Civil unrest or just lying down?

By Mike Rawlins

On Saturday I took Mrs R shopping in to the seething metropolis that is Hanley and in particular the Potteries Shopping Centre.

The usual timetable of shopping was followed, shoes, handbags, shoes, jewellery, until we decided to go for a coffee. As we were walking around I noticed that all the shopping centre security guards were wearing HiViz vests, also there were far more police and PCSOs around the centre than normal. A couple of the City Councils Street Wardens were walking around as well.

As we were wandering along, me laden with bags of said shoes, handbags and jewelry, I overheard a member of staff saying to a shopper, “at about 2 O’clock lots of people are going to lie down on the floor, it’s nothing to worry about, something that has been set up on the Internet. If you do see anything suspicious you should tell security or call the police!

Now I need to be honest and say I did know about the Ultimate Stoke-on-Trent Lying Down Game that had been set up on Facebook and attracted over 4000 followers. So it was no surprise to me when at 2pm people started lying down around the shopping centre,

Lying Down in the Potteries Shopping Centre

Lying Down in the Potteries Shopping Centre

what did suprise me though was the number of police & PCSOs that had been deployed to the Potteries Centre. I counted around 13 that were waiting at the Town Road entrance to the shopping centre, along with most of the Potteries security staff and the Street Wardens, so in excess of 20 people. Oh and I mustn’t forget the 2 ambulance people who were there as well all deployed to deal with the massive show of civil unrest.

Outside around the clock there were around 100 – 150 people lying down, now if it were me planning something like this I would have not done it in such a large group in one area, as there was an old couple and a couple with a small child and a pushchair who ended up landlocked in the middle of all the bodies. Maybe the plan was to do it inside the shopping centre in a more random style but with the intimidation of all the security staff & police (who I did see stopping groups of youths entering the centre) maybe this wasn’t possible. Also planning it so publicly on Facebook and calling the local paper probably detracted from what could have been quite an impressive sight.

On a more serious point as long as Staffordshire Police show as much interest in dealing with real crime as they did in sending officers and PCSOs to stand and watch people lying on the floor then all is well in the world, but if I hear of someone reporting that the police were too busy to come out then that is a different story.