A great day for anti-capitalists
United against profit system
THOUSANDS of people succeeded in demonstrating against the injustices of global capitalism in central London on Tuesday. They did so in the face of the most incredible police operation and media hysteria.
Over 6,000 riot police occupied the streets of the capital's West End. They had their batons openly drawn in a way not seen in Britain since the 1984-5 miners' strike. Yet despite this intimidation there was a carnival atmosphere.
- 7.30am: Bike riders met up at Liverpool Street, in the City of London, and Marylebone High Street to protest against pollution and thestate of public transport.
There was a brilliant response from passers-by and people going to work, who waved, shouted and cheered.
- 8am: Joint protest between overworked GPs, nurses, health workers, Greens and the Socialist Alliance at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel.
- am: The cyclists met up at King's Cross station and were joined by other protesters. Free veggieburgers were given out at McDonald's. Over 1,000 people cycled, marched and danced up to Euston station with a huge banner saying, "Overthrow capitalism and replace it with something nicer."
Euston Road was blocked for two hours.
Alia, one of the protesters, said, "I was horrified to find out about Nike and Adidas using child labour. I'll never wear Nike trainers again. I've never been on a demo before-you can feel the energy. I'm proud to say I've been here." Around 1,000 people were corralled into a pen by the police as they tried to protest outside Railtrack headquarters at Euston. Police stopped and searched people as they walked through central London doing absolutely nothing.
- 12 noon: Up to 1,500 joined the official SERTUC May Day march. Some then went to join protesters in Oxford Circus.
- 12 noon: Hundreds joined a peaceful picnic at Elephant and Castle.
- 12 noon: Around 200 joined a protest against tuition fees at the University of London Union and took over a number of roads before being dispersed by the police.
- 12 noon: Protesters built houses out of cardboard boxes in Pall Mall to highlight the number of homeless people in London.
- 12 noon: Around 100 protesters joined a protest outside Coutts bank on the Strand. Wearing silly wigs and carrying balloons, they unfurled a bright pink banner which said, "Break the bank, end all debt, abolish money." They gave out joke Monopoly money condemning the bankers for extracting debt repayments from the poor. They were immediately corralled by police officers.
- 1pm: Over 300 joined a Globalise Resistance protest outside the World Bank offices. Carrying dollar signs and fat cat placards, the protesters chanted about how the World Bank screws the poor.
Office receptionist Victoria Barnes said, "I had to take the day off work to come on this, but it was worth it. I came because this represents what I truly believe in. At a personal level we are all screwed by credit cards and personal debt, and at a global level banks screw the Third World every day."
- 2pm: Hundreds poured down from the Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus to join the protest outside the World Bank. Cyclists joined too. Cheers and clapping erupted as the protesters united.
There was a brilliant feeling of unity as around 1,500 joined a spontaneous march up Regent Street to Oxford Circus. As they reached Oxford Circus they were cheered by the protesters already assembled. Hundreds more joined the protest at Oxford Circus. Thousands of good natured protesters were then corralled for hours, and beaten and baton charged by the police.
AN OPINION poll for Channel 4 this week found:
- 76 percent agree that big international companies care only about profit, not for people.
- 67 percent think that big companies have more power than the government.
The reasons to be angry
SOCIALIST Worker spoke to people last weekend who took part in a workshop to make banners for the May Day protests. Their powerful reasons for taking to the streets on Tuesday give the lie to the media's stereotypes of unthinking, violent thugs:
"I WANT to change the way that wealth is divided up in the world. I oppose Third World debt. The recent victory of South Africa against the multinational drugs companies shows that protests influence events. My message is that this isn't the best possible world that we live in, and it can be changed. It's important to protest and raise awareness of the situation, and explain to people what capitalism does."
- ZUCKY, Israeli student in London
"WE'RE PART of a global system that's destroying so many different groups of people in so many different parts of the world. To ignore these problems is to contribute to them. The press have tried to dehumanise the activists and take the emphasis off the issues of the protests, which is the way that global capitalism is destroying everything."
- MATILDA ALEXANDER
""MAYDAY, Mayday" is traditionally a sign of urgency, and we're urgently calling for the cancellation of the poorest countries' debt. Along with that comes fair trade and environmental damage. The World Bank has played a huge part in Third World debt-it has forced countries to devalue their currency, cutting back on subsidies, making people pay for health and education. This has had a horrendous effect on the local populations. The World Bank are the real people being violent."
- MEL JOHN
Protest across Britain
IN GLASGOW around 1,000 people marched to Glasgow Green on May Day in an anti-capitalist demonstration. There was a terrific atmosphere of carnival, fun and protest.
"I'm here to take on the multinationals and the bankers who are causing so much destruction," said student Ann Hiller, one of the marchers.
LIVERPOOL saw a May Day protest outside Gap and McDonald's, while in LEEDS protesters targeted Gap, Disney, McDonald's and Nike.
In YORK protesters gathered at the railway station demanding "a return ticket to nationalisation". BIRMINGHAM, SHEFFIELD and BRISTOL also all saw May Day protests.
In NEWCASTLE around 200 people took part in a May Day protest last Saturday. They included a sizeable contingent of asylum seekers. And 150 protested in MANCHESTER.
Around the world
AUSTRALIA: Thousands of protesters defied police and blockaded stock exchanges and company headquarters. Police put up barricades outside stock exchanges in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Thousands of trade unionists on the traditional May Day parade in Melbourne linked arms with anti-capitalist protesters to force the closure of several streets.
TURKEY: Protesters marched in 50 cities against the IMF's austerity programme, poverty and corruption. There were 50,000 on the streets in Istanbul and 10,000 in Ankara. Police prevented meetings and demonstrations in the Kurdish area of Turkey.
SOUTH KOREA: Thousands of workers marched through Seoul to protest against economic "reforms" that have caused massive redundancies.
JAPAN: Nearly half a million people took part in a workers' march in Tokyo on May Day. They included delegations from Burma as well as all the main Japanese trade unions.
PALESTINE: Palestinian trade unionists marched to protest against Israeli occupation. FRANCE: Tens of thousands joined demonstrations in dozens of cities across the country. In Paris workers fighting mass sackings by multinational corporations like Moulinex, Danone and Marks & Spencer headed the march.
Still to come
EDINBURGH: SATURDAY 5 MAY. March, assemble 11.30am, Market Street. Rally, 1pm, Princes Street Gardens. Speakers include Tony Benn MP and Tommy Sheridan MSP.
PLYMOUTH: SATURDAY 5 MAY. March, assemble 12 noon, shopping centre. Rally, 1pm, West Hoe Park.
MIDDLESBROUGH: SATURDAY 5 MAY. March, assemble 10.15am, The Bottle, Middlesbrough. Rally with Arthur Scargill.
LIVERPOOL: MONDAY 7 MAY. Rally, assemble 11am, Central Park, Wallasey.
DOCTORS, health workers, Greens and the Socialist Alliance protest in east London HACKNEY council workers in the UNISON union struck for the sixth day in six months on May Day. They were protesting against sweeping cuts pushed through by the east London council. Around 150 council workers and residents marched through the borough, blocking off the traffic.
- James Woodcock