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Last updated May-2004

Release Report .

The following report was created after the 1974 festival as a response to the heavy handed and vindictive way in which the police went about their management of the 1974 event . It also gives a very good chronology of what happened during the six days of the festival, which is perhaps easier to follow than the newsletter and underground press reports .


:Roger’s Log .

Marvin and Marvin pitch camp with the hired van, next to the same oak trees that we used as our base in 1973’ Don (Aitken) and Klelita arrive a little later and suggest moving next to Ubi’s (Dwyer) H.Q., half a mile down the road. They then departed in search of our hired caravan, which eventually arrived an hour late but was so luxurious that nobody complained. Don reconnoitres the site like Napoleon before Austerlitz, while Roger and Melita purchase provisions from Windsor. The crowd continues to grow and the police, unlike 1973, make no attempt to move tents. However, there is a two foot high metal barrier which prevents vehicles from going on to the site.Soon the busts start rolling in, along with messages for missing persons, lost dogs, etc. and dope reports. The most serious charge is that plain clothes 'hippie' drug squad officers are harassing arrivals at the Windsor Railway Station and in one specific incident, a police officer masqueraded as a Release worker in order to make an arrest.

The card on the wall of this stall reads- "all items sold at this stall will go to help Roger from Bristol who is in jail in Spain Busted for Dope "

Photo© P Glanvill

     Tim from Kaleidoscope and Roger go down to the station and observe some very suspicious characters loitering with intent. They seemed to realise that we were making notes on their appearance and they disappeared’ before the next train came in. Roger and Tim informed incoming passengers of what was going on and returned to the site.
Soon afterwards, a relatively good-natured melee occurred at the access road to the site, involving festival people who wanted to get bands into the park and the police who wanted to stop them. Roger stood vigil for most of the night - lost persons and busts were reported constantly until long after midnight. Coffee, without the usual regulation of Brandy managed to sustain us in the early hours. The most depressing event was the arrival of a totally wasted junkie, his wife and baby. The wife and baby slept in the caravan whilst he lumbered off into the night.
    Don writes: On Friday, a few people apparently discovered the only break in the fence (aforementioned) which was blocked by five metal posts locked in position. After three of these posts had been disposed of, the police realised what was going on and mounted a permanent guard on the point. By Friday evening it was clear that work on the stages was being badly held up by the impossibility of getting vehicles to them and an announcement was made from one of the stages asking people to gather round the gate. A mini-confrontation then occurred with much shouting and confusion as the police were asked to leave the site. This was followed by a sit-down in the road (the first use of a tactic which became increasingly effective later in the week, until the police got used to it). Then came some high-pressure, full-volume, negotiation between the original festival organizer, Bill (Ubi) Dwyer and the police officer in charge, who was obviously worried by the situation and rather short of men. (The police were later heavily reinforced.) Eventually the police officer in question agreed to recommend to the park Commissioners that the gate be opened and everybody went reluctantly away.


   Somewhat to our surprise, the police guard in fact disappeared from the gate early on Saturday morning (by which time there was a queue of at least 25 ice-cream vans outside it) and the organizers took contro! of site access—having appa-rently promised the police that only necessary vehicles would be allowed entry. This promise seemed to us to be kept throughout the festival.

Roger’s Log: A lot of us were running on natural speed by now and the first wave of heavy trippers inundated us fairly early. An inordinate number of them seemed to be 'wankers' i . e . sexually repressed individuals liberated in a bizarre kind of way by the acid. I was reminded of a sardonic remark made by a girl at the Knebworth festival, as a scrawny, naked male pranced before her—'Good Gracious, it must be my lucky day!' Strong brown tabs (which we are uncertain were acid and are having analysed—Ed.) were causing most of the problems, though there were some green and white varieties in evidence. By late afternoon the area around the Release ambulance was reminiscent of a scene by Hieronymus Bosch. Yea, there was lamentation, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Worst of all were the juvenile philosophers who bellowed tedious cosmic observations about the state of the universe. Divine Light’s first aid point helped with some of this workload and the loan of a tent from Civil Aid eased a desperate situation. We were not however entirely happy about Divine Light methods.
   Police random searches and harassment increased throughout the day. A diabetic Release volunteer was apprehended on a spurious charge of obstruction and held without his insulin for two hours before a Release doctor was permitted to see him. As dusk fell, Roger, Carmela and Melita fled to Virginia Water for an eighteen hour rest and recreation period. Through the day, Roger and Phil liaised with material for the festival broadsheet. The organized media were now beginning to take a considerable interest in police behaviour also. Somebody ought to tell Thames Valley Police that it is bad P.R. to harass respectable journalists.


    An irate phone call from the heavy letter writer recalled Roger, Carmela and Melita from their Arcadian retreat. The irate phone caller felt the need for a similar rest period that evening and his criterion [sic] was muted by the green pastures of Virginian Waters. Back on site, the busts were occurring at an alarming rate and our legal force was stretched to the limit. Legal and medical calls continued late into the night and the trip tent was packed. This time Roger fortified himself with Brandy, along with Clive and some reliable companions from the old Technicolour Dream Days.


