Year 2000 No. 80, May 2, 2000

May Day 2000 Celebrated

In this issue of WDIE, we are presenting for our readers' information reports of some of the activities that took place to celebrate May Day 2000, in Britain and abroad.

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

May Day 2000 Celebrated
May Day Celebrations in Newcastle
Birmingham Mayday Rally
May Day March in London
Participants in the May Day March in London
Reports of Some of May Day Events and Protests around the World

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May Day 2000 Celebrated

In this issue of WDIE, we are presenting for our readers' information reports of some of the activities that took place to celebrate May Day 2000, in Britain and abroad.

May Day Celebrations in Newcastle

On Saturday, April 29, a May Day March and Rally took place in Newcastle organised by the Tyne & Wear May Day Committee. The Felling Silver Band led one of the largest May Day marches for a number of years through the City of Newcastle with well over a thousand people taking part. At the front of the march was carried a large banner: May Day, People Before Profit, Peace, Jobs, Health, Homes. The Programme of Tyne & Wear May Day 2000, which was sold widely, carried on the front cover a quotation from Bertolt Brecht:

". . . it takes a lot of things to change the world:
Anger and tenacity. Science and indignation,
The quick initiative, the long reflection,
The cold patience and the infinite perseverance,
The understanding of the particular case and the understanding of the ensemble:
Only the lessons of reality can teach us to transform reality."

The programme notes declared that in the May Day celebrations "you will recognise this same theme running throughout - people coming together and collectively upholding human values in the face of the depredations wreaked upon us by the world capitalist system".

Among the contingents from the Newcastle Trades Union Council, trade unions, communist and other political parties were several hundred asylum seekers dispersed to Newcastle under the government's dispersal programme for asylum seekers. The programme "welcomed all those people for what ever reason, been uprooted from their homeland and found themselves here in our region". The programme after condemning the utterances of politicians of various political hues and journalists for using this situation to promote racism went on to say: "Today, on International Workers Day, we welcome our sisters and brothers from all corners of the globe who have found refuge in our midst." The march was warmly welcomed by the people of Newcastle and many people joined in as it made its way to Exhibition Park.

At around 12.30 pm the rally started in the Park. All the speakers were received with warm applause and the speeches listened to attentively by the mass of people gathered there. Doreen Purvis chaired the proceedings on behalf of the Tyne & Wear May Day Committee.

Ann Harrison was first to address the rally from Newcastle City "Save Our School Meals". She pointed out that she had always been told then that we are here to help you, it doesn't matter where you come from or how poor you are you can achieve. She said, "I was a product of free school meals but I never thought I would be fighting to save free school meals for my grandchildren or other peoples children in the 21st century." She pointed out that children are targeted from every angle by the new designated budgets under "Best Value". School meals are targeted, social services and the National Health Service. "They are all being starved of money and resources," she said. People who work in these services are being battered down over the years, she said, emphasising the stress and low morale that this was causing. She concluded by demanding services for the city, jobs for people in the city, and said that the children deserve the best and when people voted next week in the local authority elections they should think about these people in their "ivory tower who haven't got a clue where you or I live".

Jack Monedi then addressed the rally on behalf of the ANC. He spoke about the situation in South Africa the need to deliver to the poor and put South Africa on a vigorous developmental path. He praised the progressive left in British politics that stood on the side of the liberation movement.

Next to address the rally was Sandy from Tyneside Action People and Planet (TAPP). He said we probably all come here because at some level we believe in socialism. "We look around us and we see exploitation, we see injustice, we see inequality between rich and poor growing." He said that we see the social and environmental fabric being destroyed in the name of profit. He pointed out, "It is not just that we see the injustice but we know that there is an alternative." But, he said, the problem is that we are in a minority not because people don't sense the injustice but because we do believe there is an alternative and are prepared to stand up for it. He went on after giving examples: "We don't believe the politicians and the bosses who tell us there is no alternative." He said, "They tell us we have got no option, they tell us that their hands are tied that you can't beat globalisation and that there isn't an alternative." He appealed to the people not to believe them. "They only have no option because they choose to ignore the other options and that is because they put profit above people." He said in conclusion that even if it is a Labour government or a trade union boss, don't let "your loyalty get in the way of your common sense".

