May Day 2000

Guerrilla Gardening is not a protest; by its very nature it is a creative peaceful celebration of the growing global anti-capitalist movement. -- Reclaim the Streets

You don't have to give any information to the police. Only if you are arrested are you legally obliged to give your name and address; answer 'no comment' to everything else. -- legal advice

Everyone threw the blame on me. I have noticed that they nearly always do. I suppose it is because they think I shall be able to bear it best. -- Winston Churchill

What was witnessed in central London yesterday was criminality and thuggery masquerading as political protest. In our democracy, there is neither reason nor excuse for such appalling behaviour. -- Jack Straw

I have always been in favour of direct action ... if it puts us outside the law, the laws are wrong and we have a right and duty to fight them. -- Ken Livingstone

Every year the international financial system kills more people than the second world war. But at least Hitler was mad ... -- Ken Livingstone

After the riots yesterday are we going to to have a mayor of London, whose heart of hearts is with the rioters not the police? That is what we are going to have if we have Ken Livingstone as mayor. -- William Hague

We were not protesting. Under the shadow of an irrelevant parliament we were planting the seeds of a society where ordinary people are in control of their land, their resources, their food and their decision making. The garden symbolised an urge to be self-reliant rather than dependent on capitalism. It celebrated the possibility of a world that encourages cooperation and sharing rather than one which rewards greed, individualism and competition.

As you would expect the MayDay message about why people were there got kind of lost. But what is a few smashed windows and some daubed paint compared to what global capitalism is doing to the planet? -- protester

Central London closed down and sealed off, all police leave cancelled. The reason for these measures was May Day celebrations in central London.

The day began around 10-30 when people began drifting into Parliament Square. Earlier in the day a mass cycle ride had taken place. The event of the day was Guerrilla Gardening, the highlight of a weekend of events across the Capital. People were asked to bring seeds, plants and gardening implements, and bring they did. The official start was scheduled for 11-00, and after a little hesitancy, the gardeners got busy. By afternoon the central grassed area looked a cross between a childrens play area and a village allotment. Parts of the covering turf had been stripped off and relayed on the surrounding roads, plants and shrubs had been planted in the exposed earth, seeds scattered. In parts the earth was more like sand and here sand-castles had been built. In some areas the pavement had been ripped up and tulips planted. Opposite Parliament a Maypole had been erected around which people were dancing and singing to music.

Early afternoon, walking from Waterloo Station and crossing Westminster Bridge it was a pleasant surprise to be able to cross the bridge with no traffic. The whole area was sealed off to traffic. On the bridge riot police were beginning to assemble and don their riot gear (at this stage the police were the uniformed bobbies on the beat). On the Square was a May Day Carnival in full swing, banners flowing, music playing, the whole square magically transformed for the day. Veggies, who wherever there is a riot, are out serving delicious vegetarian food, had run out of food by lunchtime. In one corner a compost toilet had been dug, recycling more wholesome crap than that generated in Parliament on the opposite side of the square. Winston Churchill was sporting a new green Mohican hairstyle.

Why were people there? They were there to celebrate freedom. They were there because they have completely lost faith in the current political system and the corrupt politicians who run it. They were there to object to the world being destroyed by Big Business and the corrupt forces of globalisation. In celebration of a new Renaissance a small piece of urban England was being greened for the day.

Political commentators who are in symbiotic relationship with the state-corporate-nexus failed to understand why they were there and came out with meaningless gibberish posturing as explanation. For some reason they fail to comprehend why people fail to turn out to vote at elections, fail to connect the two. Think that gimmicks will increase voter turn-out. Fail to recognise that voters don't want to vote for crap candidates, don't want to cast their votes and legitimise a corrupt system.

One only has to look at the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, not too many miles from London in a south-westerly direction, tucked into a little leafy corner of north-east Hampshire to see why the majority of people have lost faith in the Establishment political process, what is jokingly called democracy. It is in the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, that an Arab-owned, Swiss and Luxembourg based consortium called TAG wish to build the Business Airport for Europe. That local residents do not want it on their doorstep counts for nought. The airport will be a key component in globalisation, ferrying corporate executives in their little and not so little executive jets around the world to enable them to exercise control over their global empires. Locally the airport will cause massive environmental destruction, generate noise, pollute the atmosphere, and put the local community at risk. Globally the airport will add to greenhouse gas emissions. A Public Inquiry Inspector has thrown a spanner in the works by having the audacity to suggest that the airport should have a Public Safety Zone to protect the local community (residential housing is just across the main road from the runway and aircraft are brushing the rooftops as they come in to land). The Rotten Borough of Rushmoor (elected and paid for by the local community) is having none of this. They have rejected the Planning Inspector's PSZ, and for good measure have bumped up the ceiling on the number of flights and doubled the level of allowable noise. Like Dolly the Sheep the toy town politicians of Rushmoor are cloned the world over.

To counter the mainstream media, the events on the streets of London were generating their own newsfeeds. Using laptops, video cameras and mobile phones, Independent Media were reporting on the events as they happened and uploading a live feed to the web. Many of the activists on the street were carrying cameras or video cameras.

From mid-afternoon onwards riot police started to seal off roads leading into Parliament Square. By around 16:00 the square was sealed off. The police were not letting anyone leave. The blocks started moving inwards. The fear was that the riot police would move in, trapping people in a small confined space. Operations were being directed from a helicopter hovering overhead.

Everyone made there way towards the Millbank exit (stragglers were advised not to stay behind), the police were forced to retreat, eventually, after several minutes of stand-off letting everyone through. By strategic blocking of roads, the police herded the protesters over Lambeth Bridge, along Albert Embankment, and eventually into Kennington Park. Crossing Lambeth Bridge, a small group of what were believed to be Spanish Anarchists, trashed passing cars. A confrontation took place with other protesters who intervened to stop them, and calmed the drivers and occupants of the cars (the police stood idly by).

In Kennington Park, a small group of Anarchist thugs decided to engage in mindless violence. They started hurling missiles, rocks, bottles, anything they could lay their hands on, over the park railings into the road. As there was a group of people lining the railings they couldn't see what they were aiming at, and until the police sealed off the road they were just as likely to hit innocent passers-by and passing vehicles, as riot police. People started to drift away. By 8 pm, virtually all who were left in the park were Anarchist thugs engaged in mindless vandalism, with riot police on foot lining the perimeter, and other riot police on horseback, both sides lined up like a Medieval army waiting to do war. The Anarchists were not from Parliament Square, and according to the police, had come from Trafalgar Square.

A tiny minority of the riot police at Kennington Park had no visible means of identification (a breach of their own regulations). When asked to identify themselves they became abusive and told those who asked to 'Fuck off!'

In a splinter development, during the afternoon running battles were taking place between Anarchists and riot police in Trafalgar Square. When news filtered through to Parliament Square that a McVomit's had been trashed not a tear was shed. McVomit's as a symbol of globalisation, worker exploitation, environmental destruction, are seen as a legitimate target. What was feared, but didn't happen in Parliament Square, did happen in Trafalgar Square. Riot police held protesters trapped for several hours and did not relax the cordon until 8-30 pm. Whilst the majority of officers were polite, a tiny minority were abusive to those held captive within the cordon.

The area around Trafalgar Square, including Charing Cross Station remained sealed off until late into the night. Charing Cross Station was closed. Tube trains went straight through Charing Cross and Embankment without stopping.

The violence used by the Anarchist thugs was to play into the hands of the state. May Day 2000 had been hyped days before by the police, the government and the media as a day of excessive violence. Until the Anarchist thugs stepped in there was no violence, there was a peaceful carnival atmosphere. If there had been no violence, the police, the government, the media would have been made to look fools, instead their hype was seen to be justified, if anything an underreaction to the terror on the street disguised as protest.

The media coverage the following day was everyone's worst nightmare. The violence dominated. It got worse. From the coverage in the quality news sheets which did at least state the day had been peaceful until hijacked by a handful of Anarchist thugs (the garbage press which the majority of brainwashed Brits read to reinforce their own bigotry and prejudices merely emphasised the violence, tarnishing all on those on the streets with the same brush), by evening, jumping on the comments of Tony Blair and Jack Straw, the media was labelling all the protesters as violent. Tony Blair promised never again would he allow such protests on the streets of London and to reinforce his resolve held meetings with police chiefs. In a Parliamentary debate led by Jack Straw, every bigoted politician jumped on the bandwagon, attacking street protests and direct action. Few if any realising that were it not for direct action by previous generations none would be occupying their present seats and less than half the current electorate would have a vote.

Draconian legislation is currently passing through Parliament on encryption and terrorism, we are likely to see this get worse, and at the very least be given an easier Parliamentary passage. There is likely to be a much heavier police presence on future actions, assuming such actions will be even permitted let alone tolerated, and the level of policing is already repressive and, as intended, prevents many people turning out on the street.

One of the first casualties have been the Greenpeace GM crop trashers. On the day following the May Day violence the Crown Prosecution Service announced that they were going for a retrial (the previous week the activists had been found not guilty of theft and the jury had been unable to reach a verdict on criminal damage). Following the May Day violence they are going to be tried in a much less favourable atmosphere than was possible a week ago, the violence would in turn have exerted political pressure to force a retrial rather than allow direct activists to go Scott free.

Violence begets violence. To use violence is to challenge the state-corporate-nexus, to play them at their own game, a game they know only too well. No matter what violence is used on the streets, the state-corporate-nexus can command overwhelming fire-power. It is better to move the ball park to an area they don't know and stand a chance of winning. When violence takes over the media reports the violence not the underlying issues.

In no way wishing to exonerate the mindless violence of the Anarchist thugs, which served no purpose other than to legitimise the activities of the state, it pales into insignificance compared with the violence of global corporations against the people of the world and the environment. But to counter violence with violence only serves to legitimise the use of violence.

Reclaim the Streets:

The corporate media's obsession with confrontation and property damage conceals the violence of capital that occurs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year: The fact remains that the most likely cause of death for an under 14 year old in Britain is being hit by a car, that 1 in 3 children in the UK is brought up in poverty and 50% of this country's ancient woodland has been destroyed since 1950, all in the name of profit. Surely that is the violence that should be splashing the front pages.

Much of the earlier violence was against national monuments, spray painting of monuments. Whilst those who carried out the acts may not have liked what they saw as symbols glorifying war they should have nevertheless respected what are national monuments. Would they have attacked Stonehenge if they had a dislike of astronomical timepieces? The behaviour was no different to the Nazis attacking the Jews and Jewish culture, Turkish jackbooted thugs in Cyprus desecrating Greek Churches. They could just as easily have spray-painted their slogans on the pavement, where they would have had the additional advantage of their slogans remaining in place as they would have unlikely to have been cleaned off. The desecrated monuments became an icon upon which the tabloid media and rabid politicos could hang the protesters.

Reclaim the Streets (commenting on the daubing of national monuments):

In relation to the graffiti on the cenotaph, we are obviously very aware of the millions of people who have given their lives in the fight for freedom. We know that millions are still dying every year in numerous struggles for independence, freedom and human rights. We respect and celebrate all those people who are, and have been, prepared to stand up to fascism, imperialism and dictatorship. That said, we do not necessarily celebrate the generals and the ruling class that send these people to their deaths in order to protect the privileges and control of the few. The abhorrence of sending millions of men to their deaths in the trenches dwarfs the stupidity of any possible slogan on any possible piece of stone.

For the May Day event all police leave in London was cancelled. Neighbouring forces were on stand-by. It was rumoured the army were held in reserve. Six months planning, 5,500 police officers on the street, 9,000 held in reserve. Cost of operation an estimated £1 million.

Reclaim the Streets are often accused of organising violent protest, the police of turning a protest into a riot. May Day 200 found neither side at fault. Activists did their best to clamp down on Anarchist thugs, the police in the main remained cool under extreme provocation. It took only a handful of mindless thugs to turn a peaceful May Day celebration into an orgy of mindless violence.

In the absence of any meaningful opposition the Blair government has been looking for any excuse to clamp down on peaceful protest. A handful of mindless thugs masquerading as demonstrators has given them that excuse.

Anyone who has any remaining doubts as to the government's intentions only has to look at their recent track record. The fast-tracking of Draconian legislation already mentioned which will curb fundamental civil rights, the clamp-down on Free Tibet demonstrators during last autumn's state visit by the Chinese leadership, the vicious campaign against London Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone for daring to advocate direct action and telling the truth that global capital is responsible for killing millions of people.

How low can you get? Two days after Anarchist thugs caused mayhem in London, one day before the elections for London Mayor, the Labour Party published press advertisements showing a defaced war monument alongside Ken Livingstone's comments on J18 (City of London riots last June).

During a state visit by the Chinese leadership a clamp-down was mounted on Free Tibet. Banners and flags were seized from protesters on the streets, police vans were parked in front of protesters to hide them from sensitive Chinese eyes. The Chinese were sent clear signals on how to run a repressive regime. In an amazing about turn, on the eve of a Judicial Review, the legal team acting for the Metropolitan Police admitted that the activities of the police in preventing free speech had been unlawful. A past Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation said he had always been of that opinion, and questioned where the orders had come from. A former Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall was adamant that orders would have come down from on high.

Following the lead given by bigoted politicians during the previous day's Parliamentary debate on May Day 2000, the gutter press had a field day smearing Ken Livingstone. Reading their histrionic outpourings one would have imagined that Ken was at the head of a riotous mob determined to bring the Capital to its knees, a modern day rerun of the storming of the Bastille. The fact that in the main, apart from the activities of a few mindless thugs who were nothing to do with the protest, the day had been a peaceful carnival was now completely lost sight of.

The next big day in London could be Initiative Against Economic Globalization - a global day of action to coincide with the 55th Annual General Meeting of the IMF/World Bank in Prague on the 26/28 of September 2000.

