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Received - Monday, 6.13pm
Mayday morning - preparing for a day out, taking picnics, looking forward to a sunny day out. The proper thing to do on Mayday.
Arriving in Parliament Square at 11 was an enourmous relief. For weeks I'd felt threatened and intimidated. I'd been to the public meetings of Reclaim the Streets, where people with many different political backgrounds were trying to get the Guerrilla Gardening action going - bringing along seeds and compost, organising meetings for banner- and costume making, exchanging informations about the anti-terrorist-bill and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill, working out their legal rights at the Mayday-event. These meetings had become increasingly intimidating over the last few weeks - with police filming people as they arrived in the pub, and media camera teams trying to get a glimpse of the so-called clandestine anarchist organisation, whose "ringleaders are thought to be planning hit-and-run raids on targets in the City and elsewhere" (Express, 20.4.2000).
Who wants to be filmed for BBC News while spending an evening in a pub, trying to develop the beginning of what could be a new form of politics?
What looked like a peaceful "fluffy" action from the inside, became a scary, violent action in the mainstream media. A carnival challenging the rules of how to use public space in a fully CCTV'd London area in an imaginative and meaningful way, was turned into the plan to smash the City. The police made sure that everybody knew they where planning the biggest operation for 30 years. Just to keep some guardeners in fancy dress under control. Feelings of pressure and intimidation where getting stronger, some people had to struggle with mild forms of paranoia - although nothing "violent" was planned, and although it can't be illegal to make some carnival costumes on a sunday afternoon.
Arriving in Parliament Square was like a breath of fresh air. Lots of angels around. Transparent wings with pink stars in them. A mother and child angel, both dressed in pink and silver with filigrane structures as skirts. Some dragons and unicorns. A green man with leaves around his hat. Green leaves sticking out of bicycle baskets and plastic bags. Bags of houmous in rucksacks. Lots of sunflowers and orchids. A women in a flowery dress and a straw-hat cycling by, with a peacock-like structure fixed to her bike. An atmosphere of expectation, pleasure, enjoyment. An urban celebration of Mayday, connecting the rural leaves with the tarmac of the city. The bright yellow jackets of the police didn't disturb the peace yet, even the helicopter circling above our heads seemed merely an audio-annoyance. It was more irritating to walk down Victoria Street, where groups of cops on bikes were stationed along with groups of police vans - in fact enough police to immediately block off the street if they wished to.
Back in Parliament Square, a group of 500 Critical Mass passed by, cheered by the crowds. Would they lead the gardeners to another place? Towards Victoria Road, the angels, green men and women, monsters and dragons formed a carnival cortege, and finally the sounds of the samba band arrived. A "green block", some wheelbarrows with flowers and compost, and the sound that immediately sent people to dance. On each of the four lampposts at Parliament Square, woman climbers where busy fixing banners - the worms will turn! Sticky tape from Reclaim The Streets was crisscrossing the roads, fencing off the police. The gardening started. A maypole was erected, children danced around it holding the colourful ribbons.
A good place to spend May Day - despite helicopters, police in riot gear hiding in the backstreets, and despite "the biggest police action since 30 years".
Report from a "clandestine anarchist"
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