smith&wesson gun bikes
bang my drum
into trafalgar square
samba in parliament square
outside downing street
flooding charing x road
as well as several loud sound systems, the 'rhythms of resistance' samba band took to trikes, rickshaws, roller-blades, and bikes, to provide a fantastic carnival soundtrack to the ride that had passers-by dancing in the streets.
apart from a few irate drivers, and, it has to be said, the daily mail-fed vitriol of a few stereotypical taxi drivers (though many were cool too), the response was generally good-natured considering the traffic havoc caused.
despite the threatening letter of the previous month, it seems the police had reconsidered their authoritarian stance, and provided a truly excellent and sensible facilitation of the ride, mainly consisting of calming down any drivers who tried to take the law into their own hands, and occasionally aiding blocking junctions as the mass passed (although the sheer size meant that they couldn't be at all relevant junctions at all times and much of this was left to cyclists themselves). legal observers reported no known arrests, and in fact virtually no trouble anywhere. the policing comprised just approximately 20 outriders on bicycles and one van following - there was some concern about the 'shoot-to-kill policy' when it was spotted that police bikes carried the logo of gun manufacturers 'smith&wesson', but thankfully there were no assassinations last night.
the route went slowly over waterloo bridge, along the strand, through the mall (taking it completely over at times), past buck house, and then down to parliament square, where the new 'serious organised crime act' legislation banning protest in and around the square is supposed to be in force.
it demonstrates the arbitrary, farcical nature of this law that on tuesday morning just two people with banners from campaigning group 'justice not vengeance' were arrested for a protest outside downing street, one of them possibly facing up to 51 weeks in prison for being an 'organiser', while last night, more than a thousand cyclists cleared the square of traffic, parked up, danced to the sound of the samba band, and used amplified sound systems to shout anti-war and anti-government slogans. there were no arrests!
in their own time, after about twenty minutes, the procession rode up whitehall, stopping outside downing street and holding up their bikes in the air in front of the gates, then on slowly up through trafalgar square and charing cross road to centrepoint, where crowds joined in the samba dancing in the streets for a while. heading west along oxford street, they flooded into the oxford circus junction, in what looked like a scene from the infamous mayday (2001?) when police kettled a huge crowd at this spot for many hours. last night however, the twenty police bicyclists just watched in amusement and helped stop the traffic while the colourful mob celebrated their freedom for a while before making their way down regent's street to piccadilly circus for another rest.
by now it was nearly half past ten, the mass had got a little split up, and everyone one was winding down. gradually the wheeled massive congregated off-road on the upper part of trafalgar square, set up the sound system, cracked open the beers and smokes, and had a post-mass party for a while. the police left, people began to drift away in to the night, and on to various parties, the rain started up, and a peaceful, empowering, celebratory experience was over for another month.
if you missed it and want to come along, the next one is the 25th november. if you came and enjoyed it (how could you not?), then see you all next month too.
more details on the www.criticalmasslondon.org.uk website