Posts Tagged ‘May Day March’

More From May Days: 2019

Friday, May 15th, 2020

2019 was a rather disappointing May Day for me in terms of the number of events I photographed, and I only covered the annual May Day March from Clerkenwell Green.

Before the march began there were several speeches outside the Marx Memorial Library. This year was the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar when British troops opened fire on a peaceful protest, killing at least 379 people and injuring many others. A speaker from the Indian Workers Association talked about the massacre and called for the UK to fully apologise. It seems to me surprising that Labour governments have never made an apology for this appalling incident, but it seemed rather unlikely that our current Conservative government would have any thought of doing so.

Our government too was heavily involved in the seizure of power in Venezuela by Juan Guaidó, actively supporting his coup attempt and siding with the USA in forcing companies to impose sanctions and preventing the Bank of England releasing Venezuelan gold to the legitimate government, while urging it to grant Guaidó access to the £1.2bn of Venezuelan gold reserves. He came to London for talks in January this year and it has now emerged that the Foreign & Commonwealth office has a specialist unit dedicated to the ‘reconstruction’ of Venezuela, and that the Department for International Development has also pledged some £40m of ‘humanitarian assistance’ for undisclosed activities – perhaps including the recent failed US-backed landing by mercenaries on May 3rd intending to kidnap President Maduro. May Day 2019 saw a defiant speech by the Venezuelan ambassador to the UK defending Maduro and calling on the UK government to defend the legitimate government of Venezuela rather than attempt to undermine it.

As usual I photographed the marchers on their way to Traflagar Square, including a lively group representing the English Collective of Prostitutes calling for changes in the law to keep all women safe and for workers rights for sex workers.

Unwelcome on the march were a pair of women holding a banner against trans women, and I understand they were later forced to leave.

I decided I couldn’t face another Trafalgar Square May Day rally and left. The weather was fine and I went for a walk and to eat my sandwiches by the river in Wapping, where I was to meet with some friends for a May Day celebratory drink later.

Wapping and the Thames
London May Day Banners
London May Day


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


More From May Days: 2017

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Class War put in a strong presence at Clerkenwell Green both with banners and with a newspaper, rather more interesting than many left-wing publications. Numbers of marchers were down after the previous year’s Corbyn-inspired peak, with the usual representation of communist groups from London’s immigrant communities, various left groups and trade unionists with banners. There were perhaps rather more from the trade unions and left as this march was also celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution.

As usual when the march began I tried to photograph as many of the banners as I could as they came down the road, and there is a large selection of them on My London Diary. Although there were a few anarchist groups on the march I wasn’t surprised that Class War, always dismissive of A to B marches, had stayed behind and were now in the pub, where I joined them.

The plan had been for them to make their way by tube to Trafalgar Square, but it’s always difficult to leave a good pub, and by the time a small group had dragged themselves out carrying a rolled up banner they were running rather late. The journey took rather longer than I expected, as having been in the pub they decided on a route via Baker St, one of the few Underground stations with a public toilet, and by the time we arrived in Trafalgar Square the rally was rather past its peak, though I was pleased to be able to photograph Mark Serwotka speaking.

People were meeting in the Leake Street graffiti tunnel under Waterloo Station for the May Day F**k Parade, and I was pleased to find some familiar faces among the crowd. There isn’t a huge amount of light in the tunnel, and I was mainly working at shutter speeds of around 1/25s or a little faster, and quite a few pictures were blurred by people moving. I took a few using flash, but couldn’t really get what I wanted with it.

I was pleased when the parade moved off and there was more light. People were celebrating and there was a good atmosphere, at least until it got to Waterloo Bridge. Here’s my description from My London Diary for what happened there:

“On the bridge a black-clad protester set off another flare, and I heard a police officer shout ‘Let’s go and get him’ or something similar. I was pushed to one side as police rushed past me and a crowd of them surrounded a protester and grabbed him, throwing him to the ground.

The mood of the crowd changed instantly and some tried to grab their friend back, but police piled into them, some clearly enjoying the opportunity of a little rough handling of the public. Fortunately no one seemed badly injured.

As usual police tried to hide what they were doing to the man on the floor, standing around him to try to stop people seeing and photographing. There did seem to be some excessive use of force and the usual unnecessary painful forcing of his arms up behind his back as he was led away.

I was surprised by this sudden use of force against people who had really been causing no harm. There seemed to be no good reason for it, and it rather seemed as if the police simply wanted a bit of action and perhaps to intimidate the protesters who included a number of young children. And perhaps the fact that there were few if any other people on the bridge meant they felt they could get tough with the parade.

