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We investigated the Mayday 2001 protest

Poll results
Letter to Ken Livingstone
Matti Ron's eye witness account
It's May Day!


Our poll results!

Do you feel the police were justified in their tactics for the May Day protests?

Strongly agree 48%
Agree 1 %
Disagree 1%
Strongly disagree 48%

A letter to the mayor

25 May 2001
Ken Livingstone MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

Dear Ken Livingstone,
I am sending this letter to inquire about your reaction to the protesters in the May Day protests. This letter may be published in the web site ‘Unfairtrade.co.uk’, which is a project set up by a northwest London school. Also your reply may be published as a follow up. I feel, that watching an interview with you on May the first, that your approach and attitude to the protesters was very negative. I was wondering why this was? I feel that having you yourself been in the same situation having been on many protests you would be more likely to sympathise with the protesters causes. You named all of these protesters as ‘violent nutters’, and I feel this was unfair. I see that your comments were probably aimed at the people that were seen to be there for destructive reasons only, but don't think that there was many of these ‘violent nutters’ about.
And I think at instead of criticising a small minority, you should have been pledging support for the people that were there to protest against capitalism, homelessness, hunger, multinationals, unfair land distribution, and many other issues. I would like to ask if you are in favour of people protesting against these issues?

Thank you for reading this,

Sincerely yours, Ella Downing

reporters fed up with being videoed! NJ

An eye witness account of the day by Matti Ron

May Day 2001.

On the news they made out that May Day was a time when 5,000 or so people get together and break stuff. And last year my sympathy really went out to McDonalds. How dare those people terrorize that poor multinational corporation. This year, the media labelled it as some sort of get together for terrorists and every newspaper I looked in (minus The Morning Star and The Guardian) called the protesters, rioters. But what riot? How can the protesters be rioters if they caused no riot?

Me and my friend went to May Day even though the news spoke of French Anarchists coming over and of secret rioting training camps (London Evening Standard, tut tut) as these claims seemed a tad ridiculous. Plus, the Capitalist press isn't going to support a cause that is against it. We got to the World Bank (after getting lost in South Bank) and were having a good time chanting and waving placards frantically before the police started moving people on. A policeman in pretty heavy gear (big baton, lead-lined gloves and an overly huge can of CS spray) pushed me towards a wall and my friend was pushed in the opposite direction and into the street. Eventually, everyone was herded into Oxford Circus (right by Oxford Circus tube station) and almost immediately surrounded by riot police at about 1:00 PM. By this time, my friend tells me he managed to escape and spent the day running from riot police.

Matti is in there somewhere! NJ

With him gone and it pouring with rain I decided to go and meet some other protesters (if nor for company then for body heat). I went over to a group of around five people holding a banner over their head like an umbrella. Two of them were Anarchists from Italy, one was from Surrey and the other two were from Scotland. We spoke and exchanged views and then started to stand and argue with the riot police. The riot police were about six people deep. Further down the road you could see normal Metropolitan Police (all kitted out like the one I was pushed by), behind them were about four or five police on horses and behind the horses were some vans. This apparently (goes the word of the circle) was the same on all sides. There was a distinct air of camaraderie going around the circle and, aside from the odd skinhead idiot who was there for a fight (with protesters or police) everyone was being friendly. It was about 4:00 PM before the first incident of violence. It consisted of someone throwing an umbrella (or something that looked like it) at the window of H&M. This was a good enough reason for the riot police to charge into the protesters. Hitting and pushing people with their shields and ramming their batons into people's stomachs the police pushed people all the way back to the iron gate that closed the entrance to Oxford Circus tube station. I was crushed between the gate and the person in front of me. A policeman who had his baton raised above his head was pushing her back. This scared me tremendously as I thought if she pushes forward and he hits her with that she's unconscious and if he keeps pushing forward then I'm gone. Eventually, after someone sitting on top of a traffic light started shouting "They can't move any further back!" at the police, they decided to let up.

