Anti Criminal Justice Marches, London 1994 Reports from the anti-CJB marches of 1994
In 1994 the Tory government introduced the Criminal Justice Bill.
A draconian set of measures cobbled together by a government keen to look tough and win votes, the Bill amounted to an all-out attack on alternative lifestyles and civil liberties, with stringent new laws designed to stamp out dissent.
The Bill sought to abolish the centuries-old right to silence, while introducing new laws to criminalise squatters, road protesters, ravers and the traveling communities.
Football fans were also targeted, with a set of ill-thought out proposals increasing their likelihood of getting unfairly arrested at matches.
The Bill had the effect of bringing together a coalition of targeted minorities together in two huge central London street protests on July 24th and October 9th 1994. These are some first hand reports from urban75 posters.
past caring: I think there was a thread a couple of weeks back in this section of the boards which asked 'What was the wierdest thing you've ever seen on a demo/protest?'
I've seen plenty, but one of the wierdest was on that CJA demo. When it first went off in Hyde Park and the mounties started charging, a copper got unseated by his mount. Other coppers tried to get to the horse, but they were beaten by some crusty bloke who promptly jumped on the horse's back. And he proceeded to ride the thing around the park at full gallop, dreads flying.
I lost sight of him pretty quickly - had to make a run for it as there were other mounties baring down on me and my mates, but it was funny as fuck.
Kaka Tim: Yeah - the demo/riot at Hyde Park was brilliant. Thousands of people pushing the cops out of the park and then taunting them from the raiings on park lane - all to a rousing soundtrack of banging techno! I remember the riderless cop horse and the crowd chanting 'one -nil'.
Being part of a crowd of thousands chanting 'fuck off! Fuck off!' at the top of our voices at the sullen lines of riot cops being pelted with dirt - absolutely top.
We had assembled to protest at their law banning free parties (amongst plenty of other stuff as well) - we turned that protest into a free party with the arrival of the soundsystems - the cops moved into to close it down - and failed.
Small victory - but pure gold in the sense of power and inspiration it gave (well to me anyway).
Cops took their revenge later of course - as it got dark and the numbers dwindled - and the law got passed - but that day felt like a victory at the time, and the campaign against the CJA helped a whole new round of activism and protest on its way - culminating, I guess, with j18 in 1999.
The Black Hand: Was with the mobile sound system in daylight as it went up Park lane/Marble Arch, and we had some argy bargy around there... Went up towards the top end of Hyde Park and I was stood on top of a barrier trying to see into the park cos we could hear but not see what was going on in the park. When a copper pulled it away from underneath me, at this point I fucking lost it, feffing and blinding, and the senior filth present (flat cap) saw what had happened and let me foam in his face (bit lucky i suppose....)
We pulled some barriers across the road and then went into the park cos we didn't have the numbers to do owt... and this was where the fun and games with the riot police happened... Charging into a crowd that scattered into a massive open park left them vulnerable at the sides and behind - they overstretched themselves...
As a result they had to scoop in thousands of police later to clear the park... but for now the crowd had the park... we were along the park lane fence watching the riot police charge to it and try to batter us, we battered back (park benches made useful staves) and gave as good as we got for ages.... then a large group went along Oxford St smashing loads of windows... the group I was with got charged by 2 van loads of filth although they had seen us do nothing and we scattered, and they choose to chase me for some reason...
Running as fast as I could around some back streets I eventually tripped up and 6 pigs jumped on top of me... oh dear...
After a search (I had a copy of Workers Power after I swapped it for a Class War, and they missed the Class War stickers I had in my back pocket - they thought that a copy of Workers Power meant I was a lefty who wouldn't do anything against the police) and a name check they let me go BUT only after they'd put me in the van, and told me to put my hands on the top of the seat in front of me...
They only let me go 'cos they got a call that it was kicking off somewhere else so they couldn't be bothered to frame me... Later that night I took a mate to hospital in the sticks (NEVER GO TO THE central London hospitals cos they go to casualty to try to pick up people after riots), he gave a false name, and had his head seen to... He never got 'caught' and he's still active...
All in all, one of the better days out
Spandex: I went on the Trafalgar Square demo. If its the one I'm thinking of, there was a bit of a sit down protest outside Downing Street at one point.
The police were scratching their heads over what to do about it when some fools decided to try and storm the gates into Downing Street. Which resulted in a police horse charge to clear the people sitting in the road.
A friend of a friend claimed he was the one person to get into Downing Street. He jumped down from the gates, full of revolutionary fervour (and testosterone?) ready to lead the storming of number 10, before realising he was an army of one. facing a wall of police. with police dogs. that they were letting of the leads.
