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From SchNEWS 3rd May 2002
"Mayday has been a celebration of life, renewal and pleasure since ancient times. More recently it was declared International Workers' Day to commemorate the execution of four anarchists in Chicago for their part in the struggle for an eight-hour working day.
Both these aspects of Mayday were intertwined - a festival against work, want and denial, and a vision of freedom and plenty throughout the world." From 'Our May Day' website.
What does May Day mean to you? Well, if you're a Pagan maybe you were out on the lash drinking flagons of mead and dancing naked around a fire to welcome Beltane - the coming of Spring and the rebirth of life.
Ifyou're part of the corporate media then it's always a time to relax, dust off some of those old clichés and talk about the end of civilisation, as we know it.
If you're a copper then it's a time to get physical and talk about a hardcore of violent protestors bent on changing the status quo. If you're an anti-capitalist then there are a number of choices.
It could be the opportunity you were looking for to try out that outrageous new outfit - chances are the media will love it and want to chat you up (but try to think of something good to say beforehand). Or you could dress in black and look all moody at that McDonalds window.
If you're a trade unionist, then what better way of using one of your days off work than to march around with a placard and listen to some riveting speeches from some Old Labour politicians.
Wherever you're coming from there's no doubt that over the past few years May Day has been put firmly back onto the political map with millions across the world taking to the streets.
The biggest demos were in France with an estimated one million protesting against the fascist Le Pen. In Australia thousands turned out in Melbourne beginning the day by blockading the entrance of the company that runs the country's immigration detention centres.
In Indonesia thousands took to the streets calling for the day to be made a national holiday, higher minimum wages and a halt to subsidy cuts on fuel and electricity demanded by the International Monetary Fund.
In Athens four separate demonstrations marched to the United States and Israeli embassies to protest Israeli attacks against Palestinians. In Seoul more than 10,000 people called on the government to swiftly introduce a five-day work week and to withdraw its plans to privatise state-run industries.
Across the UK the demonstrations were smaller, but on the whole thought to be more successful than the last few years especially in London where six thousand cops patrolled the streets with four helicopters buzzin' over head.
The idea in Mayfair was for people to adopt a theme and be 'fluid and spontaneous...without a fixed starting point or finish.'
This meant crowds kept moving and the police couldn't use their trusty old Section 60 so easily (that's when they pen a crowd in for hours because they 'fear violence might happen')
So it was a 'Travelling Circus' with a thousand sparkle-faced anarchists wheeling round a huge red and yellow shiny plastic BigTop flanked by pixies, lusty crusty wenches, clowns and screaming queens.
Then there was Carniball - old fashioned footie - kicking off down Oxford Street with inflatable beach balls, and two five foot wide red footballs that got the crowds through police lines and provided a new sense of team-crowd spirit, as they bounced off the heads of the plod quite gloriously amid cries of 'GOAL!!'.
Or what about a critical mass of bike rides heading for the American Embassy; or a carnival of colour as part of the sex workers parade in Soho (which later got Section 60'd and turned violent as the police hemmed everyone in to take down peoples particulars [pardon]).
Some complained about walking around aimlessly, but on such a do-it-yourself day this just shows the importance of people organising beforehand and forming affinity groups.
This needn't be rocket science, just a bunch of mates getting together to plan actions, anything from bringing along props to targeting specific companies. A dozen anarchists from Worthing took the initiative by protesting in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, outside the HQ of the Carlyle Group, an American finance firm closely linked to the US government and the arms trade.
Other smartly dressed English gentlemen and women showed those ghastly American coffee chains a thing or two about etiquette, setting up stalls outside their stores and dishing out some good old fashioned tea & cucumber sandwiches to the protesting masses.
Last year the press reckoned it was one nil to the cops after they penned everyone in Oxford Street for eight hours. Not this year.
As one anarchist 'ringleader' told Schnews "Any suggestion of the cops winning the game are shallow - the cops were on the hop constantly. People broke away spontaneously into groups and reclaimed the streets of central London at the action's height.
Hopefully next year we can learn to generate more autonomous actions, bring along more musical instruments, rinky-dink sound systems, balls etc and build on this, because it's definitely a better way to structure mass actions." Or as one reveller told SchNEWS "This year I think we won on away goals."
May the first last
This years events in London weren't just focused on May Day but ten days of activities under the banner of May Day Festival of Alternatives. "We want to show our goals of creating a society based on solidarity, autonomy and co-operation - in practice.
We want to show that there is a future beyond capitalism, wage-labour and the state; that we can create our own alternatives and that our land, time, resources, entertainment, and ultimately, our lives, can be reclaimed from a system that has disempowered us from realising our individual and collective potential for centuries."
Just over 50 were nicked, mainly for minor charges. However if previous May Day court cases are anything to go by, then sentences for even minor offences could be harsh. If you saw any arrests contact the Legal, Defence and Monitoring Group firstname.lastname@example.org
* Find out what happened around the world www.indymedia.org
* For in-depth history of the Haymarket martyrs http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/
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