Everything Is Just Dandy!

“It’s your world too, you can do what you want”: the role of subcultural activism in stop the city protests (1983-1984) and its implications for political protest in Britain’

libcom.org
Anonymous
2022-10-16
https://libcom.org/article/its-your-world-too-you-can-do-what-you-want-role-subcultural-activism-stop-city-protests

This article explores the role of subcultural activism in the Stop the City
Protests (STC), 1983 and 1984, and its connection to the radical social changes
of the 1960s-70s. It highlights the significance of STC in the history of
political protest in the UK, exploring both its influences and legacy, while demonstrating
the shifting State response to protest and direct action in the 1980s.

The STC protests were initiated by the anarchist, anti-militarist and
environmentalist collective London Greenpeace (which predated the international
Greenpeace organisation) as well as other anarchist and peace groups and young,
unaffiliated punks who shared a common, largely pacifist, outlook. Evolving
from the direct action strand of activism within the peace movement, the
protests were organised outside the overarching body of the Campaign for
Nuclear Disarmament (CND), who in turn advised their members to have nothing to
do with the protests.
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While associated actions took place across the country,
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this article focuses on the protests that took place on Sept 29th 29
March 1983th 31 May 1984st 1984 and 27 September 1984 in
the City of London. The actions at the second, and most effective, STC led to
an estimated £100 million in losses overnight.
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The protests ostensibly formed a ‘Carnival against War, Oppression and
Destruction’, but they also specifically targeted capitalism through the use of
direct action tactics to close down London’s financial centre.

One key intervention this article makes is to show how the STC protests
provide a testing ground for the State’s approach to protest and cultural
difference during the Thatcher era. Over the course of the protests, the police
response shifted from tolerance to the stringent curtailment of the protestors’
rights and liberties through mass, at times violent, arrest. This provided a
model for new, more brutal forms of policing, which accompanied the concerted
strategy to destroy the striking miners and peace convoy in the ensuing years.
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Key to the source material is a series of documents released by London
Greenpeace for a Conference Against Police Repression held in Haringey in
September 1985. These documents included a confidential Police Briefing report
issued to officers in the run-up to STC2 that had been obtained by activists.
The documents were compiled by Dave Morris, who would later receive national
attention as one of the defendants in the ‘McLibel’ case. Alongside eyewitness
and police reports, research of a substantial collection of anarcho-punk
fanzines and record graphics (1983–84), as well as newsletters, leaflets and other
ephemera, is used to evidence the values and beliefs held within the social
milieu of many of the protestors. The research uses a ‘ground up’ approach to
develop understanding of the relationship between formal protest and
subcultures. In this respect, it builds on a growing body of work by scholars
who use ephemeral sources to develop understanding of grassroots movements.
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This article builds on recent work that contests the notion that
Thatcherism/neoliberalism was the grand narrative behind all social and
cultural change in the 1980s. While acknowledging that Thatcherism constituted
a ‘crisis’ for the left, recent work has also examined how social change during
the 1980s was a product of the radicalism and left wing politics of the
preceding decades, the latter of which had shifted from class to other areas of
interest.
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This process began in the late 1980s, when Stuart Hall began re-evaluating his
earlier assertion that Thatcherism had become all-determining in a negative
sense.
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His renowned New Times essay collection (published in Marxism Today,
1988, co-edited by Martin Jacques) provided an attempt from Marxist
perspectives to de-centre Thatcherism as the hegemonic neo-liberal
project of the era, instead relating it to wider social, economic and political
trajectories. Stephen Brooke’s article ‘Living in “New Times”’, (2014) built on
this, warning historians against an overreliance on the politics of Thatcher
and her government in writing on the 1980s, instead advocating they explore
wider trajectories and developments away from parliamentary politics. The
collection of papers in New Times Revisited: Britain in the 1980s, in the academic
journal, Contemporary British History (Volume 31/Issue 2, 2017) used the
New Times essays as the basis for re-examining the history of this era beyond
the icon of Thatcher and the neo-liberal project. The STC protests provide an
ideal case study for investigating the vital yet overlooked role of subcultures
in this endeavour.

Continuity and change in the history of protest

The STC protestors continued a lineage of spontaneous and direct action
protest that had emerged within certain, youthful demographics, during the
post-war decades. The central tenets of their countercultural and early punk
predecessors, chiefly that rationalism and dogmatic religious and political
beliefs and allegiances led to the horrors of the Second World War, was
reiterated through the rhetoric of the protestors. The protests took place in
the context of the resurgence of Cold War animosity between the US and the
Soviet Union, with the UK playing a supporting role. There was also the revival
of militarism, patriotism, and State authoritarianism under the Thatcher
administration. However, unlike this earlier radicalism that was facilitated by
a situation of relative affluence
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and the post-war settlement, the perspectives of many of the young protestors
at STC were to some extent symptomatic of the erosion of these supports through
the programmes of the New Right government.

While movements such as the counterculture and punk are often read or
presumed to be liberal and affiliated with left wing politics, the reality was
less easily defined. The counterculture had sexist and misogynist aspects,
whereas the politics of punk is more complex than is claimed by the left wing,
progressive narrative engendered by bands such as The Clash and movements such
as Rock Against Racism (RAR), which was closely affiliated with the Socialist
Workers Party (SWP).
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Punk fragmented into various subgenres following the perceived death of its
first wave (1976–78). The sub-genre of anarcho-punk, initiated by the band
Crass (1978–84), sought to revive the grassroots potential of punk, allied with
a politicised anarchistic philosophy. While the anarcho-punk protestors at STC
were blatantly opposed to the Thatcher government, they also rejected an
association with far-left organisations such as the Socialist Workers Party
(SWP), as this scathing excerpt from the fanzine, Children of the Revolution,
Anti-Apathy, Issue 6, 1984, shows,

DEMOCRACY IS A FARCE! THE SNAKE CRAWLS UP ITS OWN ARSE

Pogo on a Nazi-join the SWP- ‘Rock Against Racism’-yeah, right-Black and white,
unite and fight! Yeah, we’ll show them now that we’ve got the SWP to tell us
what to do. Punks ‘n’ Teds, Natty Dreads, smash the front and join the Reds!
Ha, ha, but with a bitter bite … Some of us went to quite a few meetings,
bought quite a few rags and then saw through the patronizing crap to the real
motives: increasing the following to their pathetic and irrelevant little
party.

Many of the protestors also defined themselves in opposition to the
mainstream, progressive left, as embodied in CND. The 1980s saw CND receive a
new lease of life in the context of the re-emergence of the Cold War under
Reagan and Thatcher, but the youthful subcultural participants in STC wanted to
pursue a more direct and spontaneous form of protest. The antipathy they reflected
was not new, however, but stretched back to the inception of the movement. As
Jodi Burkett shows in ‘Direct Action and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament,
1958–62’, 2009, while CND emerged with the message that mass public pressure
was the way to make the British government adopt unilateral nuclear
disarmament, contemporaneous groups, such as The Direct Action Committee (DAC)
[1957–61] and the Committee of 100 (C100) [1960], believed they had to be
forced into it by more direct means.