The next speaker was announced as representing the several hundred people claiming political asylum. He greeted everyone on May Day and said how happy they were in joining in May Day and in this celebration. He said he hoped it would be a positive step in bringing us together in order to solve the problems asylum seekers are facing, not only in Newcastle, but in the whole of Britain. He said that the asylum seekers hope, according to the United Nations Convention on the rights of refugees, to be able to enjoy legal and acceptable freedoms and social justice among the British people and with them. He said, "We hope to be able to, alongside and shoulder to shoulder with you, to work for the service of society." He pointed out that the problems they faced were that the basic necessities of life were not available to them and they were living in overcrowded conditions. He said, secondly, they had no information on what was happening to them and that they don't not know where their asylum applications are and who was dealing with them because they were sent from Dover to Newcastle without any accompanying documentation. He concluded by saying that he wished that in co-operation with each other they would be able to solve their problems as soon as possible and then to be able to work together in the future.

Tommy Commerford then spoke from Direct Action Network for the disabled (DAN). He pointed out that there were soon to be three days of activities in support of the rights of the disabled. He said that the disabled want independent living just like any body else. He said that they had been talking to the government and to the councils for years about these demands. "Disabled people should not be paying for social services, that is their right," he said. He said that disabled people need social services like anybody else and he opposed the locking up of disabled people in institutions. He said that this is degrading in the year 2000. He called on all those present to support their forthcoming actions in Newcastle and to join with them in a freedom march on Saturday, May 27, gathering at 12 noon at the Monument, Newcastle.

The next speaker was Jenny from Campaign Against Incineration of Refuse. She spoke about the campaign against the proposed Byker incineration plant that would be burning 100,000 tons of Newcastle's waste each year, a plan that would include 15,000 tons of tyres. This incineration plant was right in the heart of a densely populated area where the community is already seen as an area of special need by the Health Action Zone. She pointed out that it is a fact that incinerators are built in the poorest areas where the most vulnerable people live. She said that these incinerators give off gases which contain arsenic, lead, cadmium and worst of all dioxins. She said that despite these health concerns, despite the complete lack of any argument for incineration, this Labour government is trying to flood the country with a further 177 incinerators. She pointed out that these are worth millions of pounds in contracts for the multi-nationals. The contract at Byker alone is worth £115 million. She said that the campaign had been successful by the use of direct actions in getting the plans at Byker put on hold and in getting the council to remove the toxic ash. She said that the issue was for the Council to move forward into the 21st century with a safe waste management policy and this must include a commitment to re-use and recycle. She pointed out that the people of Byker need a district heating system which is cheap, safe and committed to moving forward with alternative sources of power.

Bill Hopwood then spoke on behalf of the Tyneside Socialist Forum. He asked how the New Labour government compares with the vision of those who founded the Labour Party one hundred years ago. He pointed out that the treatment of the asylum seekers was open racism by a New Labour government. They are cutting school meals, children have no text books, he said. Schools will now have to go to private companies so they will make profits out of our children's education. And, he said, if you are one of the lucky ones to get to go to University then New Labour says you have got to pay. He said that it was ironic that all the New Labour MPs had got a free university education but they were telling our children you have to pay. He then said that since the election of the Labour government, 11,000 jobs had gone on the Tyne from shipbuilding, oil rig construction and ship repair. He said that this week they got £22 billion from the sale of phone rights. "Are they putting it into education, are they putting it into housing health saving jobs? No. They are giving it back to the bankers!" he exclaimed. He said that in his view the National Debt should be cancelled. He then pointed out that the gap between rich and poor has increased in the three years since Labour was elected. He said that New Labour is not about justice, education, reducing poverty or providing jobs. He said that it is a government that had nothing in common with the Labour Party of the past. He pointed out that it was noticeable that there was not one Labour Party banner on the whole of the May Day demonstration.

When the previous speakers finished, the chairperson then introduced the final speaker – Bill Speirs, General Secretary of the Scottish TUC. He said that May Day was a day for international solidarity and he was delighted to have received the invitation. He said that we stand for solidarity whether it is in Zimbabwe, whether it is in Iran, whether it is in Cuba, whether it is in Palestine or whether it is in the Balkans. He said we stand firm in "solidarity among working people in Britain and in Ireland and I think it would be appropriate to say to our comrades, our sisters and brothers across the water that we stand in solidarity with them in their efforts to bring about a political and peaceful settlement to the issue of national self-determination in Ireland."

