Participants' Direct Reports of the May Day
The following reports direct from participants in the May Day 2000 actions
are taken from the website of the Independent Media Centre, Indymedia UK, the
address of which is: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/newsite/index2.php3.
Audio clips, video clips and photos are also posted on the site.
Monday, May 1
After an afternoon of dancing and planting, riot police are
now beginning to arrest people as they continue to demonstrate outside
Parliament. Independent Media Centre journalists have heard that Reclaim the
Streets are currently in negotiations with the police to allow the crowd to
In other parts of the city there are reported incidents of
police horses charging the crowd. The latest from Trafalgar Square is that a
sound system is currently entertaining the crowd although entrances have now
been blocked. Hundreds of people are now waiting in the square as samba bands
continue to play with protestors dancing and wandering through the
The Houses of Parliament themselves are heavily barricaded
with hundreds of people continuing to dance around the maypole. Big Ben has
struck 3.30 and there is a sense of apprehension in the air.
Trafalgar Square blocked off
I left Trafalgar Square about half an hour ago and it
started to look scary. The happy crowd that had made its way towards the square
for some reason got cut off by the police and the Trade Union Congress march
was prevented from getting in for their planned meeting. I gather that
McDonalds has been trashed. Tourists seemed to be mingling curiously with the
demonstrators in the square, but there was no violence at that time. Yet the
police seem to be blocking off all the exits. I decided to leave before there
was any trouble.
Observations on today and media coverage
I attended the gathering in Parliament Square today from
11.00 to 1.30 in support of Reclaim The Streets and in the belief that London
can and must benefit from positive urban regeneration, brownfield housing
projects, the preservation and creation of green spaces and the exclusion of
cars from the centre (indeed, as far out as is feasible).
While not condoning violent action in any form, I also
recognised today as an opportunity to alert large global corporations to the
fact that they must not continue to go on making huge profits for the few at
the expense of the many. And by the many I mean their long-suffering employees
as well as the ecosystems and communities that they continue to exploit and
Contrary to the opinions expressed by Justin Rigby in
yesterday's Sunday Times News Review, my support for RTS and its aims does not
make me mindlessly disposed to violence, nor even an anarchist. I simply
believe in the preservation of a healthy environment and the right of people to
live as individuals free from the controlling influence of big business. And if
that makes me a danger to the state I wonder what exactly it is about "the
state" that Mr Rigby deems worth protecting from people like me. Having
attended several such events over the past eight or so years, I was immediately
struck by the numbers of mainstream media present today. Indeed, at the
beginning the numbers of journalists and TV crews threatened to outstrip
protesters. Would that they were all there because they were interested in
debating the ideas which have been the subject of this weekend's conferences.
However, naturally they were all in fact waiting for some violence to kick off.
On my return home I switched on BBC News 24 to watch endless replays of
McDonalds in Whitehall being trashed and barrages of riot police being
"commendably restrained" in their actions, having "limited"
the number of arrests to "just" seven.
My other observation was the sheer numbers of people who
had brought cameras - all those people will be able to show their own versions
of the day to those who might otherwise be taken in by skewed corporate media
reports. I'm pleased to say that while I was in Parliament Square, the
atmosphere was great - peaceful, friendly, happy - people just sitting in the
square or in the road, chilling out, chatting, planting things, enjoying the
sunshine and the temporary absence of traffic. Though of course, that never
makes great sensational news for the corporate media. Nice one indymedia for
taking this initiative and showing how it really is.
On leaving Parliament Square
After half a day of Guerrilla Gardening at Parliament
Square, the crowd has left the place at around 5pm. Several attempts of leaving
the Square and moving on to another location had been stopped by the police,
apparently trying to keep the crowd in an area they can control. Members of
Reclaim The Streets repeatedly tried to negotiate with the police in order to
let people leave the place, but police did not respond to these attempts.
As there was no chance to come to a mutually beneficial
solution, the crowd decided to break through police lines and move off towards
the South. At present, the Guerrilla Gardeners are moving across Vauxhall
Bridge towards Kennington Park, where a final gathering is planned to close a
day of Mayday celebrations. While the crowd is leaving the Square, small groups
of people sitting or walking around in the surrounding area are forcibly
dispersed by police in full riot gear.
