May Day Mayhem

Halk Cephesi, Turkish Popular Front at the start of at the annual London May Day march at Clerkenwell Green

At the moment I’m living or wokring in three time zones. The real one, where I’m going out, attending events and taking pictures coming up to the end of July, My London Diary, where I’m stuggling with putting on-line the events of around a month earlier, and here, where I’m reflecting on what I was doing at the end of April.

Ideally, these three clocks should come together, or at least within a few days of each other, and I’ve been struggling hard this last week to try to bring them a little closer together, but, as one former UK Prime Minister once remarked in a rather different context, “Events, Dear Boy, Events…!”

I’m moving on to May, which of course starts for me with May Day. How I used to resent having to work on May 1st, and have a silly day off on the following Monday when I was a full-time teacher. Now as a freelance I go out and work all day, but it is at events celebrating May Day.

Redhack at Clerkenwell Green

May Day starts at the civilised time of noon in Clerkenwell Green, which is then pretty red (and there isn’t much green anyway at other times, merely a slightly desolate area with traffic running through it and disused public lavatories) with the flags and uniforms of various socialist and communist groups, particularly from London’s Turkish and Kurdish communities.

PCS wait near the exit from Clerkenwell Green for the march to start

Also present are various trade union branches at the front of the march with their banners and lurking towards the back some lively anti-capitalist and anarchist groups.

The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) on the march with Stalin

And there are a few of the usual banners with large portraits of Stalin, that always make me shudder a little – and he also appears rather smaller in the communist pantheons that adorn some of the other banners in the procession.

Class War make their way through traffic on the wrong side of the road

The march itself, generally a rather sedate parade along one side of the road, was enlivened by the anarchists, who decided to march along the other side where traffic was still flowing with their banners ‘Democracy is Dead‘ and ‘Rise. Riot. Revolt!‘ as well as Class War’s ‘Lucy Parsons‘ banner, all of which led to a little friction with the police – and to one of the marchers producing a banner out of her bag with an rather terse response.

Striking National Gallery workers pose in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square

The rally in Trafalgar Square tends to the tedious, and there was a little of that, but with a long-running industrial dispute over privatisation taking place at the National Gallery overlooking the square, there was at least something of interest.

Education activists with flares on Tower Bridge where they have stopped traffic

I had to leave before the end of the rally, to cover an unadvertised event by Class War and other anti-capitalist protesters, who hoped to block several of London’s Bridges in a coordinated protest over housing & education cuts. In the end, only the protest on Tower Bridge that I was photographing took place.

‘Reclaim the Beats’ May Day party outside ‘Poor Doors’

Class War had their own event an hour or so later, an “epic street party” outside One Commercial Street, a May Day Party at ‘Poor Doors’, or rather outside the door only the rich are allowed to use to the flats in this tower block.

By the time the party decided to take to the streets and march back to Tower Bridge for another protest I’d had enough and took the tube on my way home. I’d been on my feet and taking pictures for too long and needed to rest.

More about the May Day events and more pictures:

May Day march against austerity and racism
May Day Rally supports National Gallery
Anti-Capitalists block Tower Bridge
‘Reclaim the Beats’ at ‘Poor Doors’


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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