He said that closer to home again it is time for solidarity among those who are in trouble, whether it be at Rover, whether it be in shipbuilding or whether it be victimised miners, victims of Thatcherism. They were not forgotten by the Scottish trade union movement and they were not forgotten by the trade union movement in the North East, he said. He pointed out that these people sacrificed a very great deal not just for their own jobs but for the idea of a nationalised industry serving the people as something that should be developed and not destroyed. He gave the position of the Scottish TUC on asylum seekers. He said, "Asylum seekers are refugees and are welcome here. They are welcome in Britain, they are welcome in Scotland and they are welcome because they are fellow human beings." He went on to say that it was one of the tragedies of our time that it is easier to move a tin of beans around the world than it is to move a human being in the position we live in at the present time. He said that the people who are here with us, the asylum seekers, should be welcomed. He said that it was a disgrace that the government has a company, Sodexho, to deal with the issue of vouchers. He gave a quote from the letter the company had written out in relation to the voucher scheme. "Don't miss this revenue making opportunity – vouchers are the beneficiaries' only method of buying essential living products. No change given, but you receive the full value of the voucher." He then said for a Labour government to be putting anything of that kind out was a disgrace to themselves and to the history of the Labour Party that was founded one hundred years ago, and should end now.

The speaker then went on to point out what he saw as some positive developments. He referred to the battles around what the World Trade Organisation (WTO) had raised – the whole issue of how we organise internationally. He said that it is not easy but vital. He said, "internationally" also includes within these islands and not just in relation to Ireland. He went on to say that this was a time for those of us in Scotland and the North of England to look to ways in which we can work together. He said we should look to make the constitutional changes work for the benefit of all our people rather than fighting each other for spoils of how the giant multi-nationals will inwardly invest in this country. The speaker then spoke about a meeting they were planning with the Northern Regional TUC and the successes they have had in unionisation among companies in Scotland.

After the rally concluded, people stayed to discuss and listen to live music. In a large tent people visited bookstalls and discussed. Hundreds of the May Day 2000 Call of RCPB(ML) were distributed and a large number of issues of Workers' Weekly sold.

In a separate event, the previous evening, on South Tyneside, a May Day Rally and social were held in Hebburn. The Rally was attended by over 100 people and was addressed by Bill Etherington MP and Maddy Nettleship, Branch Secretary of Gateshead UNISON Health Branch, who spoke on her visit to Cuba last May Day. Dozens of copies of her Cuba Diary, produced by Workers' Weekly Health Group, were sold at the Rally and over the May Day weekend.

Article Index

Birmingham Mayday Rally

BIRMINGHAM, Saturday, April 29, 2000 — Birmingham Trades Council organised a Mayday Rally at the Union Club, Pershore Road, Birmingham. The meeting had various stalls and a platform of various speakers. One organiser called for the build-up of the annual Mayday celebration back to the demonstrations of a few years ago.

A speaker from UNISON spoke about the issues surrounding the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). He said that there wasn't one PFI scheme that was any good. He pointed to the downsizing of Worcester Hospital as an example. He also highlighted how the NHS was shrinking. He spoke about UNISON's campaign for a decent living wage and gave the figure of £5 per hour. He called for the enforcement of existing laws. The speaker talked of the worrying trend of New Labour and told of how it was only prepared to listen to the high financiers.

A speaker from the Kashmir Workers Association said that Mayday was an expression of the unity of the workers of the world. He said that the workers' goal had not been achieved yet. He spoke about the basic rights and freedoms of the people and the right of self-determination. Kashmir has been occupied since 1947 and a divided people cannot go to their homes. He said that 75,000 people had lost their lives, 30,000 are missing and 20,000 youth are in jail. There are 700,000 army personnel in Kashmir who are not accountable to anyone. The spokesman said that they had illusions about the Labour government coming in and were told by them, "You people expect too much from Labour."

