Anti-workfare protesters brought chaos to London’s West End yesterday after the annual Trade Union May Day march and demonstration. A roving mob of around 350 people successfully shut down countless shops and businesses who use forced labour under the Government’s workfare schemes.
Mcdonalds, Pizza Hut, Greggs and Holland & Barrett all faced protests and pickets with police scrambling to protect them as protesters thronged the entrances to their premises. McDonalds on Oxford Street even managed to break their own door as they rushed to prevent anyone entering.
Occasional scuffles broke out, with police becoming increasingly violent and flustered as the day went on. One woman was thrown to the ground outside British Home Stores, whilst one copper took it upon himself to grab one protester and punch him in the face. Even the usually docile FIT Team Police photographer Niel raised his fists at one point in an unruly temper tantrum.
Earlier in the day the annual TUC march was joined by London Occupy who had marched from Paternoster Square outside the Stock Exchange. The TUC March seemed disappointingly small, but the sun was out and spirits remained high. A brief flashpoint came in Trafalgar Square when Occupy laid out a few tents. This drew a bizarrely stroppy response from the Heritage Wardens who are employed to police the pigeons in the Square. Waving about copies of a bye-law they demanded the tents be removed and the old bill were only to happy to help. Once it was even the tiniest portable sound systems that sent the Met into hysterics on May Day marches, now it appears to be tents that are the target of their fury.
At 4pm protesters converged on the posh Bond Street shopping mall. On the busy pavement banners were unfurled and megaphones led chants demanding companies pull out of workfare and pay their workers properly. With police blocking the entrance to the shopping centre, effectively closing it down, the demonstration headed down Oxford Street.
British Home Stores, owned by tax dodging billionaire Philip Green, was briefly closed with scuffles outside, whilst the protest then proceeded to mob the first McDonalds of the day. Ever increasing numbers of police were outwitted by the fast moving and growing crowd, with every known workfare using business on Oxford Street shut down at some point.
Protesters then moved onto Charing Cross Road, where Holland & Barrett and Pizza Hut were both closed, before heading to The Strand where McDonalds were once again the target. Finally it was up to Covent Garden with one group breaking away to picket Holland & Barrett and another heading to Pizza Hut.
The day ended with many Occupy protesters heading back into the Square Mile where they were finally able to temporarily occupy Paternoster Square. Tents went up and they remained in occupation for several hours before police moved in. Reports last night on twitter suggest several people were arrested. There are also reports of a couple of arrests earlier in the day although it’s not clear so far what they were for.
North and South London Solidarity Federation deserve a medal for seizing the initiative and calling for the day of action on May Day. Whilst the turn out didn’t match the glory days of May Days past, it was by far the most fun and successful May Day in almost ten years.
Boycott Workfare, Occupy LSX and UK Uncut also took part in the day which could mark a turning point in the fightback against the toff Government. Things have been quiet on the streets of London since last year’s riots and the glorious March 26th, when almost every bank in Central London (and The Ritz) was attacked and given a facelift. But yesterday showed the mood for militancy is still alive and as anger against austerity re-ignites across Europe the battle is far from over.
Pic above via @unitonehifi. More pics and timeline on London Indymedia at: http://london.indymedia.org/articles/12161
There’s more to come this month with the greedy planet fucking energy companies being targeted tomorrow (May 3rd) whilst there’s action against bankers planned for May 15th and UK Uncut will be holding street parties across the UK on May 26th.