We had the RICS Geomatics Professional Group meeting at the RICS HQ, 12 Great George Street, on Thurs. It was Stuart Edward's first full meeting as Chair and our international reps were there. We knew, due to the vote on university fees, that there would be protests in Parliament Square, but no idea of the scale.
At 1350 a whole raft of students arrived from the Whitehall area. Actually I'd realised they were at Trafalgar Square 30 mins earlier as I could see the helicopters buzzing over that area from our 5th floor meeting room.
We went out on to the terrace to watch proceedings. It was increasingly confusing with demonstrators breaking through baracades and police lines moving. The students broke into the grass area of Paliament Square and pretty soon there were fires blazing (incl a bench) and someone had erected a gazebo - which certainly shows some planning ahead.
Poor Stuart had a job on his hands to keep us focused on the business of the day when events outside were far more interesting.
At 1500 we were told the police wanted us out in 20 mins. They were struggling to keep Paliament Square closed and, for our safety, wanted us out of the building. The RICS building is across the road from Treasury. We evacuated in 10 mins and then spent 30 mins walking to our hotel just the other side of Westminster Bridge. Of course we couldn't take a direct route so walked up Marsham Street (giving a wide berth to the Tory HQ in Millbank), across Lambeth Bridge and along the South Bank. We reconvined our meeting in a spare hotel meeting room - which was kind of them. This gave Peter Dare and I had an opportunity for impromptu chair race which I won (ha!).
Martin Pratt, from IBRU, was due to give the evening lecture and receive the Michael Barrett award which, obviously, had to be abandoned. I was really looking forward to it but hey ho. He'd travelled down to London for no more than a meal with us lot before returning the next morning. I was delighted to sit next to him and have a good chinwag about datums in the Gulf ever over dinner, like you do.
Around 2230 our hotel was surrounded by police vans and the entrance closed . We were also hearing rumours of tube stations being closed etc. I now realise that there was a group of protestors kettled on Westminster Bridge. We stood there in the bar, glasses in hand, and watched the proceedings. A very bizarre end to the day.
Let's hope, for Stuart's sake, next time round it's all a lot more normal.