Update: The situation in Kennington Park
According to latest reports, around 500 people have been
pushed into Kennington Park by riot police in an attempt to clear the streets
from the remaining protesters who had marched there from the Guerrilla
Gardening action in Parliament Square. The mood in the park is increasingly
becoming tense due to the police tactics of pushing the people inside the gates
towards the centre of the park.
Several minor disturbances between the protesters and the
police have occurred, which, as we are told, resulted in police marching into
the park trying to disperse the crowd. Large numbers of police horses have been
used in these attempts. At present, the situation is fairly calm, with 150
demonstrators having started a huge football match and police standing around,
not really knowing how to deal with this reaction.
Police blockade of Trafalgar Square
Reports are coming in about heavy-handed police operations
this afternoon at Trafalgar Square, which included police baton-charging
demonstrators. The Independent Media Centre has received one report of the use
of CS gas. After masses of people, including participants of the Guerrilla
Gardening action as well as participants of trade union marches, had gathered
in Trafalgar Square in the early afternoon, police started to turn up in large
numbers and pushed people to one side of the square. During this charge, many
demonstrators were beaten heavily with batons, and at least one of them was
sprayed with CS gas by charging police, as reported by people there. For the
following four hours, around two thousand people were held on Trafalgar Square
and were not allowed to move on. Between 4pm and 8pm they were not told when
they would be allowed to move and what would happen to them if they were forced
to stay. At 8pm small groups were finally allowed to leave the square, but only
after photos of everyone were taken by police. Unconfirmed numbers of people
Anybody who has been to a major protest knows that there are
always 10 or so extreme, violent, hooded idiots, bent on smashing things up and
fighting the police.
Put yourself in the position of the police in these
circumstances and ask:
Why, when 10 - 20 people are disrupting the non-violent
protest of 10,000 others, do the police make no attempt to eliminate or control
a disruptive few? Common sense would suggest that they be neutralised and or
removed by locking them in one of the many police vans on standby. Why would
the police decide to surround the whole crowd for hours and hours inside a
small area, rather than identifying and extracting the clearly violent members
of the crowd?
By directing the police force to contain a very large
number of people and holding them against their will, whoever is in charge,
deliberately: a) creates a media spectacle of confrontational violence. b)
frustrates the majority of peaceful protesters, inciting further unrest. c)
justifies the huge police presence on the day. d) galvanises the police
footsoldier into a state of fear and expectance of mob violence. I demand that
whoever was in charge of this operation explains the absurd tactics employed
today, May Day 2000, and on November the 30th, and on June
the 18th last year.
More from Kennington Park
I left Kennington about 2 hours ago. At the time that I
left, the police and the crowd were seemingly calm, and I walked through the
police line with no trouble to speak of. A game of football had started, and
the police didn't seem too bothered, to the point that they were kicking the
ball back to the protesters.
However to start with things were less than friendly. After
being pushed down from parliament square, we crossed Lambeth Bridge and ended
up heading towards Kennington Park. Someone had obviously decided this although
I am not sure who. Our trip to Kennington was almost police-free, with one van
stopped in its tracks and turned around by assertive protesters. :)
However, we again saw the cops who diverted us towards a
single gate leading into Kennington Park, so that everyone was slowly forced
in. This gate, barely 4 feet wide was the focal point for a pitched battle, as
police repeatedly attempted to storm it, only to retreat to the other side of
the road. Onlookers and families gathered either side of the 70 or so riot
police to watch the entertainment as a stalemate ensued. Some rocks and bottles
were thrown but there didn't appear to be anything too bad until the police
cleared the onlookers to either side of them, pushing them away with their
They then eventually entered to the side and surrounded the
crowd, but as the atmosphere became more calm, the police line was just a
formality and I was able to walk through it and go home.
On news reports
i've just got back home and watched the "news"
report on itv, and i cannot believe that they and i were existing in the same
i arrived at parliament square at eleven, generally chilled
and enjoyed the atmosphere then followed the samba band up to trafalgar square.
although i can't say i was particularly saddened by the
sight of a macdonalds being trashed, that was still a minor part of the whole
day despite what the (predictably) skewed reporting has shown.
up in trafalgar square, i had a good view of the
"running battles" that were being fought, and even the police and
random tourists seemed particularly unconcerned by them.
the atmosphere was charged, but not violent - the pictures
i've just seen on tv would make you believe it was a war zone down there.
we all know what makes good copy, but the extent of
sensationalist reporting should make the itv "journalists" ashamed.
keep telling it like it is, indymedia.