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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 19:52 GMT 20:52 UK
Skirmishes mar peaceful protest
May Day protest
Protesters are held by police lines
Police in central London have donned riot gear after coming under attack from a small number of May Day protesters with cans, bottles and pieces of wood.

Police said five officers suffered injuries, all minor except for one who had his arm broken when a fire extinguisher was thrown at him. Eleven arrests were made.

The trouble began in late afternoon after a largely peaceful day in which an estimated 7,000 demonstrators attended a series of rallies in the capital.

May Day protest
Protesters climb onto the fountain at Trafalgar Square
A series of confrontations developed in the Soho area and lines of police reinforcements were brought in to tackle small, moving crowds totalling around 700 people.

That figure dropped as darkness fell and people drifted away.

Some protesters could be seen using mobile phones to co-ordinate their actions as police attempted to corral the groups and prevent people entering the area.

Violence was directed at coffee shops and fast food outlets with several having their windows smashed.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mike Todd said it was "extremely annoying" that a small group of demonstrators had caused trouble after the day's largely peaceful events elsewhere in London.

But he was pleased with the policing operation. "I would say it was an immense success," he said.

Violence warning

Home Secretary David Blunkett had earlier warned that there would be zero tolerance of anyone planning violence.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone welcomed a peaceful TUC march and rally in Trafalgar Square but warned people not to get involved with the minority who wanted to turn May Day into a "festival of violence."

"There are a couple of groups of anarchists playing cat and mouse with the police," he said.

The day started with cyclists taking part in protest rides from Camberwell in south London and Camden Town in north London, with both groups converging peacefully in Grosvenor Square.

Police leave cancelled

Protesters also gathered outside Horseferry Road Magistrates Court, in central London, where the trial of seven members of anti-capitalism group the Wombles is continuing.

One demonstrator said that this was a "deliberate action to have fun" and there was no intention to cause trouble.

But police cancelled all leave, drafting in 6,000 officers, amid concerns about a "hardcore" of 300 to 400 violent protesters.

Enlarge image Click here for a more detailed map

The home secretary said: "The police have my absolute support in clamping down on people who have come here today intent on anti-social behaviour."

He was speaking as he toured the nerve centre at Scotland Yard where the police operation is being co-ordinated.

A team of 80 officers are scanning CCTV footage for signs of trouble.

Police believed small "guerrilla" protests would spring up - a fear apparently borne out by events later in the day.

Ahead of the protests, Mr Todd had said: "We will use whatever tactics we need to keep London and Londoners safe."

Protests were also held in many parts of the world, with police and demonstrators clashing in Berlin and Sydney.

Mayday traditions

Mayfair had been an expected target for action in London, with this message on the May Day 2002 website: "Mayday in Mayfair will be a fluid, spontaneous and exciting return to the May Fayre, happening everywhere at once, without a fixed starting point or finish."

The socialist umbrella group Globalise Resistance joined the TUC march for the first time this year.

About 6,000 officers will be deployed on May Day

Activist Despina Mavrou described the atmosphere as "very festive."

The protest outside Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court is in support of seven Wombles who are accused of attacking police in October last year.

Wombles stands for the anarchist group White Overall Movement Building Liberations through Effective Struggle.

Other May Day events included an anti-fur demonstration in Ilford and outside a Regent Street furriers and a sex workers' pride march in Soho.

Last year about 10,000 protesters were hemmed in by riot police at London's Oxford Circus shopping area for several hours, and 100 were arrested.

The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"Today was about street protests and street politics"
The BBC's Robert Hall
"The police have had their batons drawn and their shields out"

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01 May 02 | Europe
The changing face of May Day
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