Chapter 4: Priestesses of the Revolution in Parliament Square
I spent the Sunday trying to recruit some companions for my May Day excursion. Various people said they’d like to come, and we’d arrange to meet at the railway station.
“What time?” they’d ask.
“Well I reckon about 9 o’clock. The action starts at 11 and I want to be sure I get there before they close off the square.”
No one said anything, but I could read it in their eyes. “9’oclock. That’s much too early. I’ll still be in bed at 9 o’clock.”
Someone called Pete Promise had promised to come with me. In fact it had been Pete who had alerted me to the event in the first place. But in the end, Pete Promise’s promises turned out to lack promise. Where did he get his name from, I wonder?
In the end no one else came, and I went by myself.
I met a friend at the station. He was on his way up to the May Day celebrations in Rochester: a traditional May Day event, with Morris dancers and May Poles, blacked up faces, and plenty of beer. Maybe I wished I was going with him.
I got a cup of coffee from the man pushing the drinks trolley on the train. I asked him who he worked for.
“Swiss Air,” he told me.
“Don’t you think that’s strange,” I asked, “working for Swiss Air? Since when did Swiss Air get into the coffee-trolley business and start moving onto British trains?”
He said he did find it strange, but it was a job.
Globalisation is everywhere.
I walked from Victoria Station towards Parliament Square. There was a small Police presence halfway up: a Motorcycle cop in the middle of the road, talking idly to a yellow-jacketed constable. They seemed in good spirits.
I veered off the main road, mainly to get myself a cup of coffee from a small cafe. I still had a hangover from two days before. The waitress was Russian, young and pretty, with huge round spectacles. The chef was chatting her up. They mentioned the demo in passing. “Hope there’s no trouble,” the chef said, before suggesting I might like a breakfast. “Cheapest in London,” he said. “One ninety nine. A bargain.”
“Maybe later,” I said.
After that I zigzagged through the back roads. Not that I’m paranoid. But I was keeping my head down, trying to look like a normal citizen.
The back roads were full of police vans, lined up against the kerb. You could see them all in there in their riot gear, easing the tension with bantering conversation. And there was a workman’s lorry on the corner of an approach road to Parliament Square, a flat-back full of grit covered in tarpaulin, with men in overalls and workman’s helmets standing on top. Also another couple of lorries with barricades and traffic cones piled up.. One of the workmen had a walkie-talkie. “So you want us to block the road, right? Yes, yes. When you give the order. Right.”
They were plain clothed policemen.
After that I went into Parliament Square. There were no cordons. Big Ben shadowed us benignly.
The green space of Parliament Fields was already filling up with anarchists.. Most of them were hardly more than children. They had that air of excitement about them, like a bunch of kids on the sands at Margate. They even had their buckets and spades with them (this was a guerrilla gardening action remember: they were here to plant seeds for the future.) Around the space the darkened statues of obscure British Army Generals observed us with cool indifference, looking down upon us from their tired platforms. Only Winston Churchill had any real presence.
Actually, I must admit that I was feeling a little paranoid. Not so much about the police, as the anarchists. I’m a middle-aged man. My clothing style is M&S cast-offs and pullovers my Mom buys me for Christmas. Cool I ain’t. I kept thinking people were looking at me funny, like they all suspected I was a plain-clothed policeman in their midst: or, worse still, a journalist. Also I’d just had my hair cut: short-back-and-sides. I’d reasoned that I was less likely to get hit with a short-back-and-sides.(The barber had said, “it’s a mistake, you have such an interesting face.” After the haircut I’d said, “see? I still have an interesting face.” “I’m not saying anything,” the barber said, while taking my money.)
So I was wandering around in my best second hand M&S woolly, with my short-back-and-sides, amongst the colourful crowd all milling about like anarchist peacocks in season, feeling paranoid and middle-aged. This might have had something to do with the hangover too. It was still early yet. Nothing much was happening.
I wanted to sit down and start taking notes, but I thought, “no, someone will attack me.”