Several high profile anarchists were instrumental to these break away
branches, which carried out various non-violent, direct action protests. These
included Nicholas Hardy Walter (1934–2000), who together with his wife Ruth
Hardy, and other C100 members formed the covert, anti-war, direct action cell,
Spies for Peace.
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Similarly, the anarchist and pacifist Alex Comfort (1920–2000), best known for
his progressive sex manual, The Joy of Sex (1972), was a member of the
DAC. Anarchists, who had a considerable impact within the peace movement
(despite being small in numbers), reconceptualised direct action as
non-violent, as part of a wider pacifist reorientation of protest during the
1950s-60s.
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The birth of CND coincided with the emergence of the New Left, and the
attendant radical shift in left wing thinking, in the wake of the Hungarian
revolution and revelations about the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. Frank
Parkin’s book, Middle Class Radicalism (1968) showed how the
intellectual currents within the New Left were instrumental to shaping CND.
However, Burkett argues that the direct action activism that characterised the
radical left (indebted to these same ideas) was fundamentally at odds with the
rigid hierarchical structure and emphasis on creating a mass movement that
characterised CND.
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Indeed, the counterculture and radical political groups of the 1960s-70s were
littered with disaffected ex members of CND looking for a more libertarian
social milieu. Prominent examples include Jeff Nuttall (self-published My
Own Mag
and helped to found International Times), David Widgery
(writer/editor on Oz), Barry Miles (editor of International Times
and co-owner of Indica Gallery), John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins (International Times
co-founder), David Zane Mairowitz (founding editor of International Times)
and Tom McGrath (editor of Peace News and International Times).
Nuttall argued that the ineffectiveness of CND, indicated by the political
establishment’s lack of response to the vast Aldermaston marches (in 1958, 1959
and 1963, which drew 10,000, 20,000 and 100,000 marchers respectively), was a
decisive factor in how protest would change in subsequent decades.
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There were also tensions regarding the role of women within CND, something
that was also reflected in the counterculture.
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Despite the high number of women in prominent roles in peace campaigns during
the 1950s, they were subsequently sidelined within the CND hierarchy.
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Feminism provided a more viable outlet for women who were disaffected with
various progressive, left political movements and the counterculture.
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In the late 1970s a strand developed within the Women’s Liberation Movement
(WLM) that was of particular relevance to STC. Anarcha-feminism voiced
opposition to the movement’s mainstream direction, both in terms of the state
sanctioned equality sought by socialist-feminists, and the individualistic goal
of attaining positions of power within a capitalist hierarchy. Instead, the aim
for anarcha-feminists was radical autonomy. They sought a return to the
grassroots, leaderless structures and devolved organisation which they believed
had characterised the early manifestation of second wave feminism.
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It was developed in the wake of the well-documented acrimony that characterised
the 1978 WLM National Conference, which was presented as signalling the
fragmentation of the movement.
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It should be noted, however, that recent scholarship has questioned the
supposed egalitarian composition of early second wave feminism. In Britain, the
dominance and construction of the movement’s narrative by white, middle-class
women with a socialist underpinning, has been argued to have had a silencing
effect on divergent voices. Eva Setch and Jeska Rees have demonstrated how
socialist feminism was privileged over radical/revolutionary feminism within
the movement and in available literature,
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while Natalie Thomlinson has shown that while the WLM engaged with and
supported anti-racist and anti-imperialist causes, it also inadvertently re-inscribed
white dominance/power.
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However naïve the anarcha-feminist position was in this sense, it would have a
substantial impact on the peace movement through its manifestation at Greenham
Common.
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The late 1970s had seen a large, decentralised movement with a strong
commitment to non-violent direct action grow up in opposition to nuclear power,
and in particular the construction of a new power station at Torness in
Scotland.
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The Greenham Common protest followed this; but was specifically pitted against
the Thatcher government’s decision in 1981 to allow the United States to
station missiles in Britain. The women who marched from Wales to the site in
Berkshire and set up a camp (which became women only) organised their
anti-nuclear campaign independently from the overall body of CND. They deployed
improvised and courageous direct action tactics without recourse to any
hierarchical body, building on the trend seen in political protest during the
preceding decade. By the early 1980s, the feminist ideas and praxis at Greenham
Common and the independent, DIY culture and aggression of punk had been
incorporated into the direct action strand of the peace movement, and this
symbiosis found its ultimate expression at STC.

As well has having a lineage with anarcha-feminism and the direct action
strand of the anti-nuclear and peace movements, the anarcho-punk protestors at
STC were also connected to their countercultural predecessors through the free
festivals movement, which gathered pace during the 1970s. George McKay (
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has observed that free festivals provided the link from the counterculture to
punk and the peace convoy in Britain, noting this provided a continuum with
‘cultures of resistance’ during this period. While the peace convoy (which came
about when a group of travellers went from Stonehenge to the protests at
Greenham Common) opted for life on the road, living in mobile homes and
vehicles, or makeshift structures such as benders and tipis and establishing
sites in largely rural locations, their counterpart in the cities—termed
anarchist, peace or Crass punks at the time, or anarcho-punks
retrospectively—often lived in squats, which likewise enabled them to live
communally and to fuse their life choices with their politics.
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Life choices that featured prominently in both social milieus included the
rejection of conventional work, political parties and organised religion (there
were some esoteric, neopagan and new age spiritual elements), setting up
co-operatives for work/social/political reasons,
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vegetarianism/veganism and a wider concern with animal rights.

Penny Rimbaud, the drummer and co-founder of Crass, was involved in founding
and organising the Stonehenge Festival (1974–75). Gee Vaucher, who later
provided the distinct visual aesthetic for Crass, designed flyers for the
event, which was organised from their Essex commune, Dial House. Older members
of Crass including Rimbaud, Vaucher and singer/songwriter Eve Libertine (aka
Bronwyn Lloyd Jones) introduced the positive life choices associated with the
counterculture into the more aggressive milieu of punk. Along similar lines,
Poison Girls’ lyricist, singer and front woman, Vi Subversa, and drummer, Lance
d’Boyle, who worked extensively with Crass during their early years, were
grounded in the radicalism of the previous decades, and brought their feminist,
anarchist and pacifist leanings into their output.
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There is also an anarchist lineage between the proponents of free festivals,
including Mick Farren (Phun City), Ubi Dwyer (Windsor Free) and Wally Hope
(Stonehenge), and this later manifestation of anarchism.

Crass and the bands that comprised the anarcho-punk genre produced records,
fanzines and publications independently, as this allowed them to express
themselves without compromise, while it was also promoted in a political sense
as resistance to the capitalist mode of production. This stood in stark
contrast, and partly in response to, the dominant cultural changes of the era,
which entailed a shift away from the radicalism of the 1970s with its emphasis
on culture created by and for ‘the people’ towards the domination of culture by
corporations.
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This shift coincided with CND vastly increasing their national membership
again, from a low of 4,267 in 1979 to 90,000 by 1984, while their demonstration
in 1981 drew over 250,000 people. This was in part achieved by a deliberate
appeal to a young demographic, through alliances with high profile and credible
bands and performers including Paul Weller, Billy Bragg, the Pop Group, Killing
Joke and Madness. CND further extended its reach through collaborating with the
Glastonbury Festival. In many ways the story of Glastonbury, which charged
entry for the first time in 1979, mirrors that of CND in its headlong charge
towards the mainstream. Glastonbury became a vast, lucrative enterprise in the
ensuing decades, prompting many within anarcho-punk and peace convoy circles to
perceive it to have ‘sold out’ on its original, free festival principles.

This change was mirrored in the relationship of anarcho-punk to CND. In the
early 1980s, participants in the youth subculture still supported and engaged
with CND. Anarcho-punk bands took part in tours organised by CND, and Crass
handed out CND leaflets at their gigs. Indeed, early anarcho-punk record
releases and fanzines were littered with CND symbols alongside ones signifying
anarchy and peace, while opposition to war, the arms race and nuclear weapons
featured prominently in lyrics. However, while anarcho-punk bands and fanzines
were broadly supportive of the aims of CND, they often contested its
hierarchical structure, tactics and philosophical underpinnings.
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As with their countercultural predecessors, scene participants increasingly
questioned CND’s strategy of trying to change governmental policy, believing
government itself to be inherently violent. In stark contrast to CND’s
continued faith in democratic processes, anarcho-punk expressed both fear and
futility in the face of mainstream politics. Steve Lake from Zounds recounts,
‘I learnt how the State kept people in check through a combination of tacit
consent and fear, mostly fear. Fear of war, fear of terrorism, fear of the
lights going out, fear of “the other”’.
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While anarcho-punk shared a critique of war and the arms race with CND, its
tone was more vehement, directed against the power structures, above all
government, that fostered it. Crass played a key role in promoting this critique,
through their music and the visual and written material accompanying their
record releases. Powerful tracks by other bands that resonated with their
audiences included No Doves Fly Here by The Mob (7”, Crass Records, 1981) and
Fear by Zounds (on the album, Curse of Zounds, Rough Trade, 1981). Crass gigs
featured film footage and installations by Gee Vaucher and Mike Duffield that
communicated the horror of war and the nuclear threat visually, alongside their
live performances.
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This anti-war preoccupation was reiterated in the vehement, anti-Thatcher
rhetoric that flourished in anarcho-punk culture via music, design language and
fanzine discourse (see
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1).
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Figure 1. Acts of
Defiance, #6, 1983, 31.

