Year 2000 No. 81, May 3, 2000

May Day 2000 Celebrated – Part 2

In this issue of WDIE, we are continuing our reporting of the activities that took place on the occasion of May Day 2000, in Britain and abroad.

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May Day 2000 Celebrated – Part 2
"We Were Treated Like Herds of Cattle"
Participants' Direct Reports of the May Day 2000 Actions
Fidel Castro, President of the Republic of Cuba, Speaks at Mass Rally
25th Anniversary of Liberation Day Marked in Vietnam

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May Day 2000 Celebrated – Part 2

In this issue of WDIE, we are continuing our reporting of the activities that took place on the occasion of May Day 2000, in Britain and abroad.

"We Were Treated Like Herds of Cattle"

Report from a school youth who participated in the May Day 2000 actions

At the beginning, people gathered round in Parliament Square. There was a good atmosphere, people generally chatting, waiting around for ages, while bangra drums were played, people raised banners, and decorated the statue of Winston Churchill. People got turf from the Square and laid it on road. Then we started to go up Whitehall, dancing, walking, and talking. When we came across MacDonalds, people started to smash it up. After a while, we saw a rush of people running towards us. The riot police were pursuing them, but we just saw the people running. This would subside, then would start again, about four times.

Later we got blocked off by riot police. Some people staged peaceful sitting down protests, others talked to the police. Then there was a general order for riot police to move forward, walking over people chained together. Lots of people staged sit-down protests, and the riot police just dragged us up and walked over us. There were big lines of riot police everywhere. We talked to quite a lot of people, and also to police. They wouldn't talk back much. People shinned up on phone boxes, and occasionally the police would get mad. There was occasional looting, then riot police would run. There were four or five times the number of riot police than protestors. People felt upset because there were so many of them, and this left them feeling over-rebellious. Then we got cornered up by the police in Trafalgar Square.

We were set free from police control about 11.25pm. We were treated like herds of cattle for about two or three hours. People were really mad. The police let people out one by one, searching us and taking photos. It was not very pleasant. Our group, in which there were about 200 people at the end, were among the first people out. We had all got squared off, and we had to wait around in same spot. Then the riot police just sent us down some road in the wrong direction, ending at Vauxhall tube.

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Participants' Direct Reports of the May Day 2000 Actions

The following reports direct from participants in the May Day 2000 actions are taken from the website of the Independent Media Centre, Indymedia UK, the address of which is: Audio clips, video clips and photos are also posted on the site.

Monday, May 1


Arrests begin

After an afternoon of dancing and planting, riot police are now beginning to arrest people as they continue to demonstrate outside Parliament. Independent Media Centre journalists have heard that Reclaim the Streets are currently in negotiations with the police to allow the crowd to leave peacefully.

In other parts of the city there are reported incidents of police horses charging the crowd. The latest from Trafalgar Square is that a sound system is currently entertaining the crowd although entrances have now been blocked. Hundreds of people are now waiting in the square as samba bands continue to play with protestors dancing and wandering through the newly-created gardens.

The Houses of Parliament themselves are heavily barricaded with hundreds of people continuing to dance around the maypole. Big Ben has struck 3.30 and there is a sense of apprehension in the air.


Trafalgar Square blocked off

I left Trafalgar Square about half an hour ago and it started to look scary. The happy crowd that had made its way towards the square for some reason got cut off by the police and the Trade Union Congress march was prevented from getting in for their planned meeting. I gather that McDonalds has been trashed. Tourists seemed to be mingling curiously with the demonstrators in the square, but there was no violence at that time. Yet the police seem to be blocking off all the exits. I decided to leave before there was any trouble.


Observations on today and media coverage

I attended the gathering in Parliament Square today from 11.00 to 1.30 in support of Reclaim The Streets and in the belief that London can and must benefit from positive urban regeneration, brownfield housing projects, the preservation and creation of green spaces and the exclusion of cars from the centre (indeed, as far out as is feasible).

While not condoning violent action in any form, I also recognised today as an opportunity to alert large global corporations to the fact that they must not continue to go on making huge profits for the few at the expense of the many. And by the many I mean their long-suffering employees as well as the ecosystems and communities that they continue to exploit and even destroy.