So I stayed on the move.
There was a TV crew on a wall overlooking the scene, with a TV reporter (Nicolas Witchell, quite famous, with red hair and freckles) looking suitably detached and superior. He had a clip board and a pen, and was taking notes.
Someone else was making sketches, sitting by one of the monuments. I envied him his art. At least no one was going to jump to conclusions about his intentions.
There is a perhaps quite justifiable suspicion about the media amongst anarchist circles. They’ve had a bad press over the years: sometimes downright lies, as when, for instance, before J18 the press had reported that RTS were stockpiling weapons. It’s a joke, of course, but not a very funny one. But the process had gone far too far. Now they wouldn’t talk to anyone, not even normally sympathetic reporters.
I later heard that people had attacked the veteran Stonehenge campaigner, Tash, for taking photographs. Tash has been the main photographer and archivist of anarchist culture and politics for nearly thirty years. So some people were now attacking veterans on their own side.
Black propaganda and suspicion had become rife.
Eventually I caught up with Warren, handing out copies of SchNEWS. I told him what I’d overheard the workmen saying on the corner of a sidestreet approaching Parliament Square. It was one more paranoid observation to throw into the turmoil of the day. And meeting up with Warren, of course, meant meeting up with the rest of the SchNEWS collective, all those bright young people from Brighton I kind of know, and kind of don’t know. We lurked around on the edge of the anarchist inaction for a while, on the raised beds beside the green. Warren made his usual observation about Trotskyite papers sellers. “I wish they’d fuck off,” he said. “I wish they’d sell their papers somewhere else.”
SchNEWS, of course, is given away for nothing.
Someone told me that there were 3,000 people from Critical Mass on their way from Hyde Park. Critical Mass are the anarchist cyclist group.
Later we were wandering in a sort of snake-line through the crowd when I saw Jo. I mean—Jo! I sort of slid along beside side her without at first knowing she was there. Then I looked up. There was a moment of recognition. This face in the crowd. I know you! I more than know you. I fucking love you!
“Jo!” I said.
“Chris!” she said, startled into recognition.
And we gave each other a long, comfortable, friend’s hug, before standing back and looking at each other again.
“I thought I’d lost you,” she said. There was something about the way she said “you” which made me feel special.
“Never. You can’t lose me,” I said.
“Well how do I look?” she said. “Have I grown?”
Well you could call this a coincidence or you could call it something else. Maybe if you were a hippie, you’d call it synchronicity. Or providence: that’s another word worth remembering. Providence provides. Or Fate, even. If you said it was weird, you’d be using the word as it was originally conceived, in the Anglo-Saxon, as a mysterious force that impels the human world, that directs men and women of calling to their fate. Another hippie word I’ve heard used is Pronoia. It’s the opposite of Paranoia: a state where the intricate workings of the World Mind conspire to make things work just right.
Which is how it felt in that moment, meeting Jo: just right. Standing there on that day, on that strange May Day (on that day of all days) looking at my old familiar friend, feeling that everything was just right.
I’d shared a house with Jo years before. It was the most crowded house I’ve ever lived in. There was me and my son in the front living room downstairs, Jo and her bloke, John, in the back bedroom upstairs, and another John in the front bedroom. We distinguished the two John’s by calling Jo’s John “Lost”, and the other “Blonde”. Sometimes Jo called Lost John “Dark-Eyed John” or “Dark John”. But, then again, she wanted to be able to distinguish him with a more romantic sounding name than “Lost”. All three of them are over six foot tall. I developed a permanent crick in the neck from looking up at them, while they developed permanent stoops from ducking through the doorways in this Wendy House sized space.
