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By Brew, posted to the urban75 bulletin boards, 6th May, 2001
Bad, but are we surprised?
The live TV already had its lines written before the day and when Oxford St. wasn't burnt to the ground they used them anyway.
Footage of protesters being beaten by cops in full riot togs was accompanied by a description of violent protesters attacking the police. "Hails of bottles raining down" on cop lines were spoken of but not visible.
That's because it didn't happen.
Media focus before and during the event was primarily on whether the police could quell this anarchist threat. "Anarchist" was already taken to mean an unrelentingly destructive force and the word was never questioned or analysed.
The event was treated as though our brave bobbies were having to face and deal with some sort of natural disaster, rather than a group criticising and re-evaluating the structure of society.
Nicely placed before the election, Jack Straw on the telly in the police control room 'overseeing' the operation. Who's to bet that that footage wouldn't have been shown if the events of MayDay hadn't been painted to look like a police victory.
Earlier in the day the press were reporting 5,000-6,000 protestors, but then later claimed that the majority of a thousand were penned in Oxford Circus.
Where did the rest go then? They were winning it in Soho and else where.
Didn't read that in the paper the next day? No, neither did I. It is very important that those poor souls who were hemmed in Oxford Circus know that the day wasn't the failure that was reported in the press.
Breaking out –
Those in Oxford Circus show that we can control ourselves in the worst of circumstances. Although the crowd was put under enormous pressure there wasn't a riot. There was an escape by a group of about 100-200.
Helped by the beating of samba drums, a non-violent push was made and many made it into the clear to join those in Soho. The Samba Band knew that although they had the opportunity to escape themselves, they would be better placed for the benefit of those locked in to stay.
This is self-governmental decision making at its best.
Soho run-around –
As mentioned above, the huge, unchecked crowd that streamed through Soho had every opportunity to trash and destroy. McD's went untouched and lone nutter riot cops were left to their own devices.
This wasn't an out-of-control mob. This was a party on the move. Outwitting and out manoeuvring the Met's finest at every turn. The decisions were made on-the-fly and we didn't need nannying. Those were our streets.
Several times the crowd turned away from using narrow streets and alleyways that could have resulted in horrendous injuries.
This was done with out panic and showed that we can make our own decisions, look after our own interests, even in high-pressured situations.
One thing that MayDay as a big event lacked was a focal point. J18 had it's carnival and M1-2K had it's gardening. I didn't understand the point in assembling in Oxford St. at 4pm.
If there was a reason it wasn't very well communicated. Without a focal activity for these big gatherings it's harder for us to refute the press claims that we were planning a riot. Gather in Oxford St and 4pm. Then what? Trash it?
Maybe the time for these big events is over for a while. Small scale, national days/weeks of action (direct or otherwise), followed by a central rally of support would be my suggestion. The big events are time and place specific.
J18 was the right time. Seattle was the right time. I haven't made my mind up yet as to whether mayday 2k+1 was the appropriate event for the time.
Sometimes ppl are ready and open to these events, and sometimes they aren't.
Comment by Brew. See also Mayday: personal report
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