Around about mid-day, or slightly later than that perhaps, there was a
flurry of activity and colour as the protestors and revellers who'd gathered
below in the main tube concourse emerged from the station, taking the police
by surprise. I noticed some people wearing green masks, while others were
dressed all in black with hoods and hankies covering their heads and mouths
(I was later to see why that was for). The pic below captures the chaos
as it starts to unfurl in front of me.
we are below at the start of the march going along Liverpool Street. There
was plenty of noise being made and office workers peered out of the various
buildings lining the streets nearby. The atmosphere was good-humoured all
round, with call-and-response chant reverberating through the crowd, and
banners a-plenty unfurled and flutting freely in the summer breeze. What
was I doing, you ask? Laughing, and enjoying myself as I saw various people
filming the proceedings with 8mm cine cameras or camcorder (there was one
bloke there who looked liked he'd brought a mini TV studio with him - all
his equipment was loaded precariously on the back of a mountain bike. Judging
from the way he was beavering about, he was obviously getting everything
on tape he could film).
procession weaved its way along Petticoat Lane. On exuberant protestor,
on seeing a BMW parked nearby, went and walked all over it to huge cheers,
before placing a sticker onto the front windscreen. We passed by the local
market and judging from the startled looks of the shoppers/stall holders/shopkeepers
nearby, this was something they'd OBVIOUSLY NOT expected to occur! "'Ere,
what's going on?", was a popular refrain that I heard from the market.
We then found ourselves at a roundabout leading towards Aldgate East tube
station, where some of the bolder (or nuttier protestors, depending on
your point of view) went and sat down in the path of oncoming traffic in
order to enable the protestors to take the spot (one short-tempered driver
in a white Transit wasn't having any of it, and forced his way through,
narrowly avoiding someone lying on the road by inches. The bodywork of
his van got tested for sturdyness by some protestors nearby, as they booted
it as it whizzed past them down the road.
Having secured the area near the roundabout, a giant banner suddenly came out from nowhere to the usual cheers (huge, don't you know) and much flag waving, while a glamourously dressed young woman with a bumbag played on her mini saxophone to the action as it happened.
went quiet for a little while as we stood around and waited for the next
bit of action to come. "Can anyone tell me what's going on, please?", I
said. You're not supposed to know, otherwise the cops would know what to
do. That's the beauty of it all.", replied the young woman with mini saxophone
to me. "Oh, I see. Leaderless resistance! You make it difficult for the
police to infiltrate and ultimately destroy from within.", was my response,
complimenting her on her sax playing, to which she responded by serenading
me with a short blast of Gershwin's 'Summertime'. She then disappeared
into the tube station, along with a huge swathe of protestors, leaving
those of us with bikes or who just preferred to walk standing around wondering
what would happen next before the police moved us on.
next pic was near Aldgate station and features a bloke whose name I forget
that I spoke to earlier down Liverpool Street. He'd come with some friends
(one of them was dressed up fairly outlandishly - there she is - right
behind him with a ballon for a head!) and spotted my Moulton bike alongside
me, before asking where I'd gotten it. I wrote him the address of a bloke
who could put him in touch other Moulton buffs, and then we went our separate
ways. I also met a nice young lady by the name of Marion. She asked if
she could have a go on my bike and I let her, but her feet couldn't reach
the pedals as I had my seat too high up for her. She was Australian (hence
the accent) and had come down all the way from Scotland (where she'd been
on her travels) just for the day (although a local friend was putting her
up for the weekend). I asked her if she'd been to any RTS demos before
and she said that this was her first one, although she'd gone on Critical
Mass demos in Australia and one just for women only called 'Clitoral Mass'
(raunchy name, Anyone got a link to their site?). There was a truly international
feel to the day. An Italian lady came up to us and asked me about my Moulton.
"Have you given your bike a pet name?", she said. I replied no, but if
I ever did, I'd call it 'Red Neville' (Red for its colour, Neville as riding
it reminded me of a bloke I knew from the Rainbow Centre down Kentish Town
with a reputation for being a little of the shifty side!).
got this pic further along and it features the local constabulary, out
in force with vans sporting sinister-looking riot gauzes to protect the
windscreens from whatever might be thrown at them and throughout the day.
Constantly outwitted by the more hardline demonstrators, they were very
eager to herd us about and not have us congregate for too long in one spot.
Don't they look hard (but a little undressed, compared to those I saw later
on in the day)? Although I personally think the second one from the right
of the pic looks like he's auditioning to be in Village People, judging
from the pose that he seems to be doing. They took every opportunity they
could to show their authority, as Marion and I found out as we were
given a firm nudge by a couple of officers behind us. "Could you move your
bike further along please, sir.", said one officer in that sarky manner
that only Her Majesty's (and of course, Sir Paul Condon's) finest can manage.
"You're blocking up the publie highway". Marion and I looked at one another,
and then moved on (that was far more preferable to getting trucheoned!
I don't know for you, but I never carry a box of 'Bio-Tex' on me, as I
don't find myself having to wash bloodstains out of my clothes).
been moved along, we found ourselves at a junction where the traffic had
been stopped by the protestors. Most of the motorists responded in their
own highly unoriginal way (tooting horns, cries of "get out of the f*****g
way, you layabouts!", the usual things, really), but one motorist in a
small blue Peugeot got into the flow of things and started blasting some
Fatboy Slim from his in-car stereo to much cheering from the protestors
surrounding him (and bike bell ringing from me!). The local plods
weren't having any of that, though and ordered the driver to turn off his
stereo (guess what reaction that got?). Right behind him was an open-topped
double-decker bus with open-mouthed tourists leaning over and bearing witness
to the festivities below (they got plenty more to gawp at when a naked
protestor - one of many I saw during the day, I have to say - clambered
up the side of the bus and started handing out flyers to the tourists.
The camcorders and cameras came out rather quickly as he made his appearance,
I can tell you!).
what went on just to the left of the bus and the little Peugeot. Just further
along from where I stood was a middle-aged lady with a banner that read,
"PROFITS COSTS LIVES" (sadly, not everyone shares the same sentiments),
while revellers and protestors enjoyed themselves in the summer sun (and
who wouldn't really?).
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