Then there was a homeless couple sleeping on the settee in the living room: Remi and Miranda. Miranda was pregnant. And Lost John’s Dog, Jude, who used often to chew up the rubbish bin. You’d come down stairs to find chewed paper and tins and potato peelings scattered all over the kitchen floor. And Rhiannon, Jo’s daughter, still a baby at the time, who I’d occasionally baby-sit for. It was a two-up, two-down Victorian terrace, with a long, slimy kitchen tacked on like an afterthought at the back, with a bathroom tacked even more tenuously onto that. A two-up, two-down with eight and a half people (including Miranda’s bump) and a dog living in it.
Blonde John was going quietly mad at the time. He’d been an archaeologist, but was now out of work. He’d done his knee in. He spent his time tracing maps, missing out the modern features so that the world looked as it would have in Roman times. Or he’d design imaginary Cathedrals on scraps of paper. Or he’d spend hours on the settee reading cheap thrillers while downing bottles of British sherry or—when he was feeling flush or in need of culture—G’n’Ts, with ice and a slice. He was always very refined in his tastes. Lost John was darkly handsome, muscular, with tanned features and a sharp, bird-like nose. He was much less refined. You’d imagine a gruff, dark brown voice to go with his dark-brown features. Only his voice broke whenever he became excited—or drunk, same thing—and then he sounded like a little boy.
One day I was baby-sitting Rhiannon while drinking Blonde John’s bottle of Gin. Jo was at the pub with Lost. I got so drunk I could hear the complete score of a never-before-heard Hollywood Musical in my head. It was very clear, with a complete orchestral arrangement, and deeply meaningful lyrics. Afterwards one of Jo’s friends came back. She was staying with Jo for the weekend. She went up to Jo’s bed, and then I followed her. I was making obscene propositions to her as she lay in the bed, naked and annoyed, while I was off my head on Gin and Musical Comedy. She told me to go away several times, but that musical score was so intense I couldn’t hear her. I think it took Jo a day or two to forgive me that particular indiscretion.
The First Gulf War was on at the time. We listened to the triumphalist propaganda on the radio all day, and drew our own conclusions about the real meaning of it. The news was on 24 hours a day. Blonde John painted pro-Iraqi graffiti on our outside wall, while the relentless voices of jingoism echoed in every pub.
And I’d had my vasectomy done while I was living there. I went up to London for it. It was done under local anaesthetic. There was no pain, but the smell of burning flesh (my flesh! my own delicate, internal flesh!) made me feel sick. On the train back the anaesthetic started to wear off. Then the rattling of the train and the bumping of the seat began to feel like torture. Clackety-clack, clackety-clack. Testicular wrack, testicular wrack. After that I had to walk home. I was walking like a cowboy, keeping my legs firmly apart, while shudders of nausea troubled my every step. I got as far as a friend’s house and had to go in for a lie-down. Later I caught a taxi back home. I hobbled into the house, all green and shaky, and Blonde was there. He laughed when I told him what was wrong. I persuaded him to go and get me a Chinese, because I couldn’t walk around the corner.
That night I dreamt of teenage boys stamping on my testicles, and my penis being turned inside out with the delicate precision of a surgeon’s knife. Weeks later I had to masturbate into a plastic bottle, and send it up to the clinic to check its sperm content.
But the house was full and lively. Full of life. My son and I would settle into our shared room and watch videos. Or I’d read him stories (it was The Lord Of The Rings) before he went to bed. He’d nestle into the crook of my arm getting sleepy, and I’d miss out all the poetry and arcane stuff, sticking strictly to the story-line. Moments like that stay with you forever. I still have the psychic imprint of his head getting sleepy in the crook of my arm. And afterwards I could go to the pub. There was always someone in the house, so there was always a baby-sitter, so I could always go to the pub.
One New Years Day I looked after Rhiannon while Jo spent the day in bed with Lost. They spent the whole time making love. Jo was positively operatic in her pleasure, arias of trilling ecstasy cascading down the stairs. I was watching telly. I can’t remember what was on, though it might have been The Sound Of Music.
“The hills are alive
with the sound of music
with songs they have sung
for a thousand years!”
That was how Jo sounded as she made love, like Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music, skipping gaily through the mountains with her arms in the air.