 


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The stop the city protests

The build up to the first Stop the City protest saw mass unemployment and
rising social disenfranchisement among the young. Unemployment topped three
million (one in seven people) in 1982—a figure not seen in Britain since the
depression of the 1930s.
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A Thatcherite individualist ethos stigmatised unemployed people as inadequate,
rather than a by-product of circumstances that were largely created by
government strategists and policy makers, and which disproportionately affected
the young and the working class.
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These factors, combined with racism and unjust policing, were considered to
have instigated the inner city riots in Brixton and Toxteth (1981), which then
sparked uprisings throughout the UK.
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There was also a resurgence of patriotism and militarism, leading to what some
saw as the unnecessary loss of life during the Falklands War (1982). Thatcher
was re-elected in June, 1983, on the back of this popular war, with the
Conservatives winning a landslide victory, significantly increasing their
majority from 1979.
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This was spun as a crushing rejection of Labour’s leftist and anti-nuclear
stance under Michael Foot (one of the founders of CND). However, opinion polls
from the time showed that a majority of British people were against nuclear
weapons and the siting of nuclear bases in Britain.
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A poll conducted by the Opinion Research Centre in 1982, for instance, showed
that 63% of people objected to the government’s decision to purchase Trident
II, while 53% thought Polaris should be abandoned.
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It is also worth noting that the Conservatives’ percentage of the vote had
fallen slightly (by 700,000 votes overall). The opposition vote had been split
between Labour and the SDP-Liberal Alliance, whose combined vote was
substantially higher than the Tories.
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However, in view of Labour’s resounding lead in the polls in 1982, the result
was a blow to those in favour of leftist progressive politics, and it led to
disillusion with the idea that change could come through mainstream channels.

Prior to the election, in February 1983, members of London Greenpeace had
called for blockades in the City of London to oppose war and its enablers.
London Greenpeace members were drawn from the more overtly anarchist end of the
spectrum of protestors. They were inspired by the impromptu and audacious
direct action tactics seen at Greenham Common. Indeed, their efforts began with
distributing 2,000 ‘Occupy the City’ leaflets at peace camps such as Greenham
Common and Upper Heyford. The leaflets called for complementary protests to be
carried out in urban centres, targeting corporations that facilitated the arms
trade. These initially met with little response, but as plans developed, groups
from across the spectrum of anarchist and anti-military groupings began to engage.
As STC participant and member of London Greenpeace, Dave Morris, noted in his
account of the protests,

When the idea to stop the City of London (one of the major financial
decision-making areas of the world and the real seat of power in this country)
was proposed, nearly everyone said ‘it can’t be done,’ ‘they’ll never allow
it,’ ‘you’ll be smashed,’ etc. However, people involved with peace movement
protests at military bases and elsewhere had a great deal of experience and
confidence in organising independently and refusing to be intimidated. Hence,
they were the backbone of the first STC.
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A series of open planning meetings were called, to which a range of campaign
groups were invited to help shape the event. Despite a police raid on one of
the protestors’ organisational premises in the early morning, the first STC
protest went ahead on Sept 29th, 1983.
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It drew 1,500 protestors and led to 203 arrests. It was organised along
non-hierarchical lines, without the overarching support or control of any
political organisation or union. Mutual aid was promoted through sharing maps,
briefings, ideas and information on legal support among the disparate range of
groups, while messengers were used to disseminate information. The protestors formed
in separate groups, and met at multiple meeting points, in a deliberate attempt
to confound police expectations.
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The police seemed ill-equipped to respond to the protest, which was at odds
with orthodox mass demonstrations organised under the auspices of state
authority.
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In his authoritative study ‘Stop the City showed another possibility’, Rich
Cross notes that ‘ … facing an event “without leaders”, and without an agreed
structure, police officers from the Metropolitan and City forces were at a loss
as to how to police the demonstration’.
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The protestors deemed the day a success in so far as they communicated their
aims to the workers, disrupted the functioning of the city and generated belief
in their movement through the festival atmosphere.
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The extent to which the protestors succeeded in influencing any of the workers
they engaged with, however, is open to question. Rimbaud described city worker
responses as ‘confused, bemused and bewildered’.
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An onlooker, quoted in The Evening Standard (29 September 1983), claimed
their actions were a waste of time and would not sway a single worker, while
their attire meant they wouldn’t be taken seriously.
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Certainly, press reports encouraged this view, through focusing on the
protestors’ appearance in a bid to undermine the protests.
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While the police response to the first protest was relatively restrained,
there were instances of unprovoked police violence. A high profile example
featured Sergeant Brian Weedon gripping the throat of the seventeen year old
demonstrator, Kieran Moylett (who, using the name Mower, was lead singer of
punk band Chaos UK). This was captured in a memorable photograph taken by the
photojournalist David Hoffman and used as evidence in Moylett’s defence in
court.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0047″>47
Despite the photo showing the young protestor in pain and/or distress, it
appeared in The Evening Standard report with the subtitle ‘100 held as
police face the fancy-dress mob’, with the caption, ‘Gripping Moment: one
shaken demonstrator comes up against the firm hand of the law outside the Bank
of England’, tacitly condoning the violence of the police action.

The second STC saw the police attempt a more robust response; yet they were
still outmanoeuvred by the protestors from the start.
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Over 3,000 people attended this event on March 29th, 1984. This
time, the stated aim of the protestors to occupy and disrupt London’s financial
centre was directed more widely at exploitative and oppressive practices, as
well as the City’s collusion with war, arms manufacture and financiers. Within
the narrow streets and confined areas of the city, the protests had a
considerable impact. Strategies discussed before the event included
uncoordinated group actions to bring the city to a standstill and overstraining
the system through mass arrests. Specific methods of non-co-operation
throughout the arrest procedure were also advocated, including ‘going limp,
offering no resistance, but not co-operating with them either’.
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Another suggestion involved multiple protestors all giving the same name, a
tactic that had been used effectively at nuclear protests in Australia. The
protestors were advised, ‘This isn’t a tactic which has been tried on a large
scale in this country, but it is being used on a small scale and is proving
effective’.
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This approach did also have a home-grown lineage in the free festivals
movement, where attendees at the Windsor Free Festival (1973) all adopted the
name Wally (in memory of a dog that had gone missing at the Isle of Wight
Festival) to hinder identification.
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These strategies, suggested by London Greenpeace and other groups, were
communicated to a host of unaffiliated young punk protestors and radical peace
activists via leaflets, in radical peace and anarchist publications such as Peace
News
and Freedom respectively, in fanzines and by word of mouth.
However, once again there was no overarching organising committee, and as such
the protestors acted largely on their own initiative.

This reflected the emphasis within the anarcho-punk subculture on autonomy
and personal accountability, a sentiment enshrined in Crass’ most iconic
slogan, ‘There is No Authority but Yourself’. Similarly, the protestors at STC
stressed that political action should constitute resistance to the oppression
that occurred in people’s daily lives, thereby evoking the ideas of the
libertarian Marxist organisation, the Situationist International (1957–72).
These alluded to the power of the imagination and the revolution of everyday
life, which had been evident in the events of Paris ‘68.
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Indeed, Rimbaud acknowledges the continuity between the STC protests and the
radicalism of Paris ’68 in his introduction to Last of the Hippies: An
Hysterical Romance
(2015).

The much-vaunted connection between Situationism and punk meant that the
radicalism of this earlier organisation continued to influence youth culture in
the late 1970s,
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0053″>53
and their ideas can be detected in this reflection on the event by a protestor.

