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The London May Day March, which had long been agreed and negotiated with the police (who had referred to us as a good example of how to ensure maximum co-operation in the lead up to May Day), had reached within 50 yards of Trafalgar Square before being stopped by the police. They claimed it was unsafe to continue to our planned rally in Trafalgar Square. However, our stewards were in the Square at the time having secured the speaking area and PA system, and there were no problems in the Square at that time. The žanti-capitalistÓ demonstrators were still down at the Parliament Square end of Whitehall and all was quiet in and around Trafalgar Square.
The police held the March for a long time and then allowed the žanti-capitalistÓ demonstrators to come up Whitehall to the junction with the Square. (They could easily have prevented this if they felt it was a potential problem, as they showed later in the day Ů particularly by using the police and vans used to prevent us from entering the Square). However, we had received clear indications that the bulk of these demonstrators wished to support our rally and the car workers Ů as they had the RMT anti-tube privatisation campaign. Preventing them coming to our rally led to confrontation that could be exploited by those set on conflict.
The police held up the May Day March for over 40 minutes during which time we could have easily held our rally as nothing was happening in the Square. The blunt blockage of our March was itself the sort of thing that can lead to friction and it was to the credit of our organisations and stewards that this did not happen. The police žsuggestedÓ we could go to another venue for our rally but it would mean we would not have our PA system or arranged platform and many organisations saw no reason why we could not go to Trafalgar Square. We maintained a process of continuous consultation with the organisations on the March to decide on courses of action and after the long impasse the bulk of organisations agreed that the best response was to disperse under protest. We wished to maintain the unity of the March and avoid any possibilities for provocations. After the bulk of the March had dispersed, the March head with the Longbridge car workers decided to leave as a group and go to Temple for a short rally before dispersing there.
There has been widespread concern that the police did not ensure our rally could go ahead and our long co-operation seemed to count for nothing. We need to stress that no problems occurred in the Square until we had left and only then because police forced some of the anti-capitalists into the Square. Some key questions need to be answered about the circumstances and should be pursued with MPs and the new London police authority for future arrangements.
The London May Day March has been organised for over 100 years and is the united march for international workers day. It brings together trade unions, organisations from the international communities in London, campaigns, pensioners, socialists and others. It takes place every year on May 1st.
London May Day Organising Committee
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