After that she’d gone away, to live in West Wales, though we’d still remained in contact. I’d gone to visit her in a cool, sturdy cottage in a little village there: spent several weeks writing and keeping out of the sun. She was doing a Biology degree, for which she got a First. Then she moved to Devon, where her parents are based. And after that she was gone: who knows where? I’d heard rumours that she was in Bali, or she was in New Zealand, or somewhere equally distant and strange. I never expected to see her again.
And now here she was, Jo, towering above me as usual, all elbows and legs and belly-button, with this wild, electric tangle of red hair, looking at me with the same sense of shared history I had with her. A friend.
It’s good to meet a friend on May Day.
We spent some time talking about this and that. What she’d been up to. What I’d been up to. She had indeed gone to Bali. It had been something of a disaster, she told me (I won’t talk about it here). And she’d gone to New Zealand too. She’d been all over the place, but she was back in Wales now. We talked about Lost John and Blonde. Lost was now living in France, apparently, with some glamorous, amorous beauty, who kneeled at his feet and lit his cigarettes for him. He’d gone there to do some building work, but had lunched out all the money on alcohol. Blonde was still in Wales, and getting more obscure by the day. He’d given up the drink and disapproved of anyone who still indulged.
And as we were talking, suddenly there was someone else we both knew, standing beside us. Mary. She kind of filtered from the crowd like a vision resolving itself. It was like a meeting of True Minds, here in this green space in the middle of London. Mary and Jo, two (in their own way) powerful women.
I’m not sure when the phrase came to mind. Sometime during the day, I suppose. I was thinking of all the women I knew and most admired. Like Jo. Like Mary. Like Belle. Like (people you will meet later) Bunny and Ornella. All these gorgeous, powerful, integral women. All with a certain poise. All with a certain Presence.
I thought, “these are my Priestesses of the Revolution.”
I mean, I like men. I spend most evenings down the pub, where I’m surrounded by men. And we talk of this and that. But the quality of men is that they often skirt around the matter. They hide their feelings behind displays of banter and bravado. They might offer you a game of Pool, or buy you a drink, and that means, “I like you”. They might talk about the allotment, or fishing, or football. And that means “I want to talk to you”. But they hardly ever talk about themselves, what really matters to them. Or maybe that’s all that does matter: fresh vegetables, fishing and football. I can never have a conversation with men like I can have with women.
To me women are the embodiment of the Earth. They are the Earth’s consciousness, in our midst. Men are more like the mammals that roam upon the Earth, seeking out its fierce delights. But women are the Earth iself.
Part of the fragmentation of consciousness that has occurred in our time has been the divorce of religion from the Earth. Religion has become a thing of air, looking up into a vague, misty sky, instead of across and down at what lies around us. This has been achieved by removing women from the institutions of religion. So Priests and Bishops rule, by dogma and codification, by bureaucracy and lies. It’s no wonder no one wants to go to church any more.
And it’s interesting, too, that in this time when the church is becoming increasingly irrelevant, increasingly moribund, that Priestesses are arising all over the place. Outside the church, in the new religions. Wiccan Priestesses, creating new forms of ritual without dogma, seeing religion as a celebration rather than as a duty. And inside the church too. Criticising the church from a new perspective.
But it’s more than that. Priestesses, yes. But why “of the Revolution”?
Because (and I’ve thought all this out since the phrase first came to mind) it is women who must lead the next Revolution, when it comes.
We’ve had two hundred years of Capitalism, which has brought our Earth to the edge of destruction. But we’ve had two hundred years of revolutionary movements too. Two hundred years of opposition and dissent. We’ve seen revolution after revolution after revolution, and where have they all ended up? In the same place they began. The Immortal Corporate Person of corporate capitalism replaced by the Immortal Corporate Person of the Party, the Dear Leader and the State. And meanwhile so much blood has been spilled. So many women have lost sons, husbands, fathers. So many men have lost their comrades. So much grief and destruction, and all of it led by men.
