2:30am, Jan 1st 2000 AD, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Millennium new year's eve rave in Newcastle smashed by police
Whilst the official millennium events celebrated UK plc, underground free parties were still deemed unacceptable. Phil Rigby reports from Newcastle on the riot squads new year present to the geordie ravers.
2:30am, Jan 1st 2000 / Squall Download 3, March/April 2000, pg. 16.
Newcastle is buzzing as thousands of revellers take to the streets to celebrate the dawn of the new millennium. A council organised event on the Quayside has just ended and hundreds of partygoers are looking for where to go next. On the outskirts of town, an 'illegal' rave has been building up to its climax. The venue for this party is an old disused railway workshop, the very building in which Stephenson first built his 'Rocket'. A good 400 people are dancing and partying, everything is fine.
A collective of approximately 25 people had spent the previous 3 days preparing the building to make it safe and usable. Fire exits were available and well marked, fire extinguishers had been bought and placed at every exit, Stewards equipped with torches and walkie-talkies were positioned around the venue. Even safety lighting had been installed especially for the event. There was a first aid team organised and water was freely available, but the police weren't to know any of this.
A patrol car had discovered the party, and called for assistance. A full police riot and crowd control unit was already on standby, and was dispatched to the scene of the 'crime'. AT LEAST 30 police officers with batons and dogs stormed the building, stopped the music, and herded the bewildered dancers off the dancefloor and out into the street.
With a few hundred people now objecting quite strongly to having their New Millennium celebrations ended in such a fashion, the police started to get nervous. When it became clear that some of the party people were going to get 'nasty' by shouting and, in some cases, swearing, the police decided to employ riot control tactics, forming a wall of officers to sweep down the street, with dog handlers in front, driving the crowd down a tunnel underneath the Central Station. This too, was found to be slightly distasteful by the crowd, who objected more strongly than ever. This unwillingness to co-operate now really upset some of the officers in the front line. With adrenalin pumping, they enthusiastically administered some real 'justice' to the closest of the group and set dogs onto the people who were just out of reach. One lucky young girl in her early twenties, about 5ft4inch in height and eight stone in weight, fell on the ground as she tried to run away, and found herself fighting off both the teeth of a psyched-up alsation, and the fists of a 14 stone police officer. The majority of the crowd dispersed quickly now, visibly shocked by the 'style' of policing on display. Several arrests were made, and one person who was dragged off in cuffs (after being arrested for suggesting an officer was 'way over the top and should pick on someone his own size') now alleges he was assaulted by his arresting officer once taken to the police station. (He wasn't actually charged with an offence.) He is now looking to press charges.
Is this the way to punish people for dancing in an unauthorised venue ? Does partying in the wrong place really warrant violence and intimidation ? We think not.
The party was organised by a collective called 'Rabble Alliance'. The idea was to have a free alternative to celebrate the New Year without £100 tickets and £4 pints. The rules of the event, clearly on display around the building stated: "Respect the venue and leave it in a better state than you found it. Don't disturb the neighbours. Look after each other. No drug dealing."