John Kelly, a Republican Northern Ireland Assembly Member, said that Ireland had been occupied for 800 years and Kashmir and Ireland have something in common – they were both partitioned by Britain. He said that Britain has left a trail of destruction and division. He pointed to the fact that he was a shop steward and convenor at Harland and Wolf, elected by Protestants and Catholics. He said that it is the British imperialists that use divide and rule tactics whether it is religious, social, economic or any other basis in order to keep people divided in workplaces. Republicans went to fight Franco in Spain, and he pointed to the spirit of James Connolly. On Ireland he said that when the Good Friday Agreement was set up, Republicans went to Stormont. It took 18 months to get the Assembly up and running. Peter Mandelson went to northern Ireland to rehabilitate himself, and this shows the cynicism of Blair who has jeopardised the Agreement. The government has transgressed international law by setting aside the institutions.

The Longbridge speaker went into much detail about the Rover situation from start to finish. Derek Robinson, ex-Longbridge convenor, spoke about the situation from the floor. He said that there was a crisis of overproduction amongst other things, and denounced the ideas of occupation as a political strategy. He said, "It ain't going to happen!" He spoke about the nature of capitalism and the anarchy of production, which causes the problem. He demanded the withdrawal of Britain from the EU, as it was part of the problem.

There were a number of speakers from the floor, including Rover stewards and workers. They said that they would not be told what to do by union leaders and that is why they organised independent rallies and went to Munich themselves. One floor speaker, a supporter of RCPB(ML) and the Campaign Against Euro-Federalism (CAEF), said that whether it was Phoenix, Alchemy or BMW the issue was the same for workers. They still have to fight just as they had done when it was British Leyland – nationalised or not. The problem of overproduction was affecting car production throughout Europe. Workers still want to know what to do when they can't rely on the government or the EU to act in their interests. The EU had in the past influenced the cuts in coal and steel production and today they were part and parcel of winding up car production in Britain. The Quandt family and BMW were part of that process supporting the wind up of British car production. Transnationals like BMW or Ford cannot be relied on by workers nor can the British monopolies. Union leaders are only interested in social partnership and the government only in servicing the rich such as by paying off the national debt. It has been shown recently in the government's statement of what it is going to do with the £22bn from Vodaphone, which has been put straight into the coffers to line the pockets of the financiers that cream off the interest on the national debt. The demonstration and subsequent rallies has shown a new direction. It has opened up a space for change. The situation is different because workers are coming out of their marginalisation. They are saying that a different path can be taken. One issue is that workers have to be political and work to change the direction of society, because in reality, we are the nation and we should constitute ourselves as it.

After the Rally there was much discussion and tying up of loose ends by Rover workers and other people who wanted to express solidarity for the struggle. Many copies of Workers’ Weekly and CAEF leaflets were distributed.

Article Index

May Day March in London

On May 1, a march took place in London called by the London May Day Organising Committee. Approximately 3,000-5,000 people assembled outside the historic Marx House on Clerkenwell Green. Workers from various sectors of the economy – transport, health, communications, media, car workers and others – were represented with their banners and placards. At the head of the march was a group of Rover Workers and the London May Day Organising Committee banner. Contingents from Turkey, Kurdistan, Chile, Colombia and other countries and nationalities with communities in Britain extended the range of participants. The delegations from Turkey and Kurdistan provided musical accompaniment, drumming and slogans. After all the participants had thronged on Clerkenwell Green, the march set off around 1.00 pm.

At 2:20 p.m. after marching to The Strand and having almost reached Trafalgar Square for a Rally, the demonstrators were prevented by the Metropolitan Police from further advance. They claimed that another May Day Action – organised under the slogan Reclaim the Streets – had created a public order situation necessitating the need to halt the march.

After some waiting around a police van drove down The Strand advising marchers to leave for home because the march was over. After much delay participants began to disperse. The Rover Workers and the London May Day Organising Committee banner militantly marched back down The Strand for their own Rally in Arundel Street. Various forces remained singing revolutionary songs, chanting and dancing.

By 2:50 – 55 p.m. the march had more or less dissipated completely. However the celebration it marks will not go away. More than ever workers must discuss; class-conscious workers must become worker politicians to articulate the demands and struggles of the people for a new society. This is the essence of May Day.

From the reports of those youth and other forces that the police had attacked and penned in in Trafalgar Square, it is evident that the police had decided to teach the demonstrators a lesson. They broke them up into small groups, roughly handled them, corralled them all to be photographed for the police records, and kept many of them in Trafalgar Square till late at night, refusing to let them leave.