The Stop the ‘City’ demonstration is a small yet significant step in a
developing process of awakening and of real opposition. We are learning as we
take part. Many more people have to become involved, not only in large scale
protests, but also in everyday activities, overcoming isolation and gaining
confidence. Changing society is not only about collective opposition. It is
also about people creating and extending mutual aid, solidarity and libertarian
relationships amongst themselves-neighbours, workmates and wherever people
meet. If the Stop ‘The City’ idea contributes to that, and to the creation of
diverse local initiative and resistance, it will be worthwhile.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0054″>54

As with the first STC, a key objective of the protestors at STC2 was to get
the workers onside. As Morris noted, ‘Dozens of groups distributed up to 40,000
of their own leaflets to workers. Many responded fairly positively, and most
watched fascinated … this again gave us strength. Because there were no
leaders, people communicated and took initiatives themselves’.
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Interviews that feature in the film, Stop The City 83–84, made by Crass
(the band’s guitarist Andy Palmer as presenter, vocalist Joy De Vivre as sound
engineer and filmmaker Mike Duffield as camera operator), paint a slightly
different picture. Workers and bystanders appear to look on more with
incredulity than admiration, while the novel and extreme form the protests took
was alienating for many. While some interviewees sympathised with the aims of
the protestors, most believed their tactics to be futile. The most positive
response was from an interviewee who agreed with their ideals, but also said
that he couldn’t support the protests because of the demands of raising a
family, observing, ‘If these people can change society so we don’t have to
work, then great you know. But I have. I’ve got no way out of it. Know what I
mean?’
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0056″>56
Such observations do, however, indicate the subversive value of the protests.
Embracing Bakhtin’s notion of the carnivalesque, they offered a glimpse of a
world where the usual order of things is reversed.

This second event aimed to close down the city on the last day of the
financial year, when profits were calculated. The devolved nature of STC2
ensured it had a considerable impact, despite its marginality.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0057″>57
To the protestors, it felt as though the police were still unsure how to deal
with their tactics.
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Participants daubed slogans on walls, released smoke bombs and glued locks. The
windows of Barclays bank were targeted and smashed by protestors because of
their support for South Africa and therefore apartheid. This was all carried
out with the intention of causing maximum disruption to the functioning of the
city’s financial centre. One blockade was credited in The Times
newspaper with causing a shortfall of £100 million in one day.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0059″>59
While the news reports often presented the punk protestors’ actions as
antisocial and mindless, the Stop the City 83–84 film provides a
contrasting story. The protestors interviewed give thoughtful and intelligent
responses from a pacifist standpoint, undermining any accusations along these
lines.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0060″>60
This seeming duality reflects the situation on the ground, in which a wide
array of different agendas and commitment levels abounded. Alongside more
serious activists and anarcho-punks steeped in pacifism, there were wider
groupings of punks who had no discernible commitment to political anarchism.

Despite this, anarcho-punk was the most clearly manifest strand of punk
involved in the protests. Anarcho-punk bands, including Crass, The Mob,
Subhumans, Flux, The Alternative and a host of others attended, and were
actively involved in supporting the protests.
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The names of anarcho-punk bands were emblazoned across protestors’ jackets,
while Crass’ iconography and anarchist-pacifist imagery, created by Gee
Vaucher, appeared on flyers and posters. This included her powerful
photomontage, Your Country Needs You, which featured the withered hand of a war
casualty skewered on a barbed wire fence (see
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#f0002″>Figure
2).
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Figure 2. Crass, Poster
Insert to Crass Album, The Feeding of the 5000 (The Second Sitting), Crass
Records, 1981.

 


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full size

The protestors chanted the slogan Fight War, Not Wars, taken from the track
of the same name by Crass that featured on the album Feeding of the Five
Thousand
(1978). Other slogans included 1-2-3-4, We don’t want your fucking
war and 9–10-11-12, Margaret Thatcher go to hell!
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Banners featured slogans declaring ‘love, peace and anarchy’ and ‘stop the clock’
(see
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#f0003″>Figure
3).

Figure 3. Crass, Poster
Insert to Crass Album, The Feeding of the 5000 (The Second Sitting), Crass
Records, 1981.


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style=’color:blue;text-decoration:none’>
id=f0003image
src=”LGP%20STC%20counterculture%20and%20policing%20article%2010.2022_files/image002.gif”
alt=”https://www.tandfonline.com/na101/home/literatum/publisher/tandf/journals/content/fcbh20/0/fcbh20.ahead-of-print/13619462.2022.2118114/20221014/images/medium/fcbh_a_2118114_f0002_b.gif”>


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full size

Despite the perceived success of the strategies the protestors employed at
STC 2, the policing at the protests from this point on mirrored the
contemporaneous move towards its para-militarisation as a force.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0064″>64
The police were aware that their attempts to contain STC 1 had been inadequate,
and they planned methodically for the second protest. Significant manpower was
dedicated to policing it, which included cancelling leave for all officers. The
briefing notes issued to forces policing STC 2 acknowledged the task ahead of
them, noting that ‘the last “day of action” … was the first demonstration of
its kind in the country … [the demonstrators] appear to have learned some
lessons therefrom, as have the police’.
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The authorities had gathered significant intelligence on the protestors,
including their meeting points and the diverse range of interests they held.
They clearly took the protests seriously, having mounted officers on standby
and deploying covert tactics, including the use of undercover police.
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The authorities enacted old legislation (City of London Police Act, 1839) in
their attempts to prevent people from gathering in the city and the police were
instructed not to recognise the protests as legitimate. On the protestors they
were advised, ‘All are anti-establishment, un-cooperative with police, and in
the case of some extremists, potentially violent’.
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Therefore, the police were granted licence to criminalise them on this basis
from the start. The 1839 Act meant that protestors could potentially be
arrested, without having committed a crime, just by virtue of being there. This
differed markedly to the situation with organised and state sanctioned
protests, where permission had been granted and police manoeuvres could be
co-ordinated with the plans of the organisers. The City of London
commissioner’s briefing document shows their expectation that there would be
mass arrests, while the follow-up briefing order notes how they had developed a
fast-track logging system for arrests ‘in order that arresting officers spend
as little time as possible “off the street”’. In one telling note they stress
the need for sufficient female officers to be on duty ‘to deal with the large
number of female prisoners expected’.
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While this testifies to the sizeable number of female activists that were
involved in the protests, it also offers insight into the protestors’ take on
pacifism. The influence of anarcha-feminism on anarcho-punk reiterated the view
articulated by anarchist-feminist Emma Goldman in 1910, and further voiced
within second wave feminism, that misogyny was inextricably linked with war and
militarism.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0069″>69
As such, pacifism was of particular significance to women and a prime feminist
concern.

