Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/204/8486
Police provocation resisted
HANNAH SELL, CHRIS MOORE and JOHN REID report from London's May Day anti-capitalist protests:
ON ALL the demos there were many young people who'd never been on protests before. Probably over 10,000 people protested.
After about 3pm as everyone converged on Oxford Circus the police penned people in. For hours people couldn't get in or out.
Protesters showed amazing restraint amidst enormous police provocation. All day, police tactics were to pen in people at protests around the capital. At Oxford Circus our members kept up the spirits of trapped protesters with regular megaphone updates.
The demonstrators' peaceful mood started to change as the police made it clear they wanted some trouble before the end of the night.
Outside the sealed area, police shoved and charged protesters away from Oxford Circus.
Using a technique known as the kettle (because it builds up pressure) one line of riot police would block the road while others drove back protesters further, trapping some people in between.
Obviously they wanted to justify spending all this money, which they couldn't have done if there'd been no trouble.
Over 400 copies of The Socialist were sold. Over 50 people filled in forms to join the Socialist Party. Leaflets were ripped out of our hands by protesters searching for an alternative. People everywhere came over to buy our paper, our pamphlet Smash the IMF and any literature we had.
SOCIALIST PARTY members, Hannah Sell and Zena Awad both appeared on the early morning BBC programme Kilroy on 2 May. Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist appeared on Sky News.
OVER 3,000 attended the TUC May Day march and rally in Central London. The Socialist Party stall got a good response.
THE POLICE cordons at Oxford Street that penned in people for up to nine hours resulted in inhuman, dangerous conditions for those who were protesting. Demonstrators were not allowed to leave for up to nine hours.
Some women were forced to go to the toilet on the streets, others were prevented from getting away to pick up children.
Singer Billy Bragg had to argue with police officers to get one woman out.
We contacted Tony Benn, Dave Nellist (former MP and Coventry Socialist Party councillor) and sympathetic barristers, telling them thousands of people were being held illegally. They contacted the Metropolitan Police Commissioner asking why people's human rights were being abused.
This partly restrained the riot police who realised they were under scrutiny; otherwise they may have felt confident to attack trapped protesters.
The Socialist Party issued a press release at 7pm on the night to condemn the police's ludicrously heavy-handed response. Their main aim was not to protect the public, but to try and intimidate demonstrators.
Socialist Party member Lois Austin played a vital role in urging demonstrators to stay calm in the face of police provocation.
In The Socialist 4 May 2001: