PDF May Day in South London: a History

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Both ends of Oxford Street were sealed off as police tried to prevent the Oxford Circus demonstrators linking up with hundreds of others converging on the area from protests elsewhere in the capital. By 5pm, the greatest feeling among the Oxford Circus crowd was one of frustration at being penned in and not allowed to disperse for an indefinite period.


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This led to scuffles between police and demonstrators. At 6pm, two protesters who climbed on to a balcony of the John Lewis building ripped two CCTV cameras from their mounts and passed them down into the crowd. They also stripped metal segments from the balcony and passed them down into the crowd where people appeared to be trying to smash John Lewis windows. Extra police moved in. Police mounted a charge on Oxford Street as they came under a hail of bottles from protesters attempting to join other campaigners in Oxford Circus. Police charged again as protective chipboard hoardings were ripped off the front of a Wallis shop.

The day began with disruption for drivers as several hundred cyclists from the Critical Mass demonstration blocked off Euston Road outside King's Cross Station. They waved their bicycles, skateboards and scooters above their heads under a massive banner reading "overthrow capitalism and replace it with something nice". The Critical Mass protest moved down Euston Road but came to a standstill outside Euston Station where the group was surrounded by around police.

After being contained for almost an hour, the cyclists became restless, chanting "let us out" and "freedom". But police at the far end of the protest refused to let demonstrators past through their blockade. One of the marchers, Mick Gordon, from Cambridge, said he believed the police actions had led to an escalating feeling of tension among the crowd. They seem to be turning this peaceful process into a potentially dangerous situation by penning people in," he said. A group of protesters handed out free vegeburgers outside the McDonald's restaurant beside Kings Cross station, under banners accusing the fast food chain of exploiting workers, destroying the environment and murdering animals.

He said: "Thousands of people want to just protest without violence and show some kind of statement about what they feel is happening to the planet. At the Royal bank Coutts in the Strand, a group of 80 protesters demonstrated against Third World debt and the banking system. Two hundred people gathered in a peaceful picnic at the Elephant and Castle in south London.

Others fed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square in protest at Mayor Ken Livingstone's decision to ban bird seed sellers from the area. Police in Birmingham made four arrests for public order offences in the city centre during an anti-capitalist protest. Between 30 and 40 demonstrators gathered in the Bull Street area and dispersed after spending about an hour denouncing globalisation. A West Midlands Police spokesman said no damage had been caused to property or businesses during the event and the protesters dispersed.

In Glasgow, a group of around 80 anti-capitalist demonstrators gathered for a demonstration in the busy Buchanan Street area.


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  • They watched as a group of 11 people dressed in colourful costumes and with their faces covered with masks and face paint, banged drums and blew whistles. Around a dozen police officers were gathered at the scene. No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards. Share or comment on this article:. Most watched News videos Bus driver refuses to help disabled passenger off during heated row Russian military professor dancing with student he later killed Sainsbury's: Story of 'Nicholas the Sweep' told in Christmas ad El Chapo's former cartel arrives to lend armed support group CCTV captures man stealing backpack in City of London bar Mesut Ozil robber begs for mercy during brutal prison beating Declan Donnelly tears up at song that was played at dad's funeral Lidl make Christmas one 'you can believe in' for advert Kurdish child asks aid worker to take her from Iraqi refugee camp 'You're going to jail': Cops handcuff man for eating on a platform Rockets launched from Gaza Strip hit busy Israeli highway Horrific crash footage that left student with life-changing injuries.

    Comments 0 Share what you think. Bing Site Web Enter search term: Search. Duchess of Cambridge stumbles on the way to the car after a royal engagement - as Prince William reaches out hand to support her Hollyoaks star Sarah-Jayne Dunn shows off her incredible body transformation as she admits she feared turning 40 Amazing Kim Kardashian demonstrates how to use her new SKIMS body strips Get Me In There!

    Today's headlines Most Read Mayor blames global warming after two die as Venice is hit by 'apocalyptic' floods and suffers its Chilling childhood of incest parents is revealed: Brother and sister jailed for murdering two of their own Kate Middleton's favourite fashion designer Amanda Wakeley is mugged for her watch by axe-wielding moped Boris Johnson surges to a 14 point lead over Labour following Nigel Farage's decision to pull candidates out However, national styles vary.

    Nevertheless, flowers and those other symbols of burgeoning growth, youth, renewal and hope, namely young women, are central. It is no accident that the most universal icons for the occasion, reproduced time and again m a variety of languages, come from Walter Crane — especially the famous young woman in a Phrygian bonnet surrounded by garlands.

    The British socialist movement was small and unimportant. Its May Days, after the first few years, were marginal. The British iconographic influence is not the least evidence for the internationalism of May Day.

    It’s been 500 years since London’s artisans turned a festival into a rampage

    One major consequence of this must be immediately mentioned. Both the visual and the literary sources demonstrate the presence and participation of women in May Day from the start.

