying mob possibly 200 strong were blocking access, and in complete control
- Most ticketholders would have been scared away, not even trying to enter
- If they did, they were met with intimidation, threats, violence
- No more than a handful actually ran the gauntlet, of which I was one
Despite all of the above, Sussex Police didn't make a single arrest. As far as the police were concerned, the matter was closed.
I have also written to Katy Bourne, Sussex's Police and Crime Commissioner, asking her to order an investigation.
For the avoidance of doubt, and as a rebuttal to those who would like to discredit him, Mr. Flowers sent me a copy of his ticket with his name on it, and a simple Google search will also verify that Mr. Flowers is indeed a local tax adviser.
Photo Credit: LoveLewes.com