    The police maintained their road block at Queen Anne’s Gate and busted people with monstrous regularity. The bad early morning weather drove a certain number away and, possibly also the news that the police were taking numbers of all vehicles parked by the site during the night. Roger appeared on 'World At One' to protest strongly against the police actions and this was only on the Monday.
Earlier in the weekend the police had requested our help in dealing with a Hell’s Angel rape case.
We gladly did so, although Release/police cooperation seemed to be becoming a one way arrangement. On Monday afternoon, Roger left for the more settled atmosphere of Northern Ireland. Before the festival he had predicted considerable trouble, but as another Release Worker commented that, despite the police harassment and the random search of two Release solicitors, how wrong can you be? Oh, Yeah!


    On Tuesday, the 27th August 1974, Release sent this letter to the Home Secretary:
' Dear Home Secretary,
During the last few days RELEASE has been attempting to assist those arrested at and around the Windsor Free Festival.
We have been extremely concerned about a number of aspects of the Thames Valley Police operation at Windsor, and after some thought on the matter, have decided that the right course would be to ask you to exercise your powers under section 32 of the Police Act 1964 to cause an inquiry to be held into the matter. The main issues which concern us are the following:
(1) The abuse of section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 197l, by the employment of random searches on a very wide scale without reasonable grounds for suspicion. In this connection we would also bring to your attention that the recommendation contained in paragraph 127 of the Report by the late Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence on Powers of Arrest and Search in Relation to drug offences, which was embodied by your predecessor in a circular to Chief Constables was not followed, and that officers conducting searches declared themselves not be to be bound by it.
(2) The fact that some of those arrested wvere held incommunicado in premises under military guard for up to forty hours and thereby deprived of any opportunity to communicate with friends or to receive legal advice of any but the most perfunctory kind.
(3) The apparent policy decision to refuse to consider granting police bail in any case, without any inquiry into individual cases as required by section 38 of the Magistrates Courts
Act 1952 in cases where persons are held for more than twenty-four hours.
(4) The fact that the names and addresses of those searched on whom no controlled drugs were found were taken without any lawful authority.
(5) The employment of unnecessarily underhand and disreputable methods by undercover agents, including in at least one case -the misuse of the name of this organisation.
(6) The interrogation and in some cases charging of persons under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs and the use in evidence of statements obtained from persons in such a
It should be noted that the majority of these allegations relate not to the behaviour of individual police officers, which in most cases we found to be reasonable and courteous, but to the execution of a policy laid down some months in advance at a high level within the force. It is for this reason that we do not consider the machinery provided by section 49 of the Police Act I 1964 to be appropriate and we therefore ask you to exercise your power to initiate an inquiry under section 32 of that Act. We are prepared to place before such an inquiry, detailed evidence in support of each of the matters of complaint mentioned herein.
Yours Sincerely, ...

The letter was signed by Don Aitken, M.A. (Cantab), Legal Counsellor, Dr. John Gug, MB BS, and two solicitors Michael Reed LIB, and Clive Morrick.


The next two days diary entries were missing in the report , which resumes again on Thursday


