Flower Power Digs At Roots Of Capitalism
Guerilla Gardening takes over Parliament Square on Mayday
1st May 2000
It was the biggest RTS inspired event ever as thousands of anti-capitalist activists poured into Parliament Square and waited under an obliging sun. The ever present and excellent samba band which attends all RTS direct actions thumped tight beats and the mood of the crowd was good.
It had been announced that once amassed in the square, the assemblage would depart for another venue or venues, where guerrilla gardening would take place. However, as the thousands stood or danced with their sacks of compost, trowels and plants it became apparent that there could be no other venue more appropriate to be guerilla gardened than the patch of grass outside the Houses of Parliament. And when climbers shimmied up the lampposts to string up huge banners, it was obvious that this was it. LET LONDON SPROUT said one banner. THE WORMS TURN said another.
Over the course of the next few hours the statues of various dignitaries in the corners of the square were redesigned. Winston Churchill found himself with a grass mohican. A military statue previously named MASTER OF STRATEGY was changed to MASTER OF DEATH.
The grass in the centre of the square was dug up and re-laid on the three lane road which circles the square a stones through from the Houses of Parliament. The freshly exposed soil was then planted up with a variety of horticultural foliage, plants, herbs and willow. Waterlogged sections of the turf were turned into ponds and water features, whilst one pile of undergravel was turned into a rockery crowned with three gnomes masked with balaclavas.
As a riot wagon was jumped on by masketers a trumpet and sax player played 'Happy Birthday' to a little girl in a pink dress while 2000 'hardened anarchists' sang along.
The brand new Indymedia UK team set up a tent and, using two laptops, helped activists file their stories down the wire to the website at https://www.indymedia.org.uk. Someone even built a compost toilet. The whole glorious scene was overseen with two large paper mache flowerpot men masked up in black.
Up in Trafalgar Square thousands more gathered and a fracas kicked off with the riot police. Whitehall was largely devoid of police except for the gates of Downing Street and whilst the confrontation raged in Trafalgar Square, McDonald's on Whitehall was thoroughly disgorged of contents. As the riot cops appeared the trumpeter struck up the theme from 'Star Wars'. A line of riot police and vans then split up the two sections of the demonstration keeping those at Trafalgar Square separate from those in Parliament Square. Every time they attacked the trumpeter played 'God Save The Queen' before the police hit him in the face with it then confiscated it.
This SQUALL reporter was on the parliament square side of the cordon and returned to the square. It was then I and a colleague noticed a hasty meeting of top brass police come together to discuss their plan of action behind the black railings which separates the Houses of Parliament from the Square. It was about 5pm. Amongst them was a tall American who had been seen several times sweeping around the square with two senior officers. Upon closer inspection his Black baseball cap boasted the logo of the Office of National Institute of Justice, a research and development arm of the US Department of Justice.
Shortly after this conflab, more riot police began amassing at the exit roads from Parliament Square and it became apparent that the same tactic, used to corral protestors on Euston Concourse for four and half hours last November, was being deployed again. Namely that protestors were sealed into the Square with a view to squeeze us together and hold us for a long period of time before being individually processed and photographed.
However, after a hastily convened meeting, which was broadcast over a tiny microphone screaming with feedback, the corralled crowd of between 500 to a 1000 decided to head for the Millbank exit. So, with the samba band thumping a tight battucada with a force which belied the hours they had played, we headed towards it.
For a while, the lines of riot police sealing off the Millbank exit held out against the crowd before a small section of about a 100 activists broke through. However with riot police reinforcements arriving, the police line reformed and tried to push the crowd back into the square. Then just as it looked as if the police were going to succeed in fully sealing the exit, the section of the activists who had escaped came back and the line of riot police, then outflanked, made one last failed attempt to deal with both sections of the crowds, before another surge broke their line forcing them to retreat into a tight ball for self protection. The time was around 6.30pm. The crowd then passed down Millbank and over to Vauxhall Cross before heading down towards Brixton and dispersing.
Those in Trafalgar Square were not so fortunate however, and as this article was filed to the SQUALL website at 8pm May 1, hundreds are still blocked in the Square.