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NW // A positive critique of Smash EDO Brighton May Day

Netcu Watch | 06.05.2009 18:04 | Smash EDO | Anti-militarism | Repression | Terror War | South Coast

A personal perspective of the Smash EDO May Day actions on 4th May 2009.

May Day in Brighton was another positive move towards a more effective leaderless resistance that the UK needs so sorely, it would seem that radical activists have learned much from the G20 protests in London. The police were outwitted at almost every turn with a crowd of around 1000 seemingly shaking the police presence all together for around 10 mins. Fitwatch tactics were not restricted to the organised few but a tactic used by hundreds of activists at the same time which made evidence gathering ops virtual impossible at times.

It would seem that one of the major benefits of decentralised protest actions is that the masses are opportunistic and unpredictable which is something that will win over the inflexible structure used by police during public order situations. Police simply looked like they were waiting on orders on many occasions and by the time orders came through the protest had taken a new tangent leaving police exposed and dumbfounded.

The more important benefit of having no official organisers during mass actions is that individuals and affinity groups have to take the day for themselves and make their own plans or the day will simply fall flat, that said the frequent chaos proved to be most interesting.

Whilst the day was incredibly positive many people have been talking about police horses and missile throwing during the day. It is important that animals that have no choice e.g. Horses and dogs and considered during these situations. They should under no circumstances be targeted as if they are simply equipment of the state. Some missiles throw from far away during the march were also dangerous to other activists and members of the public, one missile was thrown near the Dome that if not for someone closing a door at the right time would have seriously injured someone. The fact is if you are not sure about hitting your target then don’t throw anything. The last criticism is of those who graffitied and smashed lights on local businesses on the pier, this sort of unacceptable stupidity has no place and in my opinion is counter revolutionary and will only alienate those who may support our struggle.

Regardless of these minor criticisms the day was fantastic and we can only hope that we learn, adapt and organise in this vein for future actions. Finally the Smash EDO pirate radio was fantastic and set the day off with a serious bang!

Solidarity and respect.


Netcu Watch
- e-mail: warn at riseup dot net
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Hide the following 9 comments

My thoughts

06.05.2009 20:35

The day was generally good but marred by the lack of focus as it became apparent the coppers were preventing us from getting to the factory. The turn out was great, I think it was the biggest Smash EDO demo yet and your estimate of over a 1000 seems realistic. There was a generally good atmosphere with the carnival element and the determination. The banner drop was good, as were FITwatch.
However, I saw one incident where a person who had clearly just tagged along on the day stuck his fingers up at a member of the public when they were in their car. How do we stop these sorts of incidents? I decided at the time that reacting to the bloke would've created more of a scene and wouldn't have undone the damage. The coverage in the Argus has painted us in a very negative light, but this should be no surprise to anyone who's familiar with that rag. Is any publicity really good publicity? Would the paper have slammed us regardless of how the protest went? Should a spokesperson for the campaign concede that a minority of loutish people who weren't activists joined in? As you mentioned, the incident near the end of the day with minor vandalism on the pier was a real shame though I think I had left by this point as I didn't see it. The protest had virtually finished by then, and I feel these were just locals or people in Brighton for the bank holiday rather than activists.
So a wicked start but it went downhill after we were prevented from getting to the factory and headed back into town.


I must have been at a different event!

06.05.2009 21:38

To claim the police were outwitted at almost every turn is complete wishful thinking. The police retained control for pretty much the entire time, targets such as McDonald's, RBS, HSBC and other banks remained mostly undamaged and only two people got anywhere close to EDO. FIT and the evidence gatherers had plenty of opportunity to take their pictures and get footage despite being blocked or driven off on some occasions.

I agree that the crowd had some advantages due to spontaneity and surprise but the cops had gold command on the ground and were quick to respond to the unorganized chaos thrown at them.

I also agree with the comments about people being irresponsible in throwing shit from the back and putting their own comrades in danger. On top of that, if you are going to throw something, for fucks sack make it count! Throwing beer cans and plastic bottles of piss isn't going to do any harm to the copper you might hit and just helps them with their PR (see all the press stories about the 'ambulance' coming under missile attack from the rampaging mob), so chuck something that will really hurt or use paint so that at least they look stupid and might have their vision impaired.

I also agree that the graffiti on local small businesses was pathetic and unhelpful (while people walked right past an RBS branch without doing a thing!). Seeing a crowd of pissed up twats dancing on the roof of a smoothie cafe on the pier at the end was so depressing I called it a day and went home. While the pavement was buzzing with people dancing and chanting 'whos streets, our streets', the road and the roundabout were left almost empty for the cops and cars to take back.

A lot of the articles on indymedia have really hyped up the day and while positivity is useful, some is a modicum of honesty.



07.05.2009 10:18

I agree with the poster above, there was a noticeable element of non activist types starting shit that was plain unnecessary. Some were just kids who didn't know any better, others were outright hooligans up for a fight. I told one kid where to stick it in no uncertain terms when he shouted at a slur at a female member of the public which included the word 'foreign'- do we really want these sort of fuckheads on our marches? My friend had some little scumbags start 'dissing' the way his dog looked and then getting their vicious little thing to start growling and attacking at his dog, some of these same kids who were dancing on the shop. I saw the guy in the shop pulling down the shutters when he saw people coming towards him and he looked terrified. And spraying 'A's on his shop, well done. You really smashed the system AND made a political statement there.. Also many of these kids were provoking police when there was no need to, they didn't quite get the whole street party, carnival type thing; when the police were standing back and people were smiling and dancing and there was no confrontation, lots of these little hijackers were throwing things and generally trying to pick a fight- many of them coming out with some pretty poisonous insults, not cool.

It would have made more sense to have the soundsystems stay on the roundabout to keep the traffic off. At one point cars started driving and I was almost alone in sitting down in the road, having people revving their engines at me and swerving round me as all the people chanting 'whose streets?' were, erm, standing on the pavement..

In all there was much positivity from the day though I didn't quite understand why the march went up the top of Preston Park into suburbia... What were they going to do? Burn a cornershop or two? Would have made much more sense to have kept it towards town and not so far out...

I think the biggest problem is trying to avoid the people who have no political interest or sympathy but tag along for a ruck as they do not help matters at all.. I'm all for direct action but 14 year olds in tracksuits hiding behind groups of activists so they can lob bricks at cops and giggle is not really what it's about is it? There was quite a lot of that vibe I felt, through no fault of Smash EDO though..

Brighton lad

Brighton Lad

07.05.2009 12:13

"do we really want these sort of fuckheads on our marches? "

Are you on the march to protest against EDO, or to police the demo?

fuck the peace police


07.05.2009 12:36

Well, if the "fuckheads" were shouting racist, sexist, homophobic or any other opressive shit then yes - we should all be "policing" them.


@ fuck the peace police

07.05.2009 13:01

I was on the demo to protest against EDO, yes. Unlike some of these abusive little buggers I'm on about.. One comment I heard as we were coming up Queