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Date: Sun, 7 May 2000 08:57:05 +0100 (BST)
From: Jo Makepeace (
Subject: SchNEWS 258, Friday 5th May 2000

London MayDay - demo report


"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?" An anonymous demonstrator.

Monday's MayDay demonstration in London nearly brought about the collapse of the British way of life. Apparently. SchNEWS was there and has a slightly different story to tell.

In the morning landscape gardeners arrived for a spot of planting at Parliament Square. Bananas and magic mushrooms popped up amongst the pansies and spinach, while large banners declared 'The Worms Will Turn!', 'Let London Sprout', and 'Capitalism is Pants'. The cops had helpfully flooded the square the night before, making it easier to roll up the turf and start laying it over the road. Up went a Maypole and the celebrations began. As Big Ben chimed, SchNEWS wondered how long it was since such traffic-free revelry had happened in front of the Houses of Parliament.

Further up the road a McDonalds was getting the customary trashing, before riot police moved in, splitting the crowd in two and trapping hundreds of people in Trafalgar Square for hours.

The police had taken a bloody nose at last year's Carnival Against Capital on June 18th (see SchNEWS 217/8) and were in no mood for a repeat performance. Even the army were apparently on standby (eh, aren't the army always on stand-by?), while according to the Financial Times, more than 80 per cent of financial institutions were 'concerned about the damage to the City's standing' if there was any repeat of last June's Carnival Against Capital. As one person from Reclaim The Streets commented, 'The police made sure that everybody knew they were planning the biggest operation for 30 years. Just to keep some gardeners in fancy dress under control.'

The police and press hyped the event, and eventually they got what they wanted. A few smashed windows, some graffiti, some people throwing beer cans and hey presto!


And what about the cenotaph. Maybe it needs a little bit of perspective. Tony Blair talks about the 'mindless thuggery' of Monday, yet didn't he personally invite Russia's President Putin over to Britain, conveniently forgetting that on the orders of the President, Russia has bombed Chechnya back into the Dark Ages? Forget about the 20,000 dead Chechnyans, as Putin gets whisked off to have tea with the Queen. And it's gonna take a lot more than a little detergent to clean up Chechnya. So let's keep this in proportion, no one at the Mayday celebration is to be charged with genocide, child killing or mass murder.

Yet behind the hysteria, comments from the politicians reveal that something else is on the agenda. Blair says "This kind of thing cannot happen again", while Home Secretary Flan Widdecombe asked in the House of Commons the day after MayDay "Would the groups concerned with yesterday's disorder be covered by his new definition of terrorists under his (Jack Straw's) new terrorism legislation?".

SchNEWS reckons the public is ripe to accept that no more anti-capitalist protests will be allowed to happen again. For more thoughts on the day check out

* Did you get arrested on the day? Did you witness any arrests? Then let the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group know - BM Haven, London WC1N 3XX - 020 7837 1688

* International report back on what happened at Mayday on Sat 13th with food, bookstall and filmshowings - Meet 3pm Unemployed Centre, 6 Tilbury Place, Brighton

* There will be meetings throught London during May to develop ideas around Guerrilla gardening - 020 8374 9885 for info

* Anaroks - did you know? It will be five years on Sunday 14th May since Reclaim The Streets held their first street party in Camden High Street

* And remember this after the 2nd RTS on 28th July '95? 'If peaceful protesters are baton charged by riot police, they are more likely to turn up to the next demos more prepared and equipped to fight back if attacked' (SchNEWS 33)

* Compare and contrast the riots in Guatemala to the 'riots' in London - In Guatemala, there were four dead and 16 injured in the capital city after bus operators raised fares by 3p (about a third) - Buses were burned, shops and riot police attacked with stones who responded with water cannon and tear gas. The rises have now been scrapped


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