This was one of the best days I have ever spent taking pictures. I had been flattened a couple of times by testerical coppers but was nonetheless motoring well by mid afternoon when Grand Buildings was torched by the anarchists, the flames adding to the festive atmosphere.
The Poll Tax had been a festering sore for what felt like an age and after a few earlier demos that had been crushed by police action this one had really kicked off. I found it quite hard work, before I even reached Trafalgar Square I’d had a police shield driven edge on into my throat by a cop who left the Downing Street cordon and ran across Whitehall at me just for the privilege.
The air was crackling with energy. Random truncheonings, police vans driven into the crowd and mass charges by riot plod had only reinforced people’s determination to force some democracy down Thatcher’s throat.
I was watching in the square as the cops lost it early on. Just before this shot I’d been trying to shelter with three cops behind a pole. They were more scared than I was and the pole wasn’t entirely adequate as protection.
When this scene unrolled in front of me I sprinted out in front of it grabbing four frames before making my excuses and running away. By this time I’d had the hair on one side of my head burnt off by an exploding motor bike, my knee mashed by a scaff clamp hurled from the top of the burning offices and had been tumbled a dozen times by cops, horses, rioters and vans. I’d never been happier.
David Hoffman sold his first image to the Daily Express in 1963, and has spent the past 30 years covering news events for national newspapers and magazines. In between covering social issues, David also shoots for books, advertisements, PR and corporate clients.
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