It’s no wonder so many people have lost faith. Why should we give up our lives if all that is offered is more of the same? The same terror. The same authority. The same destruction.
Women bring a new perspective to the idea of revolution. It’s a personal thing. It has to do with personal relations. It has to do with how you behave with other people. It’s an act of consciousness. It arises here, in the body, and here, in the heart. In the end, maybe, it has to confront the forces of terror and destruction; but not with weapons. Not with guns and missiles. With consciousness. With the truth.
At least that’s how I’d like it to be. I can’t put my faith in God any more. I can’t put my faith in the Party. So I’ll put it into women instead. Into women I can trust.
Things were starting to happen.
There was a leaflet going about. “Essential information to enhance your Guerrilla Gardening Experience” it said. There was a picture of Bill and Ben. It was signed Reclaim The Streets.
And on the back it said:
“LOOK OUT FOR THE FLAGS.
“Red is for the pulse of life—follow the red flags when it’s time to flow through the streets.
“Green is for ecology—converge on the green flags to Guerrilla Garden.
“Black is for freedom—gather round the black flags for non hierarchical decision making.”
Up till now the traffic had still flowed on the tarmac around the green space of the square. It was a normal London day. But suddenly there was movement in the road. A crowd of brightly dressed people were emerging from some corner, headed by a woman in a golden mask. There was a trumpet band playing. People were dancing and waving their arms in the air. They went round the square several times. They were carrying branches and other greenery, and a number of other mysterious items. Probably to do with the guerrilla gardening. People inside the square were running to the edges to look into the road to see what was going on. There was an air of excitement in the crowd, of anticipation. Then people were running around with tape—the same kind of tape that the police use to cordon of a scene of crime, only this was yellow and green, and had Reclaim The Streets written on it. It went around the entire square, round lamposts, across roads. It was the scene of another kind of crime. Then banners were going up, strung up between lampposts and monuments. Let London Sprout. Under The Concrete The Earth. Resistance Is Fertile. Capitalism Is Pants. Reclaim The Streets. Horticultural Anarchy. And the best one (hung outside the Treasury, appropriately enough), a quote from Gerard Winstanley of the Diggers, or True Levellers, of the English Revolution: The Earth Is A Common Treasury For All.
That one sent shivers down my spine and started me singing the World Turned Upside Down by Leon Rosselson:
To St George’s Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people’ s will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed
Reclaiming what was theirs.”
The police, meanwhile, stood around doing nothing. It was as if they wanted it to happen.
Jo began her guerrilla gardening. First of all she wanted to rip up a paving stone, but I persuaded her against this. “You’ll get arrested,” I said. So she was pulling up the turf instead, to make a space for her plants. She was ripping it from the ground it great strips like it was perforated paper. It came up so easily. Interestingly, the sandy soil beneath the turf was entirely waterlogged. (We didn’t know this at the time, but we found out later that the police had hosed the square thoroughly the night before).
I asked her what she’d brought.
“Willow cuttings,” she said. She was pressing them into the ground and adding compost.
“Why willow cuttings?” I asked.
“Cos it doesn’t matter if they die. I know they won’t survive.”
Someone else, who was also planting in Jo’s newly de-turfed space, said, “yes, I got these from my allotment this morning. I was thinking they’d be so much happier being left where they were.”
“So what’s the point, then? Isn’t it a waste of time?” I asked.
“You’re very cynical, Chris,” Jo said. “It’s symbolic isn’t it? We’ve got to do something, haven’t we? We’re bringing life to the dead city.”
By now everyone was busy, doing this and doing that. Digging and dancing and having fun. Someone came up to me and asked where Winston Churchill’s statue was. “I dunno,” I said, looking round. “There,” I pointed, having seen the ponderous man’s unmistakable rear end.
“Jo,” I said, hesitantly, once she’d finished her gardening bit: “you know what I fancy…?”
“I know what you’re going to say,” she said.
“You want to go to the pub, don’t you?”
“You know me so well, Jo.”