    What made it a genuine class display, and incidentally, as in Spain, increasingly attracted workers who were not politically with the socialists, was precisely that it was not confined to men but belonged to families. And in turn, through May Day, women who were not themselves directly in the labour market as wage-workers, that is to say the bulk of married working-class women in a number of countries, were publicly identified with movement and class. If a working life of wage-labour belonged chiefly to men, refusing to work for a day united age and sex in the working-class.

    May Day shared with Christian holidays the aspiration to universality, or, in labour terms, internationalism.

    The story of May Day – How it forms a central part of South African history.

    The numerous May Day broadsheets, often locally produced, which are so valuable a source for the iconography and cultural history of the occasion — different numbers of such ephemera have been preserved for pre-fascist Italy alone — constantly dwell on this. The first May Day journal from Bologna in contains no fewer than four items specifically on the universality of the day. And, of course, the analogy with Easter or Whitsun seemed as obvious as that with the spring celebrations of folk custom.

    One can readily see why. The similarity of the new socialist movement to a religious movement, even, in the first heady years of May Day, to a religious revival movement with messianic expectations was patent.

    May Day 2018 London - May 1

    So, in some ways, was the similarity of the body of early leaders, activists and propagandists to a priesthood, or at least to a body of lay preachers. We have an extraordinary leaflet from Charleroi, Belgium in , which reproduces what can only be described as a May Day sermon: no other word will do.

    A few samples will suggest its mood:. This is the hour of spring and festivity when the perpetual Evolution of nature shines forth in its glory. Like nature, fill yourselves with hope and prepare for The New Life. Soon frontiers will fade away!

    Workers' Day A brief history

    Soon there will be an end to wars and armies! Every time that you practice the socialist virtues of Solidarity and Love, you will bring this future closer. And then, in peace and joy, a world will come into being in which Socialism will triumph, once the social duty of all is properly understood as bringing about the all-round development of each. Yet the point about the new labour movement was not that it was a faith, and one which often echoed the tone and style of religious discourse, but that it was so little influenced by the religious model even in countries where the masses were deeply religious and steeped in church ways.

    Moreover, there was little convergence between the old and the new Faith except sometimes but not always where Protestantism took the form of unofficial and implicitly oppositionist sects rather than Churches, as in England. Socialist labour was a militantly secular, anti-religious movement which converted pious or formerly pious populations en masse. We can also understand why this was so.

    Socialism and the labour movement appealed to men and women for whom, as a novel class conscious of itself as such, there was no proper place in the community of which established Churches, and notably the Catholic Church, were the traditional expression. However, this was unusual. More than this: it was a day on which those who were usually invisible went on public display and, at least for one day, captured the official space of rulers and society.

    In this sense the only relation between May Day and traditional religion was the claim to equal rights. So have the Democrats. The First of May is the Festival of the workers of the entire world. But there was another thing that distanced the movement from religion. As both Scandinavian and Austrian experience shows, socialism often came into the countryside and provincial towns literally with the railways, with those who built and manned them, and with the new ideas and new times they brought.

    It was about nothing but the future, which, unlike a past that had nothing to give to the proletariat except bad memories. The iconography of May Day, which developed its own imagery and symbolism very quickly, is entirely future-oriented. What the future would bring was not at all clear, only that it would be good and that it would inevitably come.

    Fortunately for the success of May Day, at least one way forward to the future turned the occasion into something more than a demonstration and a festival. In electoral democracy was still extremely uncommon in Europe, and the demand for universal suffrage was readily added to that for the eight-hour day and the other May Day slogans. Nevertheless, where applicable, it became an integral part of the occasion and greatly added to its significance. In fact, the practice of organising or threatening general strikes for universal suffrage, which developed with some success in Belgium, Sweden and Austria, and helped to hold party and unions together, grew out of the symbolic work stoppages of May Day.

    The first such strike was started by the Belgian miners on 1 May There were times, as in Italy, when they concentrated on this and left even democracy to others. The great advances of the movement, including its effective championship of democracy, were not based on narrow economic self-interest. Democracy was, of course, central to the socialist labour movements. It was not only essential for its progress but inseparable from it. Its rays carried the slogans of the French Revolution: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, which are found on so many of the early May Day badges and mementoes.

    Eight-Hour Day and Protection for the Workers. That tradition arose with extraordinary rapidity — within two or three years — by means of a curious symbiosis between the slogans of the socialist leaders and their often spontaneous interpretation by militants and rank-and-file workers. It took shape in those first few marvellous years of the sudden flowering of mass labour movements and parties, when every day brought visible growth, when the very existence of such movements, the very assertion of class, seemed a guarantee of future triumph.

    More than this: it seemed a sign of imminent triumph as the gates of the new world swung open before the working class.