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Date: Wed, 04 Oct 2000 12:25:35 -0000
Subject: [act-locally] Think Globally 38 - OCTOBER 2000

Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Car Free Day (22nd Sept) - Report


Newcastle activists celebrated World Car Free Day in grand style. Early-rising cyclists visited the home of Cabinet Minister Kevan Jones with a spare bike, hoping to persuade him to get on it and cycle to work. KJ was not at home, although a vanload of police was on hand to protect him, just in case he was. Very official-looking flyers appeared on the windscreens of hundreds of parked cars in the city-centre informing motorists of road closures on Car Free Day, as well as all free travel on Newcastle's Metro system. Equally official-looking notices appeared at Metro stations. A student prank, perhaps- it was freshers' week after all-and so effective that the Metro saw fit to broadcast announcements all day for days contradicting the notices. Ticket inspectors were heavily in evidence.

Meanwhile a banner appeared over the city's central motorway telling motorists `Kill Car Culture Before IT Kills You.' As the day went on, the city saw a spontaneous Critical Mass cycle ride, featuring an amazing trishaw-courtesy of the Lord Mayor. `Immobilisation' leaflets were posted on hundreds of parked vehicles, giving official notification of the dangers of too much reliance on motor transport.

Late in the afternoon 200 or so people gathered at the Haymarket for what was to be Newcastle's second Reclaim the Streets. The crowd marched round the corner to the rear of the Civic Centre and gathered round a tripod, complete with sitter, firmly sited at the entrance to the centre's carpark. The police foolishly moved in to seize a sound system just being installed beneath the tripod. There was no attempt at negotiation with the partygoers. The police acted violently and with no concern for the safety of the tripod sitter, tripod crew or anyone else in the vicinity. Sound equipment was effectively stolen by the police, and was damaged in the process.

In spite of this the party continued. Pedestrians and cyclists enjoyed the space temporarily reclaimed, cycling, holding banners, chanting and doing the conga in the sun.

At 5.30 the party came to a pre-arranged close. The police clumsily took down the tripod and arrested it, along with its sitter. One person was arrested earlier for trying to cross the road.

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