Mary said, “I’ll come with you. I want to go to the toilet, and I don’t fancy doing it behind a tree or something. Or in a smelly compost toilet.”
So Mary and I went to the pub. It was The Finnegan’s Wake, just off Victoria street, a proper Irish pub, with dark wood alcoves and a nicotine-stained ceiling. There were pictures of Irish writers all over the walls. I saw Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett. But—despite the name of the pub—no James Joyce. I asked the barmaid who was serving our drink. “Where’s James Joyce?” I said. She said didn’t know.
So I began quoting from Finnegan’s Wake instead: “riverrun past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay,” I said, swilling back the pint.
“Pardon?” said Mary.
By the time we got back, the square had been completely transformed. All these little gardens all over the place, several dozen of them. And people were ripping up turf and laying it across the road. I saw one patch of turf that looked like Australia. The person making it seemed to be doing this on purpose, as some sort of design. He was rushing over from the green with his bits of turf, and then laying them down ever so carefully, to make a shape that looked like Australia. Why would anyone want to lay turf across the road in the first place, let alone wanting to make it look like Australia?
There was a goddess figure made from sand at the end of a newly-formed paddling pool on the green. She had pointed breasts. The soil was completely waterlogged, so when they dug down it immediately filled with water. Several children were paddling their feet, and one determined anarchist had taken off his clothes to bathe in it. A compost toilet had been built on one of the flowerbeds, while a group calling itself Indymedia had set up a public access terminal, so that people could record their live impressions directly onto the net. One of the Indymedia people had painted the hair at his temples white to give the impression of sageness and middle age; which I took to be an insult to my very genuine grey hair and middle age. He was wearing a dark suit and a tie and trying to look like a TV news presenter. And there was some sort of a turf sculpture, a kind of spiral mound, with things growing on it.
There was also large patch of turf laid across the road opposite the Houses of Parliament, where people were holding a Mad Hatter’s tea party. Several people dressed as characters out of Alice in Wonderland were sat around a makeshift table (an old pram with a board laid across it) drinking tea and eating cucumber sandwiches. I later heard that the “tea” was actually tequila. And, in the middle of the same road, a May Pole was set up: a stripey pole set in an oil drum, with ribbons dangling from the top. Someone began to give instructions about how to do the dance. So they were skipping around the May Pole, in that fey English style, like Julie Andrews, waving their arms in the air—all these mad, manic anarchists with dreadlocks and tattoos—bumping into each other, tripping over each other and getting into knots. They had several attempts before they were successful.
At a certain point I met up with Ian Bone, and we went for a wander. As we approached Whitehall we could see a sudden surge in the crowd. Lots of people were moving in that direction, with flags and banners waving. Ian went back to find his crew (this was obviously where things were happening) while I went to find Jo, Mary having left by now.
Whitehall too had been transformed. All those stagy statues of obscure Generals in heroic poses, standing manfully astride, legs apart, hips thrust forward to show grit and determination: they all had plastic phallus’ strapped to them. One of them had a plastic nose. They looked like clowns or buffoons. It was the perfect May Day statement. Classical May Day buffoonery.
None of this was shown on TV later, of course. It was clearly just a joke. All anybody wanted to hear about was the Cenotaph.
Just passed Downing Street the barricades were up. There was a line of riot police, shields and batons at the ready, faced by a line of protesters. Some of the protesters were drunk, and shouting abuse at the policemen. The policemen observed them with cool indifference, wrapped up in their armour, with their visors down. Beyond the line of police you could see the dark ruin of the smashed up MacDonald’s (this is one of the images that made it into the newspapers the following day) and beyond that again, on the edge of Trafalgar Square, another line of police, with a sea of red banners and flags in the Square itself. I could see an SWP banner up there, and thousands of people.
I went up to one of the policemen.
“Who’s that, up there?” I asked.
“Is it the TUC? I can see an SWP banner. Is that the Trade Union march?”
“Can I go there?”