Despite the protesters being predominantly pacifist and advocating
non-violent tactics towards people, including police, a small minority were
prepared to countenance violence.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0070″>70
Some were affiliated with groups such as Class War (founded in 1983 by Ian
Bone) who generally adopted a more confrontational approach to political
activism. A debate had started within anarcho-punk circles a year earlier, when
Ian Slaughter (of the fanzine, Pigs for Slaughter) distributed a
provocative leaflet advocating a more confrontational approach to the
authorities. This reflected the growth of an ‘anarcho-militant’ strand within
the scene, but at the time it was still very much on the margins, with Crass’
‘anarchy, peace and freedom’ message continuing to dominate. Fanzine writer
Graham Burnett summed up the general response to the leaflet in issue 7 of New
Crimes
(1983, 6–9) where he expressed alarm at the ‘aggressiveness and dare
I say machismo’ of this subset within anarcho-punk.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0071″>71

Where ‘violence’ did manifest at STC2, it was almost universally in the form
of criminal damage to corporate property and infrastructure, which most
participants did not characterise as violence. The success of the protests in
disrupting the workings of the city, however, prompted the police to bring in
mass reinforcements, including mounted police. They deployed kettling and used
military vehicles to block streets. This led to well-documented instances of
police violence, including the use of punches, kicks, and strangleholds, in
unprovoked attacks on protestors.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0072″>72
A Thames News report also showed the widespread use of excessive force by
police officers, and featured a witness who reported arbitrary mass arrests
that involved the police rounding protestors up to fill van space. The witness
is then seen being threatened with arrest, following which the news reporter
was also told to move on or face arrest.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0073″>73
The police violence went largely unreported in the newspapers and music press,
but was covered through reports and photographs published in fanzines. In his
incisive and polemical article for Punk Lives, Rimbaud noted,

Stop the City’ was a massive success, the best gig of the year, but the
music press never reported it because it’s the City that finances them and
because, like EMI, who are one of the biggest arms manufacturers in this
country, they would like everyone to think that punk is dead … there’s no
profit in protest. The daily papers kept quiet for different reasons. In their
capacity as propagandists of State control they have almost certainly been told
by the government not to report events like this; they’re scared that copy-cat
events will follow, but it makes no difference if they report it or not because
there will be more.
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Officers who had been granted the power of arrest for anyone refusing to
comply with their directions made 450 arrests (more than one in seven
protestors) on this basis.
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However, despite the preparations and considerable resources deployed, the
police had been on the back foot all day and failed to contain the majority of
the actions. One arrestee reported overhearing from his cell police officers lamenting
how they had struggled to keep up with proceedings, and how the protestors were
‘calling the tune’.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0076″>76
This was to change, however, with STC 3.

The third action, carried out on May 13th, 1984, was deliberately
disorganised and given very little publicity (with the next major action
already planned for Sept 27th). It drew only 500–600 uncoordinated
protestors who were met by police who searched them, confiscated their leaflets
and equipment and instructed them to ‘fuck off out of the City’ or be arrested.
Subsequently 170 people who had committed practically no actions at all were
reported to have been arrested.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0077″>77
By this time the Miners’ Strike (1984–5) was two months in, and the government
was locked in battles with various sectors of society. Indeed, the week after
STC 3 saw the concerted and orchestrated police violence against pickets at
Orgreave, on a day that featured one of the most violent confrontations in the
history of the Trade Union Movement.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0078″>78
Taken together, these events evidence a State which was at a turning point in
how it would treat political opposition and the alternative culture associated
with the radicalism of the 1960s-70s. A rising tide of repression and police
violence towards protestors had been evident from the late 1970s, notably in
the treatment of protestors at the Grunwick Strike and anti-racist protestors
at Lewisham (1977) and Southall (
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114″>1979),
the latter of which resulted in the tragic death of Blair Peach after it seems
he was dealt a fatal blow by an unauthorised weapon used by the Special Patrol
Group (SPG).
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0079″>79
At that time, the Conservatives, still in opposition, had created plans for a
more hostile force to prevent successful strike action, such as that seen at
the mass picketing at Saltley (1972).
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0080″>80
The experience of inner city rioting (1981) and Thatcher’s harsh treatment of
the Hunger Strikers at the Maze Prison in Belfast (1981), which formed a
precursor to a spate of IRA bombs in London, all reflected the more hostile and
polarised environment during her first term. It wasn’t until 1984, however,
that the police became an actively hostile force, employed in a concerted
attempt to undermine legitimate protest. This was mirrored by a change within
anarcho-punk itself, with even Crass, whose output became increasingly bitter
and confrontational in the aftermath of the Falklands, disseminating material
advocating a confrontational approach in the run up to STC 4.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0081″>81

None of this deterred the various groups planning for another attempt to
prevent the daily workings of the City of London, and by the time of the fourth
Stop the City protest on September 27th, 1984, the movement had
begun to attract a broader coalition of interested parties, including the
unemployed and some striking miners, and there were high hopes for the event
amongst its key advocates. STC activists (including members of London
Greenpeace) had made a conscious effort to engage with mining communities and
encourage them to take part. In the summer of 1984, for example, STC activists
occupied Electricity Generating Board offices in London, unfurling a huge
banner from upstairs windows saying, ‘Miners Power Not Nuclear Power’. A photo
of this was used on publicity leaflets distributed to some of the Miners’
Strike pickets and protests.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0082″>82
By contrast with STC 3, this one was highly organised and well publicised, with
a day consisting of lots of small, independent actions planned. Mutual aid
among protestors was strongly advocated,
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0083″>83
while support in the form of crèche facilities, free food, first aid and legal
advice was provided.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0084″>84
The protestors were encouraged to, ‘Communicate constantly, support and respect
each other. Don’t just stick with your friends-link up with others, encourage
passers-by and workers to join in. Let’s do our best to make a successful human
challenge to the machinery of oppression’.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0085″>85

All this optimism, however, did not result in the event many were hoping
for. The carnival atmosphere that prevailed at earlier STCs was gone, and
instead the protest was more serious, but also less effective, while the
turnout was disappointingly low, with around 2,000 protestors attending.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0086″>86
Simultaneously, as Morris attests in his Conference notes, ‘There was a new
attitude amongst us regarding the police. Many people, having experienced the
repression/courts had become angry and more determined to fight back next
time’.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0087″>87

For their part, the police built on the strategies used during STC 3,
providing a heavy-handed response.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0088″>88
They set out their stall from the outset, shutting off vast sections of the
city to deny protestors access to designated meeting points. Again, the 1839
Act was evoked, but this time with more unequivocal implementation. Morris
observed that individuals and groups were repelled through threat of arrest if
they tried to enter the City, while anyone who looked like a punk was
particularly targeted. One attendee noted that the police ‘broke up and moved
on … any gathering of larger than three people’, making it impossible to
orchestrate any successful actions.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0089″>89
The methods the police had used with limited success at STC 2 were scaled up,
and four hundred and seventy protestors were arrested and held without charge.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0090″>90
The protestors deployed tactics of non-cooperation in an attempt to slow down
police operations and put a strain on resources, while the police had a counter
strategy to free up arresting officers to get back on the streets by having
paperwork taken over in-house at the police station. 300–400 protestors did
manage to gain access to the centre two or three times to carry out
occupations, smashing the windows of banks and graffitiing, but generally the
zero tolerance policing approach rendered the tactics ineffective.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0091″>91

In the aftermath, the thing that caused considerable soul searching among
the protestors was the low turnout. They were expecting numbers to be much
larger than STC2, but this hadn’t materialised. The reasons for this included
divisions between protestors, particularly between those who were or weren’t
prepared to countenance violence, with the latter put off by the increasingly
confrontational approach of the former, while fears of the consequences of
re-arrest were also prevalent.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0092″>92
It also emerged that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had discussed
supporting STC at a National Executive Committee meeting, but it had been
rejected, on grounds including that six months into the strike NUM hardship
funds for travel costs were limited and STC was not a core priority.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0093″>93
The difficulty in reaching beyond a largely subcultural demographic to build a
mass movement was cited to be a major drawback, while the protestors
acknowledged that the police were effective in their intention to prevent their
occupation of the city centre.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0094″>94

The upshot of the fourth STC was that the protestors were left feeling
somewhat disillusioned.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0095″>95
They acknowledged that they had underestimated the determination of the State,
and that tens of thousands of people would be required for effective action in
The City. Some identified their inability to attract groups that still held
faith with the democratic system as a key flaw.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0096″>96
In the aftermath many protestors moved on to more localised campaigns, new
ideas such as Stop Business as Usual, or returned to single issue campaigning.
They remained positive about the form of resistance they had practiced at STC,
citing the need to applaud it and make the world become a ‘no-go area for our
oppressors’.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0097″>97

Aftermath

The hostility of the police response to STC, which was symptomatic of wider
changes to policing at the time, became endemic in the intolerance shown
towards political protest and alternative culture in the ensuing years, most
viciously demonstrated through the police assault on travellers at the Battle
of the Beanfield (1985).
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0098″>98
In the aftermath, the Conservative government’s agenda would be enshrined in
legislation. The Public Order Act of 1986 was in part a fulfilment of the 1970s
blueprint for future policing the Conservatives in opposition had drawn up, and
in part a response to events during their time in power, most significantly the
inner city riots, Miners’ Strike and the advent of New Age Travellers. Large
sections of the Act are focused on the control of demonstrations, and Section
12 allows the police to impose conditions on any protest or procession if one
of three criteria is met; namely if there is a threat of serious public
disorder, disruption to the ‘normal’ life of the community, or if coercion is
likely to occur. As East, Power and Thomas have noted, while the first and
third criteria are primarily aimed at pickets, the second appears to be a
direct response to the new form of protest trialled at Stop the City.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0099″>99
Arguably, the influence of STC runs deeper than this. During STC, it was an
archaic Act of Parliament that only applied to the City of London that allowed
the police to pre-emptively arrest protestors. By giving them powers to control
the route of demonstrations (Section 11) and powers to ban protests if they would
disrupt ‘normal workings’ (Section 12), the Public Order Act effectively
transferred these conditions to the whole of the country.

