I first went to a 'Reclaim The Streets' event back in May 1995, and that
one was held on the Camden High Street (the one image that sticks in my
head of that day is of some local children jumping on, and smashing up
two abandoned cars placed in the middle of the street shouting, "Kill cars,
not kids!"), but the roots of the demo stem back perhaps to the anti-Poll
Tax marches of 1990 and the anti-CJB (Criminal Justice Bill) demos of 1994,
as well as the anti-motorway direct action protests that came to national
prominence in the mid-90's (most notably, Tywford Down in 1994, and
the Newbury protests of 1995-96). Since then, there's been various ones
up and down the UK and abroad too (I've been to those held on Upper St.,
Islington, Trafalgar Square, Tottenham High Road, and my personal favourite
one down Shepherd's Bush in July 1996, when a stretch of motorway - the
M41 - was taken over and turned into a giant rave,complete with giant bonfire,
sound systems, sandpit/creche for children/stressed parents, samba drummers,
and naked (but for some flowers painted on them!) hippy couples amongst
other things. Bold, or what?).
I found out about this year's one roughly 2-3 months in advance, when I saw some graffiti scrawled at the bottom of a giant poster for a car on Seven Sisters' Road. At the end of it was a website address, which I tried out and got details from about the demo. As the weeks progressed, stickers for the event could be found on lamposts and other places up and down the capital. Here's three I got at a rave I went to on a Bank Holiday Monday called 'Parallel YOUniversity' below.
On the day of the protest, I left home around 10 in the morning and cycled
down towards the Central Library on Fieldway Crescent, Islington. I stayed
there for an hour or so, before pedalling off towards Liverpool Street
Station, where everyone had been instructed to meet up at mid-day
(though in actuality, events kicked off at 7.30am down West Smithfield,
EC1, with a cycle demo set up by Critical Mass). The traffic wasn't too
bad for the time of day, although there were the usual idiots in BM's,
Jags & Mercs driving as badly as they always do. Little did they know
that later on that day, payback would come to them in the most severe way
if were they unfortunate or stupid enough to park their pride and joy anywhere
near the demo's route (there goes their "no claims" bonus).
The first thing I did when I reached the station was chain up my bike and strolled towards the local Tescos nearby, but not before I got a copy of Guilfin (alternative listings mag for London & the South-East) from some blokes handing them out. I bought a couple of Soreens and some grapefruit juice inside the shop, and on leaving Tescos I bought a 'Big Issue from a young woman who was going to the demo herself. "Enjoy yourself today ", she said to me as I walked towards my bike. "Don't worry, I will", was my reply as I unlocked my bike from the railings it was on. Crossing the road, I sat on the steps outside of the station, took a gulp of grapefruit juice and got this pic of the revellers/protestors arriving at the station.
Feeling the need to stretch my legs, I wheeled my bike along towards the
station concourse, where I found a hastily set up feeding station with
free food (vegetarian/vegan, of course). I wasn't hungry, but I took these
two pics all the same.
I was standing there, a sombre-looking young man who was unusually dressed
for the day (he was wearing a suit and tie) handed me a small pink slip
of paper. "It might help you if you got nicked", he said to before walking
off to hand out slips to people. It turned out that he was a legal advisor,
one of many I saw during the course of the day as things progressed. Check
what was on the slip he handed me below.
back towards the steps, I found that it was getting a little crowded, but
there were more than a few faces I recognised from previous festies. Just
then, a bloke in cycle shorts wearing sunglasses came up to me and told
me he'd seen me somewhere before. When I asked him where, he said on the
internet ("....I saw a pic of you standing outside Buckingham Palace while
a load of cyclists whizzed around outside the gates") and he thought someone
had taken a pic of him. It seemed he'd come across my site via a link from
someone else's page, and he'd enjoyed the pics there. I thanked him for
checking out my site before he headed off his way, and I went mine. Going
towards where the cyclists all were standing, I noticed a dreadlocked crusty
behind me who obviously saw the funny side of the protest's more serious
parts, judging from the writing on his yellow bib. Take a peek below.
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