Web Resources


Paul Baldwin et al, Rioters dishonour war heroes, The Daily Telegraph, 2 May 2000

Sandra Barwick, Carnival atmosphere soon turns into an orgy of violence, The Daily Telegraph, 2 May 2000

BBC, report on legal decision on clamp-down on Free Tibet, World at One, Radio 4, BBC, 3 May 2000

Rosemary Bennett & Andrew Ward, Straw backs Met tactics in policing of protest, Financial Times, 3 May 2000

Jason Bennetto & Andrew Mullins, Police use video tape to identify ringleaders of May Day riot, The Independent, 3 May 2000

Graeme Chesters, Breathing space, Society, The Guardian, 7 June 2000

The Ecologist (editorial), Who cares about global trade? You do, The Ecologist, May 2000

The Ecologist (editorial), The Great Divide, The Ecologist, May 2000

William Finnegan, Hi guys, let's destroy capitalism, News Review, The Sunday Times, 30 April 2000

Sarah Hall, Softly, softly approach falls down as McDonald's is wrecked by anarchists, The Guardian, 2 May 2000

Adrian Lee et al, Anarchy runs riot in Central London, The Times, 2 May 2000

Adrian Lee & Paul Peach, 'Peaceful' protest erupts in violence, The Times, 2 May 2000

Michael McCarthy, Greenpeace activists to stand trial again over GM crop attack, The Independent, 3 May 2000

Malcolm McLaren, The Power of London, The Ecologist, May 2000

David Millward, Police ready for anti-capitalist protest, The Daily Telegraph, 1 May 2000

David Millward & Richard Eden, Groups unite to sow the seeds of anarchy, The Daily Telegraph, 1 May 2000

Andrew Mullins et al, Violence flares in London as May Day protest turn ugly, The Independent, 2 May 2000

Andrew Mullins et al, Guerrillas came to plant, but they carried with them the seeds of destruction, The Independent, 2 May 2000

Keith Parkins, Civil Disobedience, April 2000

Keith Parkins, Globalisation - the role of corporations, February 2000

Keith Parkins, Globalisation - the human cost, May 2000

Keith Parkins, World Trade Organisation, May 2000

Justin Rigby, Anarchy, News Review, The Sunday Times, 30 April 2000

Sarah Schaefer, MPs condemn 'mindless' attacks on memorials, The Independent, 3 May 2000

SchNEWS, Law and Order, SchNEWS, Issue 258, Friday 5 May 2000

SchNEWS, Mayday Round-ups, SchNEWS, Issue 258, Friday 5 May 2000

John Steele, Our riot policy was a reasonable success, say Scotland Yard, The Daily Telegraph, 3 May 2000

Stewart Tendler, Blair calls for families to name rioters, The Times, 3 May 2000

Richard Tomkins, When global leaders become global targets, Financial Times, 1 May 2000

Andrew Ward, A few bad seeds spoil the guerrillas' garden, Financial Times, 1 May 2000

Andrew Ward, Blair hits at thugs as violence mars rally, Financial Times, 2 May 2000

John Vidal, Guerrilla gardeners plot to reclaim the world, The Guardian, 22 April 2000

John Vidal, Ben threw the first stone - and the garden party erupted into running fights with the police, The Guardian, 2 May 2000

Andrew Ward, McDonald's eager for talks with critics, Financial Times, 3 May 2000

Rosie Waterhouse, Return of the bogeyman, The Sunday Times, 30 April 2000

Paul Waugh, PM asks families to name May Day rioters, The Independent, 3 May 2000

Philip Webster & Stewart Tendler, Police under fire over failure to protect Cenotaph, The Times, 3 May 2000

Francis Wheen, Small riot: no one killed, G2, The Guardian, 3 May 2000

Frances White, The disgracing of our national heritage, letters, The Daily Telegraph, 3 May 2000

Michael White, MPs condemn May demo 'thuggery', The Guardian, 3 May 2000

Michael White & Will Woodward, Blair vents outrage at rioters, The Guardian, 3 May 2000

Steve Whiting, So why nonviolence?, nonviolent action, May 2000

Will Woodward, Police braced for May Day clash, The Guardian, 1 May 2000

Will Woodward, Paul Kelso & John Vidal, Protests erupt in violence, The Guardian, 2 May 2000

Stephen Wright, Anarchist plotting Bank Holiday riot, Daily Mail, 29 April 2000

Gibby Zobel, Jail these evil fiends, Big Issue, 14 February 2000

Gaia index ~ role of corporations ~ worker exploitation ~ WTO ~ direct action
(c) Keith Parkins 2000 -- July 2000 rev 4