Saturday April 12th saw 20,000 people on the 'March for Social Justice', led by the sacked Liverpool dockers, Women of the Waterfront, the Hillingdon cleaners, and strikers from Magnet and other disputes. It was the start of a weekend of resistance by Reclaim the Streets!, the anarchist inspired direct action group. Many of the people there were there for this alone, though RTS have actively supported the dockers in the past, and the dockers have defended them against attacks from the Labour and union bureaucracy.
The march was very lively and had an exceptionally good atmosphere as it snaked its way from Kennington Park into the centre of London. The cops kept a low profile and the Trots had stayed away. Anarchists, on the contrary, saw this as an important linking of struggles, and had come from all round the country.
The police radios started twitching, however, as the most visible anarchist contingent, near the back of the march, came up Whitehall. The sound system in front of it stopped outside Downing Street, as had other sections of the march, and the crowd danced and shouted their protest at the empty government buildings. The riot cops opposite were restless behind the gates to the Ministry of Defence. There was a whiff of testosterone in the air and they were clearly itching to have a go. A smoke bomb went off and a couple of lads climbed the gates to Downing Street, nothing serious, but the gates to the MoD opened and the horses came forth.
The cops were caught between two sections of the demo and the crowd was pissed off. It had been a good day, sunny with loads of great people, and here were the party poopers to spoil the fun. Under a hail of placards, paint and bottles, they were forced back. Their pride dented, out they came again to show who was in control. There was the usual push and shove, a couple of arrests and the cops succeeded in dividing the demo. The majority were already partying in Trafalgar Square, though some came back down Whitehall to see what was happening. There were about 800 stuck on the wrong side of the police lines for a tense quarter of an hour, until the police relented and went back into the MoD.
Meanwhile the police had already started to park vans outside the main entrances of Trafalgar Square, where several thousand demonstrators were starting to have a street party. The original target had been the Department of the Environment, but the cops had found out and its offices were protected by armed police. A lorry with a sound system was driven through the police lines, into Trafalgar Square and the dancing began. The police sealed off the Square and allowed people to leave, but attempted to stop anyone from entering.
As the afternoon went on, the numbers slowly began to drop and the tension began to rise. Finally, the riot cops started to move in. They were met by a spirited resistance as some people fought for others' right to party, even if many of the dancers didn't care about the struggle going on around them. As the sound system left in the early evening taking most of the crowds with it, the driver and passenger were arrested for the attempted murder of a cop when entering the Square. These ridiculous charges were later dropped and replaced by drugs charges, but were still reported by the press. People headed home or to one of the organised squat parties, leaving the Square, bedecked by banners, to the police. Several people had been hospitalised and there had been a number of arrests. The centre of London had been reclaimed from the car for an afternoon, the cops had flexed their muscle, the press had got its headlines, the people had made their point.
The Legal Defense and Monitoring Group are co-ordinating the legal defense for
April12th. They want to trace anyone who was arrested, injured or who could give
evidence as a witness to arrests and attacks by the police. They can help provide
reliable solicitors and support for people wanting to take action against the police.
They can be contacted at