    Malcolm’s Account: At 7.30 on Thursday, I and John Sweeny were rudely awakened by a hammering on and the rocking of our van. I leaned over to open the door, only to be greeted by about eight policemen who ordered me out of bed. I sat up in my sleeping bag and leant over to wake John. An arm pulled meback telling me to hurry up. Police then proceeded to supervise while John and I got dressed. Unfortunately, in the confusion, I did not think to take down any numbers.
   Having arisen, I found the whole Release encampment dead and began to worry what had happened to the others. It transpired that save for our doctor Phil—who was at that time in the Divine Light Tent, they had all gone back to London. This somewhat annoyed me as there was no one on duty in the caravan, but I had no time to ponder on the matter as police supervised our dismantling of the tent and packing of equipment into the various vans. Meanwhile, we were joined by Phil who was ordered by the police to remove his car. He explained that it had broken down, so the police contacted the A. A., who arrived in due course. Having finally packed everything up, we convinced the police that we were awaiting drivers from London, and were finally allowed to have some breakfast. They agreed meantime to contact the owners of the caravan and arrange to have it moved. This I would add, was the first time the police gave us any sort of assistance having previously stood by watching us do all the work. The A.A. soon fixed up Phil's car and he was then made to leave - despite the fact that he was a doctor. He told us that he would try to find the others in town, as nobody was being allowed into the park from outside. One exception to this was one of our legal helpers, Marvin who, although refused entry to the park in his car, managed to gain access when he had parked it nearby. With Phil gone and Marvin come, we were still only a team of three people, with very littIe hope of being joined by more. The police were now becoming disinterested, presumably because we had done all we could. Various reports were coming in concerning violence and arrests at the far end of the park, so Marvin and I left John with the vans and headed off to investigate.
    As we walked, we found that most of the people in the lower end of the park were quiet and unaware of any troubles. However as we got halfway up the hill, we sighted a police cordon stretching across the full width of the park, preventing any access to the southern end. We later gathered that the far end of the park had been evacuated - people having been directed out by the road heading towards the North (Queen Anne's Gate). This supervision ended after the cordon however, and it appeared that the majority of people left the road and joined the large crowd assembled by the middle park stage. Some signs of music came from the stage implying that a group were about to start playing. The crowd itself was dense, providing a human barrier around both the generator and the stage itself.
    When we arrived at this stage, large quantities of policemen were accumulating at the side of the road. At the same time, there were people on stage encouraging the crowd to enact a policy of non-provocation and non-violence in the case of any encounter. The audience response were apparently favourable to this motion. Although the crowd was packed, there was a weak point to one side of the backstage area when the police literally ploughed into the crowd at the aforementioned weak spot. The spectacle can best be described as a stampede. Whilst police fought their way towards the stage, we were watching from a view point that gave us a clear view of activity underneath the stage. Here I saw several people lying down, suddenly shocked by the arrival of the police who proceeded to charge straight over them. The front line of police (at least six) had truncheons drawn and were swinging them viciously at anyone who got in their way. Plainclothes policemen in the crowd, previously planted there, I presume, and identifiable by their chequered armbands, were deliberately pushing people into the uniformed police, provoking assault by the uniformed police on the individual victims. I also noticed one mother with a very young baby caught up in this tangle and desperately trying to get out, with no help whatsoever from the police. Only at this very late stage did I witness any retaliation from the crowd and it had my full sympathy. Only a minimum of bottles and cans were thrown and to my eyes it was self-defence against a totally ruthless and unnecessary method of attack. At no stage did the police ask the crowd to move- they just ploughed into it.
    Having taken the basic stage area, the police appeared to retreat for refreshment, whilst those policemen actually on the stage remained ripping down the coverings and tearing up the floorboards. Marvin and I moved to a position between the road and the crowd, in order to obtain names and addresses from those still being arrested. I immediately witnessed the police grab a man who climbed off the stage. He was carrying a guitar when he was pulled aggressively by the arm and swung round. As he was pulled round, his guitar brushed against a policeman who promptly wrenched it from him and hit it against the scaffolding (for no sane reason). The man then tried to grab it back and a tug of war ensued. However the emergence of a more senior policeman appeared to inspire a more tolerant attitude towards the victim, whose guitar was returned to him as he was carried off to a police van.
    During the next half hour or more, I witnessed many other arrests and in most cases moved in discreetly to ask details of the victims. In most cases I was unmolested, or at most verbally abused, but in two instances I was physically assaulted for this intervention, even though my tactic involved walking by the side of the policemen at any one side of the victim-in every way making sure that I was not causing an obstruction. In one case, as I fell behind from this position, having obtained the victim’s name, a policeman’s elbow dug into the side of my stomach. In the second case, I was in position at the side of a policeman, when I received a blow (karate-type) that hit me full across the chest. In both cases I was too astounded to have time to take the policeman’s number, an oversight which deeply frustrates me. I would add that upon protest in the latter case, I was told that if I did not go away I would be arrested for obstruction myself.
    Meanwhile I could see that the cordon of police at the top of the hill had moved down slowly, making a clean sweep of the park as they did so. Hence, all the people left in the park were being forced into this final confrontation. By the time the first wave of police had taken the stage, the cordon had arrived at the edge of the crowd, enclosing them in a semi-circle. Meantime, the police who had partaken in the first battle, effectively provided the almost second half to a full circle round the crowd. A group of people in the crowd suddenly tried to storm the stage whilst others threw objects at the police on the stage. This triggered a second invasion on behalf of the police, although they appeared to be gathering for such a purpose anyway. The skirmish was violent, but less so than the first. It succeeded in dispersing a large portion of the crowd, but nevertheless there were about 15 people on top of the scaffolding at the end, a token final protest. During this, Marvin and I remained near the roadside again in order to obtain names of those arrested. I then witnessed something which could be described as conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm. While these people were clinging on to the remnants of the stage scaffolding, police encircled it and began to rock it. The structure was flimsy and I was surprised that it did not immediately collapse. I would not have rated the chances of the people on the scaffolding if they had fallen that forty odd feet. Eventually the people climbed down - just in time, for the police succeeded in collapsing the stage by rocking it shortly after .I could not tell if those coming off the stage were arrested -I suspect so. Walking back down the hill, a few hundred yards in front, Marvin and I saw the police form a new cordon and sweep clean across the remainder of the site.

    Back at the Release encampment, I arranged with the chief inspector on duty and the Divine Light doctor, Andy, to put the serious cases in their medical tent into our caravan. In fact some idiot had locked it and we had to look after the people outside while someone went in search of the key. Meanwhile the police finished their clean-sweep also through the Divine Light Tent, and having more or less cleared the site, adjourned once more for refreshment. Much to my surprise, one very friendly policeman came over and gave a cup of tea to our bad trippers, the only decent gesture I had seen all day. Finally the key came and leaving the caravan with Divine Light, left to see the scene in the courts.

Release aftermath - Truncheons In The Park

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