May Day F**k Parade

There had been a number of flares set off earlier – and more later in the event – which police seemed to ignore, so it was hard to see why they decided to act on this occasion.

Eventually the parade moved on across the bridge and then up through Covent Garden Market (with more flares) and then on to Leicester Square. By now the light was fading and so were my legs, and I left for home.

May Day F**k Parade
May Day F**k Parade Meets
May Day Rally
May Day March
May Day March Gathers


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


More from May Days: 2015

Monday, May 11th, 2020

My May Day started as usual with the march from Clerkenwell Green, dominated visually by members of the Turkish and Kurdish communities and with the usual mix of trade unionists and left-wing groups, perhaps even more international in nature than in previous years.

The march to Trafalgar Square was made a little livelier than usual by the presence of Class War and other anarchist and anti-capitalist protesters, some of whom took over the whole of the road rather than keep to one carriageway. Police tried hard to control them and made at least one arrest, which led to some scuffles.

One issue that dominated the rally in Trafalgar Square was the strike against privatisation at the National Gallery which overlooks the square, and in particular the victimisation by the management of Candy Udwin, the PCS rep there.

Later in the afternoon anti-capitalist protesters met up at Tower Hill, and led by lass War and their Lucy Parsons banner went on to block Tower Bridge this afternoon and blocked traffic, calling for social housing rather than social cleansing for Londoners and an end to cuts in foundation courses and other aspects of education. It was a lively event, and I left them when they marched off along Tooley St past London Bridge to protest in Westminster.

I walked back across Tower Bridge and on to Aldgate where Class War were organising their ‘Reclaim the Beats’ “epic street party” outside the tower block where they had held around 30 weekly ‘Poor Doors’ protests against the separate entrance down a side alley for the social housing tenants in the block.

A huge cheer went up as they unfurled a new banner showing leading politicians with the message “All Fucking Wankers”, a replacement for that seized by police at an earlier protest. Although it had later been judged to be an acceptable political comment, the police contrived to lose it rather than face the indignity of returning it to Class War.

A few minutes later a mobile sound system in the form of a small house on wheels with ‘Affordable Housing’ across its roof and the party really kicked off. After a few minutes people moved out to block the main road and then to march off to protest at Tower Bridge and in Bermondsey. I was too tired to go with them and instead went down the stairs into Aldgate East tube.

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


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


More from May Days: 2012

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

The 2012 march lived up to its billing in bringing together “trade unionists, workers from the many international communities in London, pensioners, anti-globalisation organisations, students, political bodies and many others ” to march through London, and was perhaps even more varied than in previous years.

There were the usual large groups of Turkish and Kurdish socialists and others from around the world, and on My London Diary I wrote:

Among the various key issues for workers raised by this year’s march were the attacks on pensions and other cuts, the closure of one third of Remploy factories with the loss of jobs by more than 1500 disabled people, and the workfare scheme which is being used to compel the unemployed to give free labour to companies or lose their job-seekers allowance, leading to less paid jobs being available.

London May Day March

At the back of the march were several hundred autonomous bloc protesters who stopped to protest on the Strand outside some of the shops using free labour or avoiding paying taxes, including branches of McDonalds, Greggs, Topshop and Pizza Hut. They had been accompanies and harassed on the march by a large group of police, and when they stopped to protest there were minor scuffles and several arrests. Occupy protesters put up several tents when the marchers reached Trafalgar Square, and were forced by police to remove them.

Samantha Rigg speaks about the killing by police of her brother Sean

Outside the IPCC offices on the Strand, Campaign 4 Justice and Merlin Emmanuel, Smiley Culture’s nephew had organised a rally against the corruption of the IPCC which was set up to replace the previous corrupt Police Complaints Authority. The IPCC is dominated by former police officers and they called for a citizen-led body that has proper powers and true independence from the police.

After the rally in Trafalgar Square, London Solidarity Federations and Occupy London led a crowd of several hundred to protest outside various branches of shops which were taking part in Workfare schemes. I joined them on Oxford St, where there were a series of minor skirmishes with police who tried to prevent them entering the shops. The protesters finally returned to Charing Cross police station and the Strand, and suddenly the police went off shift and disappeared.

The protesters held a discussion, undecided about how to proceed without their opposition, and some, led by Occupy London, decided to head for the City with the ‘Reclaim May Day‘ maypole, stopping on the way for a very short protest at the Royal Courts of Justice.

A van of City of London Police came to take a brief look at them before driving away, and they made their way to the Stock Exchange unescorted. After posing for pictures they then occupied the entrance to the closed Stock Exchange and were soon joined by a handful of police officers.

People were beginning to party in the square and it looked as if little was likely to happen, so I left for home. Eventually the protest here ended around 11pm.