One of the women who was there with us was seven months pregnant and far to dangerous to be let out. About an hour later, someone pulled down the boards from the H&M window and people started trying to kick through the window. Once again the police charged but this time everyone turned their backs to them and resisted successfully. Many raised their fist in the air. I joined in and when I did so I felt like this was some sort of big resistance. Even though I'm only small and was probably not really making any sort of difference to the difficulty the police were getting, I felt that I was at least contributing. They charged again later when the boards on Nike Town were set alight (we were cold!) which was fought with more direct resistance of people pushing right back but the first time the people pushed back was amazing. At around 7:00 PM, after being stuck in the cold and the rain for six hours, they were finally ready to start letting people out. When I was taken out, I had riot police grab me by either arm and literally drag me out while they tapped around my clothes with their batons. When they'd got me down to the end of the street they told me to leave straight away otherwise I'd be arrested. Nice. I'd gone down to protest peacefully, I protested peacefully and I was being treated like a criminal. The police, on the other hand, had gone down to the protests, thrown their weight around and were shocked when people fought back. They cannot question the methods of the violent protesters as they are reactionary not instinctive. They cannot act violently and then be shocked when they are attacked.

I thought that the police are supposed to work for the people but May Day 2001 proved that they serve only those who can afford their services. "This is what democracy looks like!" was a very popular chant all through the protests but it seems the police only care about the safety of the multinationals and their corporate interests rather than the people they're supposed to serve.

No shopping today! NJ

Unfair Trade contributor crosses swords with Minister!

from The Independent, Wednesday 4th July:

Butcher's Hall in the City was the scene of a little lecture in protest by Baroness Symons the minister for International Trade. Speaking to school pupils at a Worldaware conference, she said throwing bricks through a Macdonald's window was all very well but did little to lift one billion poor people out of poverty,,,
Up jumped Matti Ron, 15, from ...school in north London, "How can young people put their point across if they are prevented from protesting by over-zealous police he asked?". (Matti it transpired, had been penned in at Oxford Circus by police last May Day.)

It's May Day!

Well, as I'm writing this, just about 5,000 peaceful demonstrators are trapped at various points on Oxford Street (protestors have described it as 'the jugular vein of consumer capitalism) and Regents Park. They've been there for at least four and a half hours, some more. None of them have been able to go to the toilet, most them are wet because of the rain, and I think it's safe to say, they're all a bit pissed off.

It started at King's Cross Station, when a few people turned up with bikes, and then a few more, till there were loads. They rode their bikes to the Oxford Street area; this was to show that there alternative forms of transport, and some were spreading the message of the public transport being in a mess. Once the reached the 'Jugular Vein', area, the self named 'Critical Mass', were joined by others, and continued to march round as many places that were on the Monopoly board as possible. But they didn't only march, they danced, and sang and bashed drums. Veggie Burgers were given out outside a McDonalds. There was also a Cardboard Hotel made in Mayfair representing homelessness, and the un-necessary size of some expensive hotels. At one point the Nike building was nearly set alight, which I confess to finding quite funny, sorry. And another protest outside the World Bank went very well.

Everything was peaceful, that was until the police entered the equation, batons ready. I saw a clip on the news of a person that was riding his bike, not harming anyone, there was about a three meter radius between him and anyone else, and three police officers set upon him, pulled the bike from under him, through it to the side, pushed him to the flour and restrained him. Nice when you're going for a bike ride, uh? At about quarter to three, the police trapped about now 6,500 people in the this 'natural arena', hitting people violently across the head with their batons, loads of times for no apparent reason, but for being at the edge of the crowd. The police say, 'We're glad we've been able to control the violence', but, hang on, there was no violence, it was the police that started it. They've called these protestors 'idiots'. But these 'iIdiots' are not the ones that have 6,500 angry protestors, police have called them 'Terrorists', in the centre of London, and as soon as they get let out, they're gonna smash every window on the way home, would have happened otherwise, folks!

And Ken Livingston, he's called these peaceful protestors, 'Violent Nutters', (cough.turncoat). He's been called names like this, and as Mark Steel said, 'He should be sympathetic to peoples causes'. And compared with a police officer smashing some one over the head with a baton, hey, there's no comparison. At one point, an officer was pulled back by his colleges because he was hitting someone repeatedly over the head. It reminded my mum of the Poll Tax marches, and the police then. Overall, I think that the police were out of order. And all the publicity about how big and forceful the police re-action was going to be, and how very organised it was, well, what could have caused bigger tension? And since when were the police so organised? And I'm left with one thought; I wonder how much the shops such as Nike and The Gap are paying the police for looking after their shops?

Ella Downing (14)

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Featured Letters about this Article

Just a short one to voice my opinion on the may day policing. The whole day was spoilt by a mindless minority who wern't there to peacefully protest but were there only to cause trouble thereby giving the peacefull majority a bad press. I do however agree with the force used to quell this disturbance and the sooner the police get rid of all the thugs that want to take over rallies for their own ends the better.

Lee Liddell