“You could try the back streets. Down there. But you can’t go through here, mate. Orders.”
Here is the official Police press release for MayDay:
MayDay summary and update as of 1730 on Monday May 1:
At 08:45 a 20 year old man was arrested in Victoria Street, SW1, in possession of a pair of long bladed scissors, and taken to Charing Cross police station.
At 10:15 a 25 year old old man and a 29 year old man were arrested at Cromwell Road, SW5, for alleged possession of articles to cause criminal damage, and taken to Charing Cross police station.
At 11:45 approx. 1,000 people had gathered in Parliament Square. All peaceful.
Approximately 300 cyclists had left Hyde Park and were then at Bressenden Place, SW1
At approx. 12:00 a 24 year old man was arrested for suspected possession of CS gas and possession of cannabis, and an 18 year old man was arrested in possession of a lock-knife, at Westminster Bridge, SE1. Both were taken to Walworth police station.
At 12:45 3,000 people had gathered in Parliament Square.
By 13:30 protesters were removing turf from Parliament Square, and relaying the strips in the road.
By 14:00 approximately half of the protesters had moved away from the Square and were moving up Whitehall. There were 200-300 outside Downing Street. Some items were being thrown and officers with shields were deployed.
At approximately 14:10 approximately six police officers came under attack from protesters throwing missiles in Whitehall, and protesters were attacking MacDonald’s in Whitehall.
A 45 year old male police constable, based at Plumstead police station, was attacked with a brick in the face in Whitehall by the crowds that attacked the six officers, and he remains in a central London hospital. He sustained swelling to the right hand side of his face, and also suffered swelling and bruising to his leg .
Eight other police officers—including a male police constable based at Charing Cross police station who suffered a dislocated shoulder—were treated by a forensic medical examiner and did not require hospital treatment. The MacDonald’s in Whitehall was seriously damaged. The staff managed to make off from the rear and are all safe and accounted for.
The Bureau de Change in Whitehall also came under attack. There has been considerable damage. All staff were shaken, but are safe and accounted for.
Mounted officers were standing by at Northumberland Avenue, SW1. At 14:15 a man was arrested in St Martin’s in the Field, WC2, for possessing article for criminal damage and possession of cannabis, and taken to Charing Cross police station.
At approximately 14:15 a 22 year old man was arrested in Charing Cross Road, WC2, for being drunk in a public place and taken to Charing Cross police station.
There have been a further eight arrests (bringing total through the day to 15) but we await further details and clarification about whether any/all relate to the disorder seen outside MacDonald’s.
Approx 1,000 people remain in Trafalgar Square and are being contained by police. They are being allowed to leave in small groups.
Parliament Square is now virtually empty. Protestors have moved from Parliament Square along Millbank, across Lambeth Bridge and remain in that area south of the Thames. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Michael Todd has said that only a minority of protesters were causing criminal damage and violence—he estimated the figure of those involved near MacDonald’s as 100.
Meanwhile, on Bondi beach, Sydney, Australia 150 activists prevented the beginning of the construction of the Olympic volleyball stadium. The action continued on this rainy Monday morning at the Sydney Stock exchange, shadowed by a heavy police presence. By the time they had gathered at the courtyard of the exchange, in the heart of the city’s business centre, their numbers had doubled.
The Peace bus, a mobile sound system in a tank, failed make it, having been pulled over by Police. The Police called on the roads and traffic authority to inspect the vehicle, presumably in the hope of failing it, but they came and gave it a clean bill of health. There was a bit of pushing and shoving when police tried to divert the crowd away from the Westpac bank. According to activists: “This bank is bankrolling the Jabiluka uranium mine development in the Northern territory; green slime was delivered to their doorstep to highlight what the toxic nightmare their supporting.”
On April 28, in Leiden, Holland, a socialist party senator was pied “because of his nationalism.” At the same time, a railway-spokesperson was pied, “against the Betuwe freight railway line project.”