Stock Exchange Occupied
May Day Workfare Protest
Abolish The Corrupt IPCC
London May Day March


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


More from May Days: 2011

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

May Day 2011 was a Sunday which helped swell the numbers gathering at Clerkenwell Green, though perhaps the trade union groups were rather less numerous than usual. But of course the usual communist and socialist groups were there, and the CPGB-ML with their large image of Stalin and a banner with a quote from him with letters picked out in yellow to spell ‘resist’ along with the word revolution.

A new group in this year’s march was ‘Justice for Domestic Workers‘ (J4DW), a self-help group for migrant domestic workers and part of the hotel, restaurant and catering branch of the Unite the union. They were using the event to launch a new petition urging the UK government to change its position and endorse the 2011 ILO convention on Domestic Workers. The UK joined the ILO in 1919, but since the Tories came to power in 2010 have only ratified conventions on Maritime Labour and Fishing.

There was a large group from the Latin American Workers’ Association, calling for justice for refugees and asylum seekers, with the message ‘No-One Is Illegal’ carried by two of their younger supporters.

As in previous years there was a very strong representation of nationalist communist groups from London’s Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot communities as well as a large group of Sri Lankan Tamils calling for the war criminals from Sri Lanka to be taken to the International Criminal Court and asking why the UN and NATO had not intervened when their community in Sri Lanka was facing massacre.

I followed the march a short distance, stopping to photograph until the end of the march had gone passed me, then decided to go home rather than continue to the rally in Trafalgar Square.

London May Day March


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


More from May Days: 2010

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

Perhaps because in 2010 May Day was a Saturday and an election was coming up in five days time there were more things than usual happening as well as the usual Trade Union & Socialist May Day March from Clerkenwell Green. This had its usual mix of communist and socialist groups from London’s various communities along with trade unions, campaign groups and others but with a strong anarchist bloc, including the Black Horse of Anarchy and an executioner.

Among the trade union groups were the National Union of Sex Workers.

While the official TUC rally took place in Trafalgar Square I joined the May Day ElectionCarnival in Parliament Square. There the Black Horse of Anarchy which had marched from Clerkenwell with an effigy of Nick Griffin was joined by the three other Horses of the Apocalypse which had made shorter journeys from the Westminster campaign headquarters of the three political parties, bringing with them effigies of Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

There was an extremely crowded and rather confused series of executions with plenty of gore, not easy to photograph, though I took rather a lot of pictures.

The sky turned black but the storm held off for the heads of class traitors to be exhibited on poles

and the Space Hijackers to finally arrive with their ‘Spoil Your Vote Campaign Bus‘, which had been touring London. Their message was clear:

“If voting actually changed anything they would ban it. Did you get to vote on the Iraq war? Did you get to vote about regulations on banking? Did you get to vote on MP’s expenses? Is this a democracy or a bad joke?

Why play by the rules in this farce of an election?

Every spoilt ballot gets counted and shown to the candidates in that constituency, so why not reject the lot of them and tell them what you think with your ballot paper?”

Rhythms of Resistance had made their way from Parliament Square to the Leake Street graffiti tunnel, where the Rave Against The Machine continued in the dry as the storm broke overhead.

Rave Against The Machine
Spoil Your Vote Campaign Bus
May Day Election Carnival
Trade Union & Socialist May Day March


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


More from May Days: 2008

Monday, May 4th, 2020

Continuing my short series of posts about previous May Day celebrations in London that I photographed.

I photographed them after they had photographed me

As usual the London May Day committee had organised a march from Clerkenwell Square and my day started with police photographing me as I arrived to photograph the event. As I commented:

It’s hard to see any real point in this other than a kind of mild intimidation of journalists and difficult not to regard it as an attack on free speech and the freedom of the press. Definitely a distortion of the role of the police in a free society, it is also one that distracts them from the vital tasks they have at the present time.

TUC May Day March

Numbers on the march were lower than in previous years, perhaps because it was also a day when elections were taking place in London, and the weather probably didn’t help. But there were those with trade union banners, including the sacked Gate Gourmet workers. As usual there were large groups of marchers from the Turkish and Kurdish communities, and I particularly liked the picture at the top of this post, but there are many more of them on My London Diary.

Many accounts of May Day write about its origins with the The Second International calling for a commemoration of the Haymarket Martyrs as an international workers day, but seldom mention its special significance for the Turkish groups:

For Turkish groups, the day also commemorates the 1977 Taksim Square massacre, when around 40 people in a crowd of around half a million celebrating May Day were killed and around 200 injured by firing from the Hotel International. None of those responsible has been brought to justice but both Turkish secret police and CIA have been implicated. At least at the moment our own police are only using cameras.