From the discussions that the Workers' Weekly/WDIE reporter had with participants, it could be seen that they felt that the May Day celebration is vital. However it was also recognised that much work still needs to be done to strengthen the subjective conditions in order that the objective situation can be transformed into a line of march to a new society.

A contingent of RCPB(ML) marched behind the Party banner and around 100 copies of the special May Day edition of Workers' Weekly were sold.

In the evening, the East London Branch of RCPB(ML) hosted a May Day Social to mark May Day 2000 in a comradely atmosphere.

Article Index

Participants in the May Day March in London

The following organisations, together with their banners and placards, took part:

· 50 000 will Make You Care Blair

· Aid to Sri Lanka Kills Tamil Civilians

· All Together Against Education Cuts and Cheap Labour – Day-Mer Youth Centre

· Austin Joint Shop Stewards Committee

· Blair – Phoenix will Fly

· Camden Trades Council

· Chilean flags – Human rights International Project

· Committee for United Revolutionary Left

· Communications Workers Union – Unity is Strength

· Communist League

· Construction Safety Campaign – end Death Injury & Occupational Disease in the Building Industry

· Dagenham Campaign – Fair Play for Dagenham

· Defend and Advance – LCPTU – Liaison Committee to Defend Trade Union Rights

· Defend Job Security

· Don’t Let Rover Die [TGWU]

· Don’t Trust Labour

· East London Teachers Association

· Equal Society & Political Rights for All – Day-Mer Turkish & Kurdish Communist Solidarity Centre


· Free Ocalan

· Glory to Red May 1st – International workers Day

· Haringey Trades Council

· Improve Social Rights

· It’s Not Over at Rover

· Lambeth Pensioners Action Group – Universal Benefits are Universal Rights

· Lambeth Pensioners Group

· London Socialist Alliance forces

· Long Live Marxism-Leninism

· Long Live May Day

· Long Live May Day

· New Communist Party

· PSK – England

· Raise the Pension Now

· Rally Round Rover/Ford – Upper Clyde Shipyard workers

· Repeal the Anti-Trade Union Laws

· Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

· Rover – Future Lies with Towers

· Rover Workers Rally for Towers Bid

· Solidarity with Political Prisoners in Turkey

· T & G 1/1228 – Waltham forest

· T & G North East London Textile Branch

· T & G Region One

· The Fight Goes On and On and On and On


· Tony Blair – If We Go You Go Too at the Next General Election

· Trade Union rights – Human Rights – International Solidarity– London May Day Organising Committee

· Turkiye Kommunist Parti

· UNISON – Save UCH and the Middlesex – Defend the National Health Services

· We Wont Go Away BMW

· We Won't Lie Down and Die

· Wessex Branch – One Union – One Industry – Graphical, Paper & Media Union – Education, Knowledge, Recognition, Opportunity – banner

Article Index

Reports of Some of May Day Events and Protests around the World

Events and protests have been taking place around the world for Mayday, which has also been declared an international day against capitalism for this year.

In Germany, clashes took place in Berlin and Hamburg.

Neo-Nazi marchers charged anti-fascist protesters in Berlin and left-wing activists clashed with police in Hamburg. Anti-fascists chanted "Nazis go home, Nazis go home," at 300 neo-Nazi demonstrators who marched in the East Berlin district of Hellersdorf. Police, who had massed 2,500 men in Hellersdorf, quickly intervened when the neo-Nazis charged into the anti-fascists and began fighting.

Fighting lasted longer in the northern port city of Hamburg when protesters threw stones at banks, broke shop windows and set fire to cars in the city centre after midnight. A policeman suffered a broken arm when police charged the demonstrators and three police were treated in hospital, a spokesman said. Activists said that 25 protesters were hurt.

Tens of thousands of Turkish people took to the streets for protests largely directed against the International Monetary Fund. "IMF: This nation is not for sale" was the slogan on one huge red and yellow banner that was carried by the crowds marching through Istanbul. As in previous years, a police presence closely matched the numbers of protesters. Officers watched from rooftops, while helicopters were in the air and armoured vehicles waited in side streets. Police said that they had already arrested 13 militants they said had been preparing to provoke Mayday violence. Large protests took place in Istanbul and in the capital Ankara. Demonstrations took place in other major cities, but were forbidden in the mainly Kurdish Southeast.

