Anti – cuts carnival.
In the warm-up for next year’s apocalypse, a shabby steed reflects how the budget cuts have hit even the four horsemen.
After paint bombs explode against Topshop on Oxford Street, police were quick to form a protective wall around the building, refusing entrance even to those in clear need of a tax-free clothing upgrade.
Several police helicopters could be seen overhead all day during the protests, unsettling those not from south-east London, who need the sound of helicopters following a Peckham joyride just to sleep at night.
It wasn’t only buildings that were subject to the odd splash of paint during the demonstrations. These policemen seem unimpressed by the Anarchists’ suggestions on how to improve their colour palette for Spring/Summer 2011.
Things remained fairly jovial still as police mingled with protesters in the early afternoon. There were many journalists and ‘legal observers’ out and about wearing these helmets, the undersized kind that your mum would force you to wear on your board as a kid.
One of the first attempts at a kettle was made by police at Oxford Circus. An angry response from the crowd, however, forced the police back into a kettle of their own.
Anarchist flags could be seen flying throughout the day. Quite literally, in many cases.
The thrusting of an iron railing into the line of cops prompted a furious reaction from one. Mr Coffee Cup, on the other hand, strikes a pose of visceral fear.
As things around Oxford Circus began to hot up, more and more police reinforcements started to trundle into the area, this group forgetting their riot helmets and having to make do with these fetching baby blue numbers.
In fact, baby blue seems to be in for headgear this season folks, ably flaunted here by this youthful gang of urban trendies.
As the main group of Anarchists quickly moved on (a habit which was to prevent them being controlled and kettled throughout the day) the police regrouped to discuss what went wrong, how they could improve and how to get Bill out of the van.
The stench of burning sackcloth filled Oxford Circus as a group of Camberwell artists’ noble equiline accompaniment is given as tribute in an attempt to appease the voracious gods Dave and his sidekick Gideon.
A smirking Dave lives to cut another day as the placard holding him escapes the fire, one of the growing number contributing to the plumes of smoke beginning to rise from central London.
A new march soon picked up, this one following a large soundsystem pulled along by a bike winding through the streets towards Hyde Park. The unplanned route, with the leaders deciding at each junction whether to turn left or right, left the police confused and unable to kettle the swelling numbers. At one stage they resorted to simply following the procession as it veered chaotically towards the park, with bewildered bystanders watching on.
This constantly growing pack left Hyde Park for Trafalgar Square, where they demonstrate their sometimes primal nature as a huge flashmob surges out into the square from behind the National Gallery. The horde descended on Nelson’s Column amidst the smoke of a pink flare. A party was soon thriving at its base as the nomadic soundsystem finally settled. One protester manages to wedge their placard halfway up the column’s mural as people of all ages and backgrounds still file into the square. After a lull, it begins to feel like the renewed focal point of the march.
Members of the crowd straddle one of Nelson’s lions triumphantly as a girl MCs beneath them.
An increasingly chilly evening doesn’t put off the revellers as a carnival atmosphere settles on the square. MCs were not the only entertainment of the night as people could be found cavorting around the area to samba bands and drum groups alike.
‘Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put the Tories on the top! Put the Libdems in the middle and we’ll burn the fucking lot!’ (To the tune of ‘Oh My Darling Clementine’, if you were wondering).
Many of the mainstream media outlets seemed to accept police commander Bob Broadhurst’s claims that the occupants of Trafalgar Square were ‘not protesters but criminals’ in their portrayal of the embers of the march. In fact, the mood in the square was one of peaceful and satisfied minds. It was only when police thought they outnumbered the remaining protesters significantly enough to attempt a kettle that things turned sour. Less than an hour before this there had been children and parents relaxing by bonfires in the square.
After a day in which vast numbers of the public had demonstrated their stance on Gideon Osborne’s ravishing of the public sector with his lecherous kiss of death, fireworks exploding above Trafalgar Square bring proceedings to a defiant end.
words & photos Sam Franklin