He was let off with a caution once they had treated the dog bites. can't say if this story is true, but I kind of like it.
for the most part though it was a pretty peaceful (and sunny) day. I remember dancing to a soundsystem on the base of Nelson's Column and sitting on the fountains chatting to people before getting invited to an after party at Claremont Road (the anti-M11 site).
Top Dog: Yeah i was at the largely peaceful Traf Square one. Anyone remember the cops trying to stop the lorry carrying the sound system getting into the square?
Was quite involved with Claremont Road & No M11 Link Road thing at the time and remember later that evening we laid on a massive street party after the Square event which a couple of thousand people came down to and continued the fun for the rest of the evening... ah, those were the days Anyone remember that night?
But remember being gutted at the time about missing the Hyde Park fun and games as i was up north. I DO remember some very unsavoury events following this... It was the height of the whole 'keep it fluffy' moral righteousness crusade and some fucking pacifist wanker took it upon themselves to spray pink paint on people they saw being a bit more active, shall we say.
These proto community wardens then told the cops what they had done. Mate of mine got his jacket branded with this pink shit by these peace police, but didn't realise he had 'til he was picked up later in Piccadilly Circus by the cops, spotted by his pink target!!!
He ended up doing time for it. Nice eh?
belboid: aaah happy days.....
I was decidedly 'light-headed' on the trafalgar square demo, remember wandering past downing street as it was kicking off their, and thinking, as there were a bunch of people climbing the gates, 'that looks as wobbly as i am', and then the horses came storming in. A good fun day, lots of playing in the fountains and having good old fashioned fun.
Hyde Park was a rather different kettle of fish. Coppers grotesquely over-reacting to some trivial event and then not knowing how to handle it. I was standing next to the fire-breather for quite a while, which was a right laugh as no cops could get near us! Bloody fluffys tho....
I recall one coming up to us and going 'hey you shouldn't be doing this, you should be with us [having a party in the park], that's what its all about maaaan'. 'And how fucking long do you think your party would have lasted were it not for the people keeping the cops out of the park in the first place you stupid bugger, eh?' came the short sharp reply.
Got out in plenty of time, marching down Oxford Street and having a big grin on me face as the brick went through the Body Shop window.
A good day.
Gumbert: i was there on the july one. We caught the demo half wat to the park after we got up late after downing copious amount of speed the night before. Great atmosphere then we got to the park...
I remember going up to the po-lice lines down park lane and standing in front of them. You could feel the tension of the bastards with shields an helmets and all. They were out for a ruck. I then wander off to join the desert storm sound system, well it seemed to be them playing 'slam' stuff while being towed into the park.
Next thing I spot rioters on horseback charging the revellers from the place i'd stood and watched them. All mi mates started freakin out and wanted to go home pretty sharpish.. I argued for staying but was out voted. The instigator for home now has a managerial job high up in the youth service somewhere....bloody sellout
went back to harrow and got drunk.
Chorlton: some great memories reading back on these - the bus from liverpool was a pain in the arse cause polis were diverting us everywhere not letting us park, as soon as we saw the bright lights of old london town we all had got -ahem- ready... 3 hours of slow moving traffic round london was a bit of a pisser - still we got to see the sites.
The demo itself was alright, nuthin special but arriving at the park was amusing as hell - the polis trying to get all aggro and shouty as german schoolkids would run up and try to get their picture taken with ya....
When it kicked off in the park i just climbed the nearest tree, and i'm pretty sure the fella up after me was yer man, the singer from the levellers... it was pretty funny sittin up the tree watching the polis lose complete control in the park, but out on the street the scenes weren't so funny... amongst other things a woman holding a baby getttin a full-on smash to the head by a mounted copper.
on leaving we could see what looked like molotovs being thrown - to this day I dunno if it was or not, but it looked like the polis were getting the upper hand - a pretty sad end to the day.
hiccup: I was there. I'd never had a lungful of tear gas until then. I can still taste it a decade later. I couldn't believe we were being gassed. Wankers. I remember being charged by mounted police in Hyde Park - quite an adrenaline rush.
I remember the joy of dancing to a sound system belting out acid techno in a Royal Park. I remember frantically scooping dust and dirt into empty drink cans so as to have something to pelt the police with.
I remember "saluting" all the camera-toting bobbies. I remember the incredible shared energy of thousands of people telling the police to fuck right off. I remember thinking "How dare they? How fucking dare they?" I remember a huge cheer going up as some brave/stupid soul jumped the barriers and smashed the drivers' window of a passing police car.
