indymedia | 16.04.2001 22:00 | May Day 2001
16 Apr 2001
THE GUARDIAN / Apr 16 2001
John Vidal and Nick Hopkins show what happens when journalists allow the Metropolitan police to set the news agenda (Mayday Mayhem?, April 14)
Spot on letters from Guardian readers in responce to general media coverage and recent article by John Vidal in The Guardian (printed here in full):
In the absence of actual information about the May Day demonstrations they echo the self-fulfilling prophecy of the police - violent thugs have taken over and peaceful protesters are staying away, with the result that "ordinary people" and "families" will be too frightened to attend. A relentless media campaign over the past few weeks, coupled with increasingly aggressive police announcements, is plainly intended to divide anti-capitalist activists and criminalise protest. But "ordinary people" and "families" are the anti-capitalist movement. We are part of society, not apart from it. We are your neighbours, the people you sit next to on the bus, in the park, in the housing office.
The whole point of the May Day demonstrations is their diversity - that there will be many different types of protest happening. There is room for all sections of the anti-capitalist movement to choose their own direction on the day.
No doubt there will be some demonstrators, embittered by the pollution, violence and exploitation of global capitalism, who will break windows in revenge. There will also be many more demonstrators who will be organising positive activities, parties and music that celebrate our worldwide resistance. The "call to action" asks everyone to choose their own way. Its not a secret society, but a very open one.
The police have demonised May Day since the very first demonstrations were called in the 1880s, and if the police want a fight they're sure to get one, but that's not the point of the protest. The anti-capitalist movement is a broad coalition, and the wider the police's net is cast, the more "ordinary" people are caught in it. We have something to say and we're not frightened to make our voices heard. Jim Bradley
Red Star Research
Special branch briefings concerning May Day have two purposes. First to discredit the anti-capitalist movement and deter demonstrators; and second, to prepare public opinion for a violent police crackdown.
The police will no doubt be delighted at the May Day features in the Guardian, which seemed designed to aid their cause. Whatever the opinions of Guardian readers on violence at demonstrations, it is the right to demonstrate at all that is under attack.
Porthcawl, Mid Glamorgan
THE MIRROR / Apr 16 2001
Mirror investigates: May Day!
MAY DAY wreckers are targeting more than 200 businesses - anarchists' chilling threats are outlined on the website maydaymonopoly.net - police say monopoly chosen because it exudes capitalist principles "We have seen this site and it's definitely a matter of real concern - targets include supermarkets, banks, fast-food chains, coffee shops, car showrooms and sportswear stores - some of the entries in the monopoly game guide carry abusive explanations the Savoy is described as "where rich and famous scum stay" - the BBC is "propaganda to the world" - Armed Forces Careers Office is labelled "a thousand ways to kill" - "I don't think these idiots understand that their protests have a real effect on the lives of ordinary people who work their socks off to make a living." - Hasbro, the maker of the board game, is considering legal action against the website - hard core of 100 anarchists planning violence - "zero tolerance" towards rioters.
15 Apr 2001
THE OBSERVER / Apr 15 2001
May Day activists to surrender to police
By Martin Bright, home affairs correspondent
Newspaper gives voice to protestors shock! The Observer gives a voice to activists involved in Mayday...
ringleaders of May Day protest plan to hand themselves over to the police in protest at alleged harassment of activists on 30 April and challenge police to arrest them - one Mayday Monopoly organiser said many people in the alliance believed they would have to go public to rebuff police claims that this year's demonstrations are organised by a 'hard core' of 1,000 activists bent on an orgy of violence. 'It is very provocative for the police to warn anyone peaceful not to turn up,' - the Wombles are a direct action group inspired by European anarchists who wear boiler suits padded with bubble wrap and polystyrene to protect them from police batons - protestors have been approached by police officers to act as agents - others visited at home and threatened with arrest - police refused to confirm reports that it would be sending uniformed police to monitor and film activist meetings - on Mayday protesters dressed as Mary Poppins will feed the birds in Trafalgar Square to protest against the ban imposed by Mayor Ken Livingstone, while in Mayfair campaigners will build a cardboard hotel to protest at the plight of the homeless - police have targeted freelance journalists with close links to the activists, a producer working for Channel 4, was last week refused entry to a Scotland Yard press conference.
14 Apr 2001
THE GUARDIAN / Apr 14 2001
Fluffies on the run as spikies win battle of the streets May Day mayhem? Threats of violence deter peaceful protesters
By John Vidal and Nick Hopkins
John Vidal, who has reported on many environmental protests over the years writes an article echoing the police line. While the article recognises what's going on with police statements about "zero tolerance" and the new Terrorism legislation it makes no comment on this obvious state agenda and instead concentrates on Reclaim the Streets and reporting divisions between protestors. The article also fails to mention the many diverse actions and protests scheduled to take place throughout the morning and early afternoon and instead focuses on potential violence. Given that John Vidal is a well known environmental commentator his articles often carry considerable weight (see Guardian Letters page entry below for a criticism of this article):
British anti-capitalist movement has been poisoned so deeply by hardliners intent on violence that it may never recover its popular appeal - bitter feuding between "fluffies" and "spikies" - "The party's over" hijacked by thugs - Reclaim the Streets (RTS) divided - widespread fear of oppressive policing: Scotland Yard announced on Thursday a high-risk "zero tolerance" approach to troublemakers plus untested legislation that could class protesters against ideological issues as terrorists will both drastically reduce the numbers attending - fewer than 2,000 people will take to the streets - police believe half are intent on chaos - "The spikies have won... It has been taken over by the thugs" "They've lost their focus, their sense of play and vision. The only ideology now seems to be destruction" - the article continues describing witch hunts within RTS and goes on to say RTS has become secretive, talking as if RTS is organising Mayday this year - but then we get quotes from the police saying "We know we're not dealing with Reclaim the Streets any more," - "Their aim is violence against property and police officers because that is the best way to get media attention".
The arcticle continues in a slightly more balanced tone talking about the Wombles:
Wombles style themselves on Ya Basta! - one protestor who claimed to be a womble said "If we wanted violence, we wouldn't be marching on May Day with water pistols, inflatable hammers and a 50ft inflatable Uncle Bulgaria," "Even our name was a piss-take, but the fact that they are taking us so seriously is a joke on them. When they talk about sinister hardcore paramilitary Wombles, they look ridiculous." - Special Branch and MI5 have been conducting covert operations - the police are hoping to make trouble-makers think twice before coming at all.