In Italy, tens of thousands of people gathered at Tor Vergata, southwest of Rome, to see the Pope celebrate a special mass. The traditional marches were cancelled for the first time in the 54-year history of Italy's republic. However, the Pope, in keeping with the symbolism of the day, told the crowd that "global solidarity" was necessary to keep global capitalism in check.

Marchers in Gdansk, Poland, were at a monument commemorating those who died in city's defence.

Some 7,000 Bulgarians rallied and marched in central Sofia to protest against poverty and what they called the corruption of the centre-right government. Supporters of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party waved red and national flags and chanted "Resignation". They carried placards saying "Bread, work, security" and "Kostov's menagerie brought us to misery".

In Zimbabwe, about 3,000 opposition workers gathered outside Harare for a rally.

Workers across Asia have turned out to protest about the economic situation in the region. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese workers have already attended rallies, calling on the government to alleviate the country's worst unemployment crisis since World War II. Around 1.7 million workers turned out nationwide to demand job security and better employment conditions, according to the Japanese Trade Union Confederation. Malaysian workers and rights groups marked Mayday with calls for a minimum wage and improvements in conditions for plantation workers. The Malaysian Trades Union Congress said that it was considering staging nationwide rallies and simultaneous pickets to press demands for a minimum monthly wage.

South Korean trade unions held rallies demanding that the government scrap its plan to sell the ailing Daewoo Motor Company to a foreign buyer. Some 4,000 members of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions gathered at a gymnasium in western Seoul and there were scattered rallies across the country with activists also calling for pay rises, shorter working hours and an end to the government's corporate reform drive. Students hurled a volley of firebombs at riot police in a violent protest against the planned sale. The clash erupted outside Korea University when thousands of riot police stopped some 2,500 students from marching to attend a labour rally in downtown Seoul. It was the most violent demonstration by students in two years.

In Indonesia, where independent unions only obtained the right to organise after the 1998 fall of former ruler Suharto, thousands of workers staged protests and rallies calling for greater freedom for trade unions and better pay and welfare. Police shot dead one student during violent clashes at a private university in the north Sumatran city of Medan. Students had been demonstrating to demand accountability and transparency in the government's education funds.

Myanmar's opposition National League for Democracy called for the military government to end the use of forced labour and recognise the result of the country's last election 10 years ago in a Mayday statement. The party, which is led by the 1990 Nobel Peace prizewinner and recent recipient of the Freedom of Dublin, Aung San Suu Kyi, said that the country's economy had collapsed since the military came to power in the early 1960s.

Police in the Philippines have broken up a protest rally outside the presidential palace, arresting six people as militant unions took to the streets in their thousands. About 3,000 protesters waving red flags marched on Malacanang Palace to denounce economic globalisation and the policies of President Joseph Estrada. The police said that six protesters were arrested for throwing stones, but added that no-one was hurt in the incident. About a thousand members of another left-wing labour group staged noisy street protests at a public square and later marched on the US embassy. There were no reports of any untoward incidents. Similar smaller rallies have been reported in other Philippine cities.

Over 1,000 workers in Bangkok protested over the minimum wage that has been frozen since the onset of the Asian financial crisis. In Bangladesh, scores of colourful rallies and marches by industrial and other workers flooded Dhaka's downtown streets and squares in celebrations. Celebrations were muted elsewhere in South Asia, with low-key demonstrations in India and Pakistan. Activities in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, were curtailed amid fears of rebel Tamil Tiger bomb attacks and out of respect to the hundreds of soldiers killed in recent battles in the island's north. China marked the day by granting seven days of holiday. Some 2,000 Cambodian garment workers took to the streets of Phnom Penh in a noisy, but peaceful, protest demanding judicial reform and an independent labour court.

Russian Communists and their sympathisers marched through central Moscow to celebrate the day. Red banners, etched with the Soviet hammer and sickle, waved in front of the Red Square, as left-wing deputies took to the podium to show their sympathies with Russian workers. However, while official reports said that some 25,000 people took part in marches that began early this morning and were meant to last throughout the day, it is reported that, by noon, only a handful of people could be found scattered across the main meeting points.

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