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Last Updated: Friday, 30 April, 2004, 23:47 GMT 00:47 UK
May Day protest issues still burn
May Day violence
Some May Day events in London have seen clashes with police

London on May Day in the past five years has seen fierce anti-capitalism protests, often accompanied by clashes with the police and scores of arrests.

But this year one of the main groups which co-ordinated the protests says that the only event it will be organising is a picnic - and blames a growing apathy among its members for this move.

But, as other campaigners stress, this does not mean the issues that drove so many on to the streets have any less support than before.

Several thousand police may be a lot less busy than they expected on Saturday.

Instead of a highly strategic operation to contain thousands of protesters on London streets, the main focus of their activity could be watching Bank Holiday weekend trippers removing the plastic wrapping from their sandwiches at a mass picnic.

We continue to monitor a range of things as part of our planning for May Day demonstrations
Metropolitan Police
The London Mayday Collective has said that, for the first time in five years, there is no anti-capitalist protest planned in London on 1 May.

In a statement on its website, it says: "The decision to postpone London Mayday 2004 was taken only after several disappointing and poorly attended meetings that had produced little.

"In these circumstances we feel not calling an event this year is the right thing to do."

Police tactics

The statement also goes on to say that the "intimidating" policing in recent years has been a major factor in discouraging people from taking part.

May Day protester 2003
One of the May Day protesters from last year

In 2001, 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 following year, there were 54 arrests.

On both occasions, 6,000 police officers were deployed to prevent trouble, a response to the attacks on businesses in Oxford Street and the vandalising of London landmarks during the protests of 2000.

Last year, a concerted police operation saw the demonstrators split into three smaller, easier-to-control groups.

The statement from the Mayday Collective adds: "We need to face up to the new reality: embedded police forward intelligence and surveillance and pre-emptive tactics have largely worn us down."

There may be no smoke billowing above the ground but below the ground the fire still burns
Class War spokesman
Its missive concludes by stressing that the picnic planned for 1500 BST at St James's Park is "genuinely a picnic and nothing else".

The Metropolitan Police remains on guard for any other events that may be being planned. A spokesman said: "We continue to monitor a range of things as part of our planning for May Day demonstrations."

The leading protest group Class War has also told its members that the picnic will be the only activity they should expect to find in London this weekend.

However, a spokesman stressed this was not down to apathy, but because it was instead focusing on a commemorative event in Barnsley to mark the 20th anniversary of the miners' strike.

A spokesman said: "It was the most important strike in our lifetime - the effects are still with us to this day."

But he said people would be "foolish" to see the lack of anti-capitalist protests in London as a sign of apathy.

"There may be no smoke billowing above the ground but below the ground the fire still burns," he said.

Wombles

Anarchist group The Wombles
The Wombles are urging supporters to target Dublin this Monday

Meanwhile, another high-profile direct action group from the protests of recent years is also advising its members to go elsewhere.

The Wombles - the acronym stands for White Overall Movement Building Liberation through Effective Struggle - has called for a European Day of Action in Dublin, which is hosting a European summit to celebrate the integration of the EU's 10 new member states.

It points members to a website which offers information on travel to Dublin and accommodation for those planning to make the trip.

The idea of apathy is a joke
Guy Taylor
Global Resistance
Its mission statement says that it is fighting to have "local communities directly run by the people living in them and all workplaces by the people working in them" and for "an end to environmental policies in which every 'solution' must be corporate-led and profit-driven".

One event that will be going ahead in London is the traditional TUC-organised International Workers' Day march from Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square.

'Celebration'

The protest group Global Resistance is helping to organise the march and says it sees its role as bridging the gap between traditional trade unions and the views of the anti-capitalist protesters.

The Critical Mass cyclists sit-in on May Day
Cyclists joined an organised sit-in last year

Spokesman Guy Taylor encouraged people to join the march, which he says shows international solidarity for many of the causes that unite the various protest groups.

He said: "Every benefit that workers now have, we've had to fight for. May Day is a celebration of that."

He rejected the idea that a lack of interest was a factor in the decision to call off other protests in London.

"The idea of apathy is a joke. In the past year, we have seen some of the biggest public demonstrations in history.

"People may be turned off by the political process which has fallen to pieces but they still want their voices to be heard.

"I still think the issues of the day will be expressed on the streets on May Day."


SEE ALSO:
May Day demo 'tame stuff'
01 May 03  |  UK
The politics of anti-politics
28 Apr 03  |  Politics


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