And the following day another 350 people held a demonstration called the first “March on the Oranges” (against the Dutch royal family). A “People’s Tribunal” convicted a Beatrice look-alike, of inciting nationalist conflicts and being a symbol of capitalist oppression. There was a fake guillotine on hand, but in the end it wasn’t used. She was pied instead.
On May 1st an occupation of a building site of the Betuweline-freight rail project, connecting Rotterdam and the Ruhr, was begun. The occupation lasted for two days, delaying the railway company from launching a huge tunnel drill.
Also on May 1st, in Utrecht, Anti-capitalists targeted several temp-agencies, making a claim for the hours the agencies keep from their wages.
All over the world things were happening on this day. Best of all were the reports which came out of the United States. Imagine: US citizens, celebrating International Worker’s Day!
Here is the report from New York, the city where the concept of guerrilla gardening was born:
“For two and a half hours last evening, nearly 200 guerrilla gardeners reclaimed a fenced in, garbage strewn lot under the Manhattan bridge on the Brooklyn side. With garbage bags, plants, seeds, puppets and maypoles, they turned the lot into a garden and made a MayDay demonstration into a party.
“MayDay activities began earlier in the day, centred around the Undocumented Workers March from Union Square to City Hall. The NYPD was on full alert, outnumbering the protesters at Union Square, shutting off whole areas of Wall Street (“Because the WTO is going to march and shut down the Stock Exchange” one officer explained) and somewhat mysteriously occupying Tompkins Square Park, removing trash cans in a 2 block radius.
“The police acted aggressively early, arresting 18 men and 1 woman black bloc anarchists, ostensibly for wearing masks; two others for openly carrying Leatherman tools (I’m not joking); a 16 year old boy for writing with chalk; and two more later at Battery Park for walking/riding their bikes.
“As the Immigrants March made it to City Hall, guerrilla gardeners began meeting at Battery Park… as did the police. Leaving in small groups to shake off the NYPD, the gardeners reconvened in the subway station and took the subway (after the usual chaos and confusion) over to the action site. Another group of protesters, with large puppets from the SF group Art & Revolution, headed over the Brooklyn Bridge, with police and news vans in tow. Amazingly enough, both groups reached the site at about the same time, around 6:30, with the puppeteers brilliantly managing to shake their auto bound escort.
“Underneath the Manhattan bridge, in a Department of Environmental Protection site long promised (and never delivered) as park land, the marchers met the RTS advance crew who “opened” the site. Gardeners were greeted by a 40 foot banner emblazoned with “Free the Land” that hung from the Manhattan Bridge, facing the site.
“Then the fun began. Garbage bags were passed out and people filled over 25 of them with garbage. A vegetable patch was dug and seeds planted. Maypoles went up and a maypole dance began. A bulldozer pinata was knocked down. Drummers drummed. People danced. And squad after squad of riot police surrounded the site.
“After a pretty tense stand off, we asked our lawyer if she could talk to the police, letting them know we were peaceful and planned to leave before 9pm. Perhaps because they were out of site of Rudy and Wall Street, perhaps because news crews were there and they would have looked ridiculous arresting a bunch of folks picking up garbage, perhaps because the threat of the “WTO marching on Wall Street” hadn’t materialised, and perhaps because—at some level—they approved of what we were doing, the NYPD agreed to our request and promised not to arrest anyone if we left in small groups by 9pm. The white shirted officers even posed for pictures with protesters and offered to arrange with the Sanitation Department to pick up the bags of garbage we had collected.
“As the sun fell over the site, and the lights of the Manhattan skyline came up, the garden party wound down. By 8:45 we had all left and made our way to a local bar where we drank beer with undercover cops who cheered our arrival.
“What we left behind were seeds that will sprout and grow. What we took with us was that great spirit that comes from a hope filled, creative demonstration that everyone made happen. My last vision of the liberated site was the NYPD EMS squad brilliantly lighting up the banner with their searchlight as they tried to figure out how to get it down.
“‘Free the Land’ it read.”
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