Tuesday, June 15, 1999 Published at 21:50 GMT 22:50 UK
Grunge versus greed
J18 urges workers to call in sick and get involved
The Daily Telegraph is warning of "shadowy extremists" and "anarchists", the Big Issue is heralding "a carnival of resistance" - and London's City Police force has cancelled all leave.
On 18 June, 10,000 activists representing diverse radical groups - under an umbrella movement called J18 - are expected to converge on the Square Mile. Parties and leafleting campaigns are scheduled to take place in other parts of the country.
The date has been specially chosen to coincide with the G8 meeting of the world's leaders in Cologne, and will be marked in more than 40 countries across the globe with similar action.
"People don't realise how damaging these companies are," says John Frazer, a resident of the FastLane peace camp for the past two years.
"They are immoral. To these people profit comes first - it does not matter to them that lives will be made insufferable by their greedy quests, pursuit of capital will always come first.
"June 18 is a way of making people take notice of what the big companies are doing, how they are at the root of social deprivation and all ecological problems."
J18 groups - which include among many others supporters of Reclaim the Streets, Greenpeace and cycling activists Critical Mass - are advising protesters to latch onto one business, find out all about it and then make its activities known to the public.
Some activists plan to disguise themselves as City types in an attempt to slip unnoticed into buildings and stage sit-ins, it has been reported.
Others still - according to the likes of the Telegraph - want to sabotage the premises of big businesses, supergluing up locks and chaining doors. Protesters themselves are fairly tight-lipped.
Spokeswoman for one bus load of demonstrators planning to travel from Manchester to the capital, Kate, says the non-heirarchical "loose collective of people" she is travelling with want to make the City "sit up and think".
"Our actions are bound to be misrepresented in the media, but we see evil in the City and we want to do something about it. We may slow down the profit machine for a time, we need to let them know that they can't just stamp over human beings."
The J18 website is more explicit. Top targets for action include McDonalds, The Gap, Vodaphone, Smithfield Meat Market and Reed Employment Agencies.
And the targeted companies are taking the threat of action seriously.
Leaked internal memos indicate that City workers are being urged to avoid the environs of Liverpool St Station, where a carnival is scheduled to be held, to dress down, and to be vigilant for activists trying to get into their places of work.
Butchers at Smithfield Market say they are prepared to pelt vegetarian protesters with pieces of meat. One meat handler said: "I don't mind vegetarians, but I don't want them ruining business. If they don't like meat, they'd better watch out. I've got a load of offal ready to chuck at anyone who gets aggressive."
The Corporation of London started sending letters of warning to businesses and householders back in February.
A spokesman said: "About 7,000 people live in the Square Mile and 300,000 people come to work here every day.
"We are about as prepared as we can be. We want to make sure that services continue as regularly as possible throughout the day. We just hope everything passes peacefully, and I'm sure the demonstraters want that too."
Bernadette Ford of the Met said: "We have been working closely with our colleagues in the City and we are prepared. We have not been informed or consulted by the group as to the exact nature of the protest, or what will happen, so we cannot say for definite what actions will be taken."
Tim Parson of the City Police force said that given the large number of protesters expected, all leave ahd been cancelled.
He added: "We have held face to face seminars with the various members of the community who might be affected on June 18.
"Overall we have had about 1,000 people in and given them advice on making their premises more secure and letting them know what help is available to them.
"People are a bit apprehensive. No-one knows exactly what is going to happen, and there is always the fear of the unknown."
What is for sure is that the groups involved know what they are doing, and have been able to keep in touch with one another with the help of the Internet.
An radio station has been set up for the day, called Radio Interference, which will broadcast simultaneously on the Internet and over the airwaves. A breakfast show will run from 6-10, and a "cycle time" show from 4-8 on 104.7FM.
Jim Carey, content editor of alternative webzine Squall said: "People find it difficult to understand that a demonstration of this scale can be organised without a central office or a headquarters.
"They keep in touch and aware of one another's activities on the Internet. The Internet is empowering, it means that different groups can generate their own media without having it diluted by the mainstream media.
"And it is a superb vehicle for direct action groups. People misinterpret things like low election turn-outs. It's not apathy, people just realise that a cross on a piece of paper will not necessarily result in change.
"The spirit of the time is direct action, individuals taking issues into their own hands and saying 'we have had enough'. That's what happened with GM foods - the people didn't want it and the supermarkets stopped stocking it.
"That is why J18 will be a success."