Contrary to the opinions expressed by Justin Rigby in yesterday's Sunday Times News Review, my support for RTS and its aims does not make me mindlessly disposed to violence, nor even an anarchist. I simply believe in the preservation of a healthy environment and the right of people to live as individuals free from the controlling influence of big business. And if that makes me a danger to the state I wonder what exactly it is about "the state" that Mr Rigby deems worth protecting from people like me. Having attended several such events over the past eight or so years, I was immediately struck by the numbers of mainstream media present today. Indeed, at the beginning the numbers of journalists and TV crews threatened to outstrip protesters. Would that they were all there because they were interested in debating the ideas which have been the subject of this weekend's conferences. However, naturally they were all in fact waiting for some violence to kick off. On my return home I switched on BBC News 24 to watch endless replays of McDonalds in Whitehall being trashed and barrages of riot police being "commendably restrained" in their actions, having "limited" the number of arrests to "just" seven.

My other observation was the sheer numbers of people who had brought cameras - all those people will be able to show their own versions of the day to those who might otherwise be taken in by skewed corporate media reports. I'm pleased to say that while I was in Parliament Square, the atmosphere was great - peaceful, friendly, happy - people just sitting in the square or in the road, chilling out, chatting, planting things, enjoying the sunshine and the temporary absence of traffic. Though of course, that never makes great sensational news for the corporate media. Nice one indymedia for taking this initiative and showing how it really is.


On leaving Parliament Square

After half a day of Guerrilla Gardening at Parliament Square, the crowd has left the place at around 5pm. Several attempts of leaving the Square and moving on to another location had been stopped by the police, apparently trying to keep the crowd in an area they can control. Members of Reclaim The Streets repeatedly tried to negotiate with the police in order to let people leave the place, but police did not respond to these attempts.

As there was no chance to come to a mutually beneficial solution, the crowd decided to break through police lines and move off towards the South. At present, the Guerrilla Gardeners are moving across Vauxhall Bridge towards Kennington Park, where a final gathering is planned to close a day of Mayday celebrations. While the crowd is leaving the Square, small groups of people sitting or walking around in the surrounding area are forcibly dispersed by police in full riot gear.


Update: The situation in Kennington Park

According to latest reports, around 500 people have been pushed into Kennington Park by riot police in an attempt to clear the streets from the remaining protesters who had marched there from the Guerrilla Gardening action in Parliament Square. The mood in the park is increasingly becoming tense due to the police tactics of pushing the people inside the gates towards the centre of the park.

Several minor disturbances between the protesters and the police have occurred, which, as we are told, resulted in police marching into the park trying to disperse the crowd. Large numbers of police horses have been used in these attempts. At present, the situation is fairly calm, with 150 demonstrators having started a huge football match and police standing around, not really knowing how to deal with this reaction.


Police blockade of Trafalgar Square

Reports are coming in about heavy-handed police operations this afternoon at Trafalgar Square, which included police baton-charging demonstrators. The Independent Media Centre has received one report of the use of CS gas. After masses of people, including participants of the Guerrilla Gardening action as well as participants of trade union marches, had gathered in Trafalgar Square in the early afternoon, police started to turn up in large numbers and pushed people to one side of the square. During this charge, many demonstrators were beaten heavily with batons, and at least one of them was sprayed with CS gas by charging police, as reported by people there. For the following four hours, around two thousand people were held on Trafalgar Square and were not allowed to move on. Between 4pm and 8pm they were not told when they would be allowed to move and what would happen to them if they were forced to stay. At 8pm small groups were finally allowed to leave the square, but only after photos of everyone were taken by police. Unconfirmed numbers of people were arrested.


On violence …

Anybody who has been to a major protest knows that there are always 10 or so extreme, violent, hooded idiots, bent on smashing things up and fighting the police.

Put yourself in the position of the police in these circumstances and ask:

Why, when 10 - 20 people are disrupting the non-violent protest of 10,000 others, do the police make no attempt to eliminate or control a disruptive few? Common sense would suggest that they be neutralised and or removed by locking them in one of the many police vans on standby. Why would the police decide to surround the whole crowd for hours and hours inside a small area, rather than identifying and extracting the clearly violent members of the crowd?

By directing the police force to contain a very large number of people and holding them against their will, whoever is in charge, deliberately: a) creates a media spectacle of confrontational violence. b) frustrates the majority of peaceful protesters, inciting further unrest. c) justifies the huge police presence on the day. d) galvanises the police footsoldier into a state of fear and expectance of mob violence. I demand that whoever was in charge of this operation explains the absurd tactics employed today, May Day 2000, and on November the 30th, and on June the 18th last year.


More from Kennington Park

I left Kennington about 2 hours ago. At the time that I left, the police and the crowd were seemingly calm, and I walked through the police line with no trouble to speak of. A game of football had started, and the police didn't seem too bothered, to the point that they were kicking the ball back to the protesters.

However to start with things were less than friendly. After being pushed down from parliament square, we crossed Lambeth Bridge and ended up heading towards Kennington Park. Someone had obviously decided this although I am not sure who. Our trip to Kennington was almost police-free, with one van stopped in its tracks and turned around by assertive protesters. :)

However, we again saw the cops who diverted us towards a single gate leading into Kennington Park, so that everyone was slowly forced in. This gate, barely 4 feet wide was the focal point for a pitched battle, as police repeatedly attempted to storm it, only to retreat to the other side of the road. Onlookers and families gathered either side of the 70 or so riot police to watch the entertainment as a stalemate ensued. Some rocks and bottles were thrown but there didn't appear to be anything too bad until the police cleared the onlookers to either side of them, pushing them away with their shields.

They then eventually entered to the side and surrounded the crowd, but as the atmosphere became more calm, the police line was just a formality and I was able to walk through it and go home.


On news reports

i've just got back home and watched the "news" report on itv, and i cannot believe that they and i were existing in the same universe today.

i arrived at parliament square at eleven, generally chilled and enjoyed the atmosphere then followed the samba band up to trafalgar square.

although i can't say i was particularly saddened by the sight of a macdonalds being trashed, that was still a minor part of the whole day despite what the (predictably) skewed reporting has shown.

up in trafalgar square, i had a good view of the "running battles" that were being fought, and even the police and random tourists seemed particularly unconcerned by them.

the atmosphere was charged, but not violent - the pictures i've just seen on tv would make you believe it was a war zone down there.

we all know what makes good copy, but the extent of sensationalist reporting should make the itv "journalists" ashamed.

keep telling it like it is, indymedia.

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Fidel Castro, President of the Republic of Cuba, Speaks at Mass Rally

On May 1, Fidel Castro Ruz headed the May Day march from Revolution Square to the area facing the US Interests Section in Havana, while in the country as a whole a total of about five million people marched.

The five-kilometre march began moments after the leader of the revolution finished his speech, the most moving moment of which was when Fidel was handed a cell phone with a call from Wye Plantation, Maryland. The call was from Juan Miguel González, who sent regards from himself and the rest of the Cubans accompanying him in that residence, to Fidel and the people gathered in Revolution Square.

In his speech to the mass rally called by the Cuban youth, students and workers on the occasion of May Day 2000, the Cuban president provided detailed information about the most recent developments in the negotiations between the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) and the Miami relatives at the time of the operation that rescued Elián. He mentioned some things that happened afterward and cited statements by prominent figures in the Republican Party and even by Hillary Clinton, aimed at convincing Elián’s father not to return to the island, in order to score a moral blow against the Cuban people.

Accusing these US politicians of a lack of ethics and honesty, Fidel exonerated the people of the United States from blame, and noted that despite the lies used to try to deceive the people of that country, the majority has opposed the repugnant crime committed against a Cuban child.

In another part of his speech, Fidel stated that the weapons of the Cuban people have been conscience and the ideas that the Cuban Revolution has sown for more than four decades, and he said in this context that there is no force in the world capable of crushing truth and ideas.

He reiterated that the fight will continue against the Helms-Burton, Torricelli and Cuban Adjustment Acts, the blockade, and the terrorist activities against Cuba promoted from within the United States, as well as the return of little Elián Gonzalez.

Referring to the revolution’s strength, he exclaimed that David has grown into a moral giant who does not throw stones with his slingshot, but rather messages of ideas and examples, against which the giant Goliath is defenceless.

More than 800 representatives of diverse organisations from all the world’s continents were invited to the May Day festivities.

After having marched to the José Martí Anti-Imperialist Tribunal, the masses continued expressing their support for the revolution, in a rally in which various speakers participated.

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May Day marked and rallies held in south Korea

The South Korean Confederation of Trade Unions held ceremonies and rallies calling for a general strike in nine areas across South Korea including Seoul on April 29 with the attendance of workers, peasants, students and other people, more than 20,000 in all, on the occasion of the 110th May Day, the international holiday of the workers the world over, reports from Seoul said.

A ceremony and a rally took place at the Seoul railway station plaza that day, participated in by at least 15,000 workers, peasants and students under the South Korean Federation of University Student Councils. At the rally they demanded a 15.2 percent wage rise, an end to the sale of the motor industry overseas and a reduction of working hours. At the end of the rally its participants staged a demonstration.

Over 2,500 students, who were demonstrating with workers, stubbornly resisted riot police, pelting stones at them. At least 10,000 workers joined them in the resistance.


May Day observed in north Korea

Newspapers in the DPRK on May 1 dedicated editorials to the 110th May Day.

The editorials called for fully demonstrating the stamina of the Korean working class in the building of a powerful nation.

An editorial of Rodong Sinmun, newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), says the Korean working class has successfully discharged its sacred mission and duty as the leading class of revolution, the vanguard, in the whole historic course of carrying out the socialist cause. The Korean working class has covered a proud path along which it has firmly defended the WPK and the cause of socialism, cherishing absolute worship for its leader, and adorned its course with creation and feats by successfully fulfilling its mission as the vanguard in the socialist construction, the editorial notes, and goes on:

Today it is demonstrating its might as a hardcore contingent in the building of a powerful nation. Thanks to its total dedication and heroic struggle, grim ordeals caused by the imperialists' isolation and suffocation moves and natural calamities have been tided over and a solid springboard has been laid for building a powerful nation. No force on earth can block the vigorous advance of the Korean working class to put into practice the respected Kim Jong Il's intention to build a powerful nation.

The editorial says later on: All the workers should play the role of fortress and shield in devotedly defending the headquarters of the revolution led by Kim Jong Il. All the party members and other people should firmly adhere to the working-class principle and the anti-imperialist independent stand, the editorial continued. It is the invariable stand of the WPK to strengthen unity, solidarity and cooperation with the progressive forces, including the workers, the world over, on the principle of independence, peace and friendship. The Korean working class will in the future, too, positively support the workers around the world in their struggle for socialism and justice and discharge its class mission and duty.

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25th Anniversary of Liberation Day Marked in Vietnam

A meeting was held in Ho Chi Minh City on April 30 to mark the 25th anniversary of the south liberation and national reunification (April 30) and International Labour Day (May 1).

Le Kha Phieu, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee (CPV CC), senior Party and government leaders and representatives from other localities and international organisations attended the meeting.

Deputy Secretary of the Municipal Party Committee and Chairman of the Municipal People's Committee, Vo Viet Thanh, delivered a speech at the meeting, highlighting the great significance of the general offensive and uprising in the Spring of 1975, which led to the great victory on April 30. He said that the victory was the most magnificent song about the heroism of Vietnam, the combination of the Vietnamese people’s tradition, spirit, dignity and character in the fight against foreign aggressors for national independence and happiness and prosperity of the people of all strata. Vo Viet Thanh reviewed the important achievements recorded by the Party committee, administration and people of Ho Chi Minh City in the past 25 years. He stressed that under the correct leadership of the CPV and with its renewal policy, the city has healed the wounds of war while conducting a comprehensive national renovation and national industrialisation and modernisation process towards achieving the goal of a prosperous people, a strong country and an equitable and civilised society. After ten years of renovation, the city saw a sustainable growth in terms of economic and social development. The city is the first locality which started efficiently many social programmes, including poverty reduction and building of compassion houses attracting the active support and participation of the people.

Many meetings and cultural activities were also held to mark the important event in other localities nationwide, including Thai Nguyen, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Tay Ninh, Quang Tri and Nam Dinh.

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