I remember feeling fleetingly sorry for the police, until I saw the third or fourth person staggering about dripping blood from the head. I remember finding an Opinel knife on the floor (I use it for gardening now).
I also remember getting a bit lost on the way home and having to ask a policeman (in full riot gear) the way to the tube station. He was very polite and helpful. Fuck the police, ummm, unless you're lost.
On April 1 1994 the Advance Party and others put on a march against the Criminal Justice Bill.
The Freedom Network emerged, broadened, and put on a demo in July.
Then the SWP showed up - Wayman Bennet and some cadre - and started trying to take over the movement. Small, yes: composed largely of people who like to dance, yes: but a movement nevertheless.
And the SWP wanted to do it by their book: Trafalgar Square march, "Kill the Bill" slogan, turn it into a protest against the government, not an affirmation of anything at all. Largely because they hadn't the faintest idea what might be affirmed, or what culture, let alone DIY culture, is about.
Not necessarily their fault individually: rather the fault of the existence of the vanguardist Party, whose function for the individual member is precisely to save them the trouble of finding out for themselves what is going on around them, what can be done about it, who's already doing what and how and why.
Things got very tedious with endless rigged "Coalition" meetings... lots of good people's time that could have gone into an event that a million people would claim to have been at ran into the sand of entrist bureaucracy.
And here's where we come to your "call us" bit.
In August or September I called Paul Foot.
"Paul, hi. Long time... Look, this CJB thing. If the Party will agree to call a party, I can work on if full-time until the event."
"What do you mean, old chap, 'the Party call a party'?"
This is probably the smartest person in the Party. This is someone who wrote the utterly wonderful Red Shelley. Everyone targetted by the Bill would know what it meant. Shelley would have known what it meant, and done us a benefit ode But the Party mindset got him...
As I recall it was the freedom network who put out all the 'keep it fluffy' stuff and it might have been them who were suggesting spraying 'trouble makers' with dye.
I had a few run ins - m/class green types who would say stuff like 'we dont want this to be political' and put out a leaflet with a quote from a copper saying -
'the police did a good job during the miners strike in not being seen to take sides - but this bill will make our job harder in that department'.
and couldn't see why people would be pissed off.
interestingly that sort of 'unpolitical' 'lets be really nice and the government will listen to our point of view' argument has pretty much disappeared from the activist 'movement'.
I was working pretty closely with the SWP at the time - I didn't find them too bad until the hyde park demo when they turned the official sound system off so as to keep on the right side of the law. er .. talk about missing the point.
Anyone remember the 'keep it spikey' leaflet? - that made me chuckle.
Strontium Dog Them Were the days...
Ah now herein lies a tale... Nah, not really. But i was on both of the CJB marches that year as i was living on Claremont at the time.
What a messy day the first one was (probably not helped by the fact i was tripping my face off the night before). I only have vague recollections of the march itself, like getting right to the front and seeing a sea of smiley folk wandering down the street blowing whistles, horns and banging drums...
My friends and i doing impromptu stand up for the lines of normal (ie non riot geared) cops, laying down in front of them pretending to be human jellyfish (i blame the acid) and quoting large chunks of Roger Mellie the man on telly to the cadres of dayglo cops, and giving stickers to any of them that giggled...
Then it all gets a bit hazy up until the point where the sound systems appeared outside hyde park. I remember being atop the white van carrying one of the sound systems, and seeing the lines of numberless black clad riot cops appear to box everyone in. Then the surge of the crowd when someone (i never found out if it was us or them) let off some teargas...
One of my fondest memories was of seeing some guy climb atop one of the encircled police vans and moony the busies, before leaping down into the crowd before they could nick him what a guy...
Then it descended into chaos, and all i remember after that was dodging snatch sqauds, escaping into hyde park, finding that group of mounted police trapped between an angry crowd and the walls around the park...
A few folk trying to stop the crowd throwing missiles at the horses (which i have to say i agreed with, cos the horses were only doing their job).
Then the riot cops scaling the walls of the park to charge the crowd surrounding the texas county mounties, and pulling some tiny lass out from the melee after some twatty cop levelled her with his baton (she was one of the folk trying to defend the horses).
Last memory of that day is trying to console/calm down this lass in the middle of running battles between protestors and police in the park, and one of the mounted police shielding us both with his horse from the orc-like-hordes or riot cops. Just goes to show not all coppers are bastards...
What a day, then back too Claremont for one of the biggest parties the street ever saw!
Then we went back and did it all again a few months later, except then we nearly brought down the gates to Downing Street