In the aftermath of STC and the Battle of the Beanfield, the nature of
protest forged by alternative youth culture took on more concealed
characteristics as a direct response to the repressive climate. This form of
protest showed a marked divergence from the alliance of political activism with
mainstream interests, which simultaneously gathered pace throughout the 1980s.
Instead of major industrial relations disputes, which were so prominent during
the 1970s, movements for gay and women’s liberation entered the mainstream,
while identity politics permeated the left. Similarly to the development of
CND, NGOs and the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), which changed
its name to Liberty in 1989, also took on a more corporate structure and mode
of functioning.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0100″>100

The anarchistic, DiY ethos, the intention to reclaim public space as an act
of resistance to globalised capitalism, and the deployment of more covert
strategies and tactics were continued through the road protest movement and
Reclaim the Streets (RTS) during the 1990s.
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0101″>101
The literature produced during the STC protests is littered with exhortations
to ‘Reclaim the City’ and ‘Reclaim our Streets’,
href=”https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/G27VEG6KJKCXGMYYVF6Q/full?target=10.1080/13619462.2022.2118114#en0102″>102
but the connection is deeper than that, as Reclaim the Streets events can be
seen as a return the carnivalesque atmosphere that was missing from STCs 3 and
4. Reclaim the Streets also reasserted the principle of non-violence that had
characterised the early, more successful STC events. Around the time of the
first Reclaim the Streets action, anarchist visionary Hakim Bey wrote his
influential book TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zones), which advocated the creation
of spaces that were exempt from the normal rules of social control. While it
was conceptually the least developed strand of STC, the protests can be seen as
a pre-emptive attempt to create a Temporary Autonomous Zone, although
ultimately the direct confrontations with authority implicit in focusing the
actions on the City of London compromised this from the start. Reclaim the
Streets deliberately chose locations in which the creation of a Temporary
Autonomous Zone became the end in itself, away from the distraction of a
specific target. Interestingly, as the RTS project developed, organisers became
increasingly disillusioned by the limitations of this approach. By the late
1990s they were once again deliberately targeting centres of capitalism, and in
1999 the Carnival Against Capital once again took aim at the City of London.
The Carnival Against Capital had been organised to coincide with the G8 summit
being held in Cologne, and through this association the influence of STC made
its way into the international anti-globalisation movement. The RTS events were
larger than STC (with an estimated 5,000 attending the Carnival Against
Capitalism), but a decade later, Occupy, alongside other anti-globalisation
initiatives, mobilised mass, albeit still unsanctioned, protests that built on
STCs core intention of attacking centres of global capital, targeting Wall
Street and the City of London again. The legacy of STC can still be seen today,
most notably in the non-violent civil disobedience employed by the global
environmental movement, Extinction Rebellion (formed in 2018). The strategies
of uncoordinated small group actions, straining the system through mass arrest
and non-co-operation with police, backed by widely-distributed bust cards and
support for those arrested, are all approaches trialled at STC.

Conclusion

The approach and tactics used by many of the protestors at STC built on a
lineage of autonomous and direct action activism, seen particularly in the
women’s and peace movements during the 1960s-70s, and through the actions of
the women at Greenham Common, who also had a presence at STC. These were
successful in no small part due to the autonomy of the participants.

Anarchism was a lesser known, but decisive strand within the peace movement
and counterculture, the latter of which featured a number of anarchist former
members of CND. The free festivals movement bridged the cultures of hippy and
punk. Anarchism was present in punk, not just symbolically, as in its first
wave incarnation, but in a more serious and political sense through
anarcho-punk. As the fanzine research has shown, anarcho-punk created space for
political beliefs and values to be articulated and for alternate life practices
to develop that informed the activism at STC. Removing fanzines from their
subcultural confines and reading them alongside the police and eyewitness
reports has facilitated understanding of how the nature of political protest,
manifested in anarcho-punk, evolved in tandem with an increasingly repressive
police response. By contrast with mass protests of the past, which became
bitter and futile in the face of Thatcher’s determination to destroy their
legitimacy (as seen in the concurrent Miners’ Strike), the protestors were not
supported or managed by any overarching political body.

Instead, the protestors acted on their own initiative, deploying tactics
such as blockading and vandalism to corporate property to undermine the
functioning of the city’s finance centre and protest at its embroilment with
the arms industry and other powerful global financial institutions. Their
approach and tactics—in particular the protestors’ effectiveness in shutting
down and occupying the city during STC2—undermined the image of the financial
centre as invulnerable, providing an alternative model for the realisation of
the protestors’ ideals. This can be seen to fulfil the aim of radical utopians,
including the Situationists, to realise a different world, albeit temporarily.
The STC protests provide a microcosm for the changing nature of protest and
youth culture that manifested a markedly radical and autonomous strand at odds
with the wider trend towards corporatisation that characterised the 1980s. As
such, STC provides an alternative to the model of hegemonic neo-liberalism,
whereby culture merely reflects the values of the dominant political-economic
framework. While at the time it was perceived as marginal both in impact and
impetus, it set the agenda by which protestors would confront the new status
quo in the post Thatcher/Reagan era.

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank Professor Lucy Robinson for her advice and
recommendations in connection with this article.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).

Additional information

Notes on contributors

Rebecca Binns

Rebecca Binns is an
Associate Lecturer in Contextual and Theoretical Studies at London College of
Communication. Her monograph entitled, Gee Vaucher: Beyond Punk, Feminism and
the Avant-Garde has recently been published (Manchester University Press, 2022)

Notes

1. In an article, “Stop the City: Lawless Britain” in Vague 15, 1984,
2, the fanzine’s editor, Tom Vague notes that CND was not officially involved
in STC because they thought it would be too violent. In “Stop the City: 1 2 3
4, We’ll be Back Some Day with More” in Punk Lives, 1984, 22, Penny
Rimbaud reported that CND sent out a circular to its branches saying the protests
were ‘undesirable.’Despite this, Dave Morris (in email conversation, 1 April
2022) of London Greenpeace recalls receiving some support and publicity from
some local and regional CND branches. Sam Carroll’s PhD thesis, ‘Fill the
jails’ is focused on the Committee of 100 (C100), 1960–1968, which functioned
as an independent, direct action wing to CND.

2. Dave, a STC participant and member of London Greenpeace, provides a
breakdown of STC protests in various locations throughout the UK, and mentions that
four also happened abroad in “Summary,” 2.