As the marchers left Clerkenwell on their way to Trafalgar Square I made my way to one of my least favourite areas of London, Mayfair, where the Space Hijackers had announced a celebration, a recreation of the Mayfayres which gave the area its name and were banned in  1708 because of their boisterous disorder.

Camilla and Boris took turns in the stocks

They had made their plans after Police Commander Bob Broadhurst had attempted to justify the very different policing of pro-Tibet and pro-Chinese protesters during the Olympic Torch debacle in London by claiming the pro-China group were not restricted because they were celebrating rather than protesting. As I commented in 2008 on My London Diary:

As their various events over the years have shown, the Space Hijackers do a rather ace job of celebrating, although they haven’t always had the same cooperation from the police as those upholding human rights abuse by China – or even football supporters. For this year’s May Fayre, police even supplied a comprehensive photographic service, although the price (I believe £10) of obtaining your pictures from them by a Freedom of Information request seems rather high, especially considering the poor quality of results I’ve seen. As I think my pictures demonstrate, it’s often better to use a wide-angle rather than the extreme telephoto “peeping toms” favoured by police photographers.

They were also seen searching a few people, possibly to enforce the fancy dress code, but otherwise just seemed to be standing around the area – particularly across the access roads – and carrying out a useful role in preventing traffic from disrupting the festivities while letting those on foot walk in and out as they wished.


It was a fun event, and even some of the police appeared to enjoy it (and the overtime they were getting for watching what was an entirely peaceful and well-organised event – even if they maypole dancing could have done with more practice) though as in the morning we were all getting extensively and obtrusively photographed. I’ve often wondered what they do with all these images, but they are rather secretive and embarrassed about them. Despite having photographed me many times on numerous occasions, on the only time I bothered to make a Freedom of Information request and paid my £10 they were unable to find a single picture.

Mayfair Mayfayre – Space Hijackers
TUC May Day March


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.



More from May Days: 2009

Monday, May 4th, 2020

Another year, another May Day. 2009 was just a little different with more happening at Clerkenwell Green than usual, though some things remained the same. Although in my very early years Stalin was known through our press as ‘Uncle Joe’ and it was certainly the case that it was the Russian Army that played the major role in the defeat of Hitler, it does seem to me somehow obscene to be continuing a cult of his personality with what we now know about him.

As always the Turkish and Kurdish community were out in force – here the KGÖ (Komünist Gençlik Örgütü), the youth wing of the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (Turkey) MLKP.

Unusually there was a maypole, brought and erected by Chris Knight and others from G20 Meltdown, and a few people tried to dance around it.

There were the usual collection of trade union banners, with pride of place going to a couple carried by Ford workers following the Visteon dispute, as well as various other left-wing groups from the UK and abroad.

As in previous years the rally at Trafalgar Square failed to acknowledge the predominant presence of various minority communities on the march and was dominated by speakers from the large unions and Labour party. The star of the event was undoubtedly Tony Benn. At his left a Tamil holds a placard with a picture of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who was killed in an ambush by Sri Lankan government forces only a few days later on May 18.

Earlier there had been heated arguments on the march against the participation by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), a Sinhalese communist and Marxist–Leninist party which is a part of the government oppressing and fighting the Tamils.

More at May Day March & Rally


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


May Day banners

Saturday, August 31st, 2019
The main banner for the march

After photographing some of the marchers as they left Clerkenwell Green I rushed ahead and photographed the whole march as it came up to Farringdon Road and continued on its way towards Trafalgar Square.

I tried hard to photograph all of the banners that were being carried, and have put most of these pictures on My London Diary. I think I missed a few, particularly where some of the large trade union banners obscured others, and there were a few pictures I rejected for technical or aesthetic reasons. But it is a measure of the rather smaller scale of this year’s march that I was able to record almost all of it in a little over 40 images.

Sri Lanka People’s Liberation Front
Turkish MLKP banner
Kashmir JK NAP UK
Day-Mer Women Organisation
English Collective of Prostitutes and Women Against Rape
Communist Party of Greece

When the end of the march had passed me, I walked down to the tube. I had decided against going to the rally in Trafalgar Square, and I suspect that as in previous years most of the marchers would quickly melt away after they had reached the destination. There would still be an audience, though not a huge one and made up more of British trade unionists and socialists than the march.

In previous years the rally has largely failed to represent the cosmopolitan nature of the march, and I had no reason to feel this year would be any different. I went to celebrate May Day with a group of friends in a pub in Wapping, intending to return in the evening for another event in central London. But our celebrations went well and somehow I missed it.

More London May Day Banners on My London Diary.


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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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