Date: Mon, 10 Oct 1994 19:35:24
To: anarchy-list <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Riot in London
Yesterday afternoon there was a massive (40.000) protest march and rally against the legislation of the Criminal Justice Bill which is scheduled to go through in the next few weeks. This Bill will make it illegal for gatherings of over 10 people on public land, and will allow squatters to be evicted within 24 hours, both serious threats to civil liberties in the UK. As well, the right to silence will be removed -- obscene in a Bill created originally to reduce wrongful convictions.
So the thousands of people marched through the streets of London, accompanied by the sound systems which promote and support the rave culture in Britain. At around 5pm, when everyone was raving away in Hyde Park, the police started rushing the park on horseback, trying to shut down the rave, whose permit was to end at 4:30. My feeling is that if the police had laid low, the rave would have continued til people got hungry and the pubs opened and folks owuld have left. But rave music is political here, symbolic in the same way that punk once was. The police were determined to shut it down.
But things did not go as planned. When the police charged, the crowds of 4-5000 moved towards them and after hailing bottles and sticks at them, the mounted police moved outside the gates. Along the gates were hundreds of cops in riot gear. Repeatedly they charged the fence, behind which massed hundreds of masked protesters. While missiles were few, folks went on forays into the city and returned bearing paving stones and sticks. When the police charged and tried to batter across the fence, there was a strong hail of bags of sand, bottles and sticks, so they quickly withdrew.
Still, the mood was festive, a bicycle powered sound system repeatedly circled and fire eaters and jugglers performed, poets ranted through megaphones and the crowd danced to hardcore techno. When space was reclaimed, it just became part of the dance floor, making the cops assaults increasingly ludicrious At around 10 pm, Word circulated that all the gates had closed and we were all hungry tired and it felt like a good time to leave. Yet, when we headed for the exits, all the streets were lined with cops in riot gear and the Underground/ Metro was closed. Quickly, people broke through the lines across Oxford St. and suddenly store windows were shattering and everyone was running -- fast. 53 Shops had their windows smashed including the Boots and McDonalds, both companies under boycott. When Tottenham Court Road Station was reached, many broke through the lines and entered the transport to go home.
The BBC reported that police are looking for a group of anarchist organizers for the riot. Personally I think that it was largely spontaneous, a situation created by the cops, with a crowd sick and tired of being harassed; this week the longstanding road protest in Leytonstone, London will probably end after a slow destruction of homes and communities.
The cracks in the system are increasingly evident, and the political is becoming redefined.