3. From a report in The Times, referred to in Mike, “PEOPLE AGAINST
PROFITS,” 3.

4. See Bunyan, “From Saltley to Orgrave,” 293–303.

5. Significant scholarship in this area includes work by Matthew Worley, Lucy
Robinson and various individuals associated with the Subcultures Network. See Ripped
Torn and Cut: Pop, Politics and Punk Fanzines from 1976
(Ed: The
Subcultures Network, 2018) and No Future: Punk, Politics and British Youth
Culture
, 1976–84 (Matthew Worley, 2017). Work by Russ Bestley and Ana
Raposo that utilises ephemeral sources to provide insight into punk graphics
and culture is also valuable in this respect; as is Bestley’s book, The Art
of Punk
(co-edited with Alex Ogg, 2012). The Aesthetic of our Anger:
Anarcho-Punk, Politics and Music
(Eds: Mike Dines and Matthew Worley, 2016)
likewise features work by a range of scholars who use ephemeral sources as the
basis for their investigations. The doctoral study (UAL, 2019) and subsequent
work by Rebecca Binns (“The Evolution of an Anarcho-Punk Narrative, 1978–84,”
co-written with Russ Bestley, in Ripped Torn and Cut …, and “It’s Up to
You: Class, Status and Punk Politics in Rock Against Racism,” in The
Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music and Social Class
(Ed: Ian Peddie,
2020) further contributes to work in this area.

6. See Robinson, “Confronting Thatcher,” 154–85, Wetherall, “Painting the
Crisis,” 235–49, Payling, “City limits: sexual politics,” 256–73 and “Schaffer,
“Fighting Thatcher with Comedy,” 374–97. In Promised you a Miracle
(chapter 15: Loonies, 346–373), Beckett attempts to de-centre Thatcher through
his analysis of the GLC as a political hub, which provided an alternate to
centralised power.

7. In “The Great Moving Right Show” (Marxism Today, 1979), Stuart
Hall used the term authoritarian populism to describe how the New Right,
embodied in Thatcher’s administration, successfully mobilised popular
discontent to legitimise the imposition of an authoritarian State. Hall’s
essay, “Thatcherism-a new stage?” (Marxism Today, 1980) further expanded
on these ideas.

8. The North American, anarchist theorist, Murray Bookchin used the term
post-scarce society to denote a situation where due to technological
development and relative material comfort, young people in the west were able
to realise an ecological form of anarchism in practice. Bookchin’s collection
of essays, published as a book, Post-Scarcity Anarchism in 1971 both
reflected and influenced the counterculture.

9. RAR (1976–81) arose to oppose racism within the music industry, and
evolved to oppose institutional racism as well as far right organisations, such
as the National Front (NF) who were making inroads in youth culture at that
time.

10. See Walter, N.H. “Protest in an age of optimism: the 60s anarchists who
spilled nuclear secrets.” The Guardian- opinion 13 April 2013.
href=”https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/13/protest-optimism-anarchists-nuclear-beans”
target=”_blank”>https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/13/protest-optimism-anarchists-nuclear-beans
Accessed 14 Feb, 2020.

11. See Walter, “Damned fools in utopia,”56, in Damned Fools in Utopia,
and Other Writings on Anarchism and War Resistance
, edited by David
Goodway, Oakland: M Press, 2011, 56, quoted in Pauli, “Pacifism, nonviolence …
anarchist tactics,” 86.

12. Burkett, “Direct Action,” 21–37.

13. See Nuttall, Bomb Culture, 50.

14. See Rowe, “Introduction” in Rowe (ed), Spare Rib Reader
(Middlesex, 1982), 15. Also see an account of male chauvinism at Oz with
reference to observations made by David Widgery in Fountain, Underground:
The London Alternative
, 126.

15. Beckett, Lights Went Out, 175. Also see Burkett, “Direct Action
…,” 21–37, for its exploration of the antipathy felt by C100 activists towards
CND’s leadership of self-appointed white, well off men, and its’ associated
structural hierarchy.

16. Prominent feminists with a background in socialism and the
counterculture included Marsha Rowe and Rosie Boycott (who formed Spare Rib,
1972–93) and Sheila Rowbotham (formerly of Black Dwarf). Germaine Greer
wrote columns for Oz and Suck.

17. Lynne Farrow originally coined the term Feminism as Anarchism in
her influential essay of the same name (1974). Carol Ehrlich’s “Socialism,
Anarchism and Feminism” (1977) challenged the idea that feminism could exist
within the hierarchical structures that were coming to dominate the movement,
especially in its socialist and post-Marxist manifestations. This, and other
influential American essays, such as Peggy Kornegger’s “Anarchism: The Feminist
Connection,” had an impact in the UK when they were published in Reinventing
Anarchy: What Anarchists are Thinking These Days
(London: Routledge and
Kegan & Paul, 1979).

18. See Rees, “Look Back at Anger,” 337–56.

See Bunyan, “From Saltley to Orgrave,” 293–303, on the para-militarisation
of the police in Britain during the 1980s.

19. See Setch, “Face of Metropolitan Feminism,” 171–90; and Rees, “Look Back
at Anger,” 337–56.

20. Thomlinson, “The Colour of Feminism,” 453–75.

21. See Robinson, “Anarcho-feminism and Greenham,” 50.

22. Dave Morris (in email conversation, 1 April 2022) attests to the
involvement of London Greenpeace in these protests against nuclear power.

23. The term anarcho-punk has been retrospectively applied to describe this
subgenre and subculture. During the first wave of anarcho-punk (1978–84) the
terms anarchist or Crass punk and then peace punk were commonly applied (as
evidenced by their widespread use in fanzines and the music press). The word
‘anarcho’ was in circulation from at least 1980, but used intermittently. See
“Breakin’ thru in 82,” tips’ in Sounds (2, January, 1982, 7), a fanzine
review in Acts of Defiance 4 (20 October 1982), a letter to Sounds
(26, June, 1982, 46) by Ian Bone who founded Class War and Tony D’s review,
“Singles” in Punk Lives, No 8, 1983, 8.

24. One well-known example was the anarchist centre known as the Autonomy
Centre (1981–82), in Wapping (London) that was initially funded by sales of a
single, “Bloody Revolutions/Persons Unknown” by Crass/Poison Girls. See
Livingstone’s personal recollection of the Autonomy Centre, in “Everyone was an
anarchist.”

25. Vi Subversa and Lance d’ Boyle were involved with the British anarchist
movement, while Subversa was also involved with the DAC in the 1950s, and the
women’s movement in the 1970s.

26. See Walker, Left Shift for an insightful account of the radical
movement of artists and collectives, who created art outside the gallery system
and intended for social change during the 1970s. Triggs specifically
highlighted the radicalism of Gee Vaucher’s designs for Crass (1977–84) by
contrast with the corporate takeover of the visual sphere at her time of
writing in 2000, in “Bullshit Detector,” 19.

27. See interviews with Flux in Adventures in Reality, Issue J, 1982,
3, with Poison Girls in Anarchy, Issue 34, ca 1982, 6 and Rob of punk
band Faction, in Infection 4, 1984, 11.

28. Lake, “Zounds Demystified,” 52.

29. See “CRASS AND FRIENDS (Stop the City Benefit)-Holloway Bingo Hall,” Artificial
Life
, No 8, 1984, 4, which describes Crass appearing in virtual darkness,
while five screens ‘showed ‘ … the realities of the horrible world we live in …
war, death, starvation, fascism (Thatcher and Reagan) etc etc,’ coverage of a
Fuck the Falklands gig in Acts of Defiance, Issue 3, 1982, 14 and of
Mike Duffield’s film, Choosing Death, featured at a Crass gig in “Crass, DIRT,
Annie Anxiety, Ferryhill 101 Club, April 30th, 1982,” Acts of Defiance,
Issue 3, 1982, 14.

30. See Bestley and Binns, “An Anarcho-Punk Narrative,”140–142.

31. Beckett, Promised you a Miracle, 55–56.

32. In Promised you a Miracle, 57, Beckett notes the jobless were
disproportionately middle aged men and school leavers.

33. See Beckett, Promised you a Miracle, 68–78.

34. See Jackson and Saunders, “Introduction: Varieties of Thatcherism,” in Making
Thatcher’s Britain
(Jackson and Saunders, 2012), 6–7, for an account of how
an economic uplift following the initial years of Thatcher’s premiership, which
saw the disastrous effects of monetarist policy, together with The Falklands
War being cast as a resounding triumph in the right wing press, combined to
boost the Conservatives’ majority in the 1983 vote.

35. Hudson, CND at 60, 130.

36. Hansard (HL), Deb. Vol 434 cc455-7, 30 July 1982. At
href=”https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/lords/1982/jul/30/nuclear-weapons-and-public-opinion”
target=”_blank”>https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/lords/1982/jul/30/nuclear-weapons-and-public-opinion.

37. The group, The 61, partially funded by the CIA to undermine the peace
movement, also ran a dirty tricks campaign against Foot. This included planting
derogatory articles about him in the press. See Hudson, CND at 60,
130–132.

38. Dave, “Summary,” 1.

39. Ibid., 2.

40. See note 38 above.

41. Dave, “Summary,” 2; Cross, “In the City,”133.

42. Cross, “Stop the City,” 133.

43. Mike, “PEOPLE AGAINST PROFITS,” 3.

44. Rimbaud, “Stop the City!” 10.

45. Derbyshire and Dobbie, “Peace, punks and a little City anarchy”, The
Evening Standard
, 29 September 1983.

46. See Morris, “383 held in City protest,” The Times, 30 March 1984
and Derbyshire and Dobbie, “Peace, punks and a little City anarchy,” The
Evening Standard
, 29 September 1983.

47. See Duncan Campbell in Children of the Revolution, Anti Apathy,
Issue 6, 1984. The image was then featured on the cover of Chaos UK’s 1984 LP, Short,
Sharp Shock
.

48. See note 39 above.

49. Steve Biko, “Non Cooperation,” 2.

50. Ibid.

51. See the film, Everyone’s Wally, directed by Paolo Sedazzari
(2015).

52. This language had particular resonance with The Revolution of
Everyday Life
, by Raoul Vaneigem, first translated into English by John
Fullerton and Paul Sieveking (Practical Paradise, 1972).

53. See P. Gorman, D. Thorpe and F. Vermorel, Eyes for Blowing Up
Bridges: Joining the Dots from the Situationist International to Malcolm
McLaren
(Southampton: John Hansard Gallery, 2015), F. Vermorel, Vivienne
Westwood: Fashion, Perversity and the 1960s Laid Bare
(New York: Overlook
Books, 1996), G. Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth
Century
(London: Picador, 1997) and Savage, England’s Dreaming: Anarchy,
Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond
(New York: St Martin’s Griffin, 2002).

54. Mike, “PEOPLE AGAINST PROFITS”, 3.

55. See note 38 above.

56. Interviewee in Duffield and Palmer, Stop The City 83–84 (11.07).

57. An article, “Police hold 400 in protest violence”, in The Times
(30 March 1984) acknowledged the protest was ‘vastly more impressive’ than the
first one in terms of both scale and impact. Also see Dobbie, “London grinds to
halt as thousands march” (Evening Standard, 29 March 1984).

58. See note 38 above.

59. From a report in The Times, referred to in, Mike, “PEOPLE AGAINST
PROFITS” 3.

60. Observations of footage seen in Duffield and Palmer, Stop The City
83–84
.

61. Skinz, “Stop the City”, in Death on a Summer’s Day, referred to
in Cross, “Stop the City,”134.

62. Duffield and Palmer, Stop The City 83–84. Your Country Needs You
took its title from the famous army recruitment poster for the First World War,
which featured Lord Kitchener (the British Secretary of State for War) pointing
at the viewer. This statement was juxtaposed with the iconic photograph taken
by Ghislain Bellorget in Vietnam in 1968.

63. Duffield and Palmer, Stop The City 83–84. The second chant is
taken from the track ‘H Block’ on the EP ‘Bad News’ by Hit Parade, released on
Crass Records in 1982, which describes the British government’s treatment of
political prisoners at the notorious Maze prison, near Belfast, during
Thatcher’s first term.

64. See Bunyan, “From Saltley to Orgrave,” 293–303, on the
para-militarisation of the police in Britain during the 1980s.

65. Marshall, “Police Directions to Constables,” 4.

66. Marshall, “Police Directions to Constables,” 2. In “Stop the City,”
143–145, Cross likewise notes that the police became more sophisticated and
effective in their use of oppressive tactics at the second STC; also
highlighting the more confrontational approach taken by protestors.

67. Moore, “Stop the City Campaign,” 1.

68. Ibid., 1.

69. Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays, 202.

70. “WHERE NOW FOR STC?”.

71. Burnett, “Anarchy, Violence and Freedom? One “wet arsed pacifist” reflects
on their propaganda and tactics,”in New Crimes, Issue 7, 1983, 6.

72. Comedian David Baddiel recounts how police beat him in a van following
his arrest at a STC protest, in The Mirror, 9 April 1997, referred to in
“THE ORIGINAL OCCUPY WALL STREET: STOP THE CITY. 1984,” Dangerous Minds,
16 October 2011. At
href=”https://dangerousminds.net/comments/the_original_occupy_wall_street_stop_the_city_1984″
target=”_blank”>https://dangerousminds.net/comments/the_original_occupy_wall_street_stop_the_city_1984

Also see, “Stop The City—News Reports 1983 / 84” at
href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ulVIa4HwkA” target=”_blank”>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ulVIa4HwkA.

73. Wadsworth, Thames News.

74. Rimbuad, “Stop the City: 1 2 3 4, We’ll be Back Some Day with More,” in Punk
Lives
, No 10, 1984, 22.

75. See note 38 above.

76. Cliff, Peace News, 1984, referred to in Steve Biko, “Non
Cooperation,” 1.

77. Dave, “Summary,” 3. Also see Cross, “In the City,” 145–146. A report by
Luck, “Punks in anarchy raid on the City” in the Daily Express (1 June
1984) confirms that of the few hundred protestors in attendance, 160 were
arrested.

78. Bunyan, “From Saltley to Orgreave,” 302.

79. Lewis, Paul. “Blair Peach: After 31 years Met police say “sorry”
for their role in his killing.” The Guardian, April, 27, 2010. At
href=”https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/apr/27/blair-peach-killing-police”
target=”_blank”>https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/apr/27/blair-peach-killing-police.

80. East et al, “Death of Mass Picketing,” 311.

81. Cross, “Stop the City”, 143.

82. Dave Morris in email conversation (1 April 2022).

83. Steve Biko, “Non Cooperation,” 1.

84. “General Briefing … STC 4.”

85. Ibid.

86. See note 38 above.

87. See note 38 above.

88. Dave, “Summary,” 3. This verdict by the protestors is corroborated by a
report, “419 arrests in the City”, in The Times (28 September 1984)
which states, ‘Eight hundred police officers were deployed in a huge operation,
which quashed all attempts to disrupt the heart of the City’.

89. Carter, “Baa Baa Black Sheep?” 190.

90. Dave, ‘Summary,’ 3.

91. Ibid., 2.

92. See note 70 above.

93. Dave Morris, in email conversation (1 April 2022).

94. See note 38 above.

95. See note 70 above.

96. See note 38 above.

97. See note 90 above.

98. See Worthington, Battle of the Beanfield.

99. East et al, “Death of Mass Picketing,” 315.

100. See Moores, “The Road to Freedom?” 221–62.

101. Other scholars have drawn comparable parallels. Rich Cross for instance
has observed how various initiatives including the road protests and RTS, and
Occupy, ‘ … have evoked more echoes of the activist-centred anarchist punk
practice than the orthodox class perspectives of the 1970s’ (Cross, “British
anarchism in the era of Thatcherism,” in Against the Grain …, 148).
Matthew Worley likewise notes that the anti-globalisation movement of the late
1990s and early 2000s … ’was characterised by a lack of centrality and its
autonomous nature,’ also observing that ‘anarchists and non-aligned activists
formed the basis of the anti-globalisation movement, though the organised left,
hesitant at first-responded enthusiastically,’ in “Introduction,” in Against
the Grain
… 13).

102. See references to reclaiming the city in “Briefing … STC 4,” Mike,
“PEOPLE AGAINST PROFITS,” and “Day of Protests Leaflet,” and to reclaiming the
streets in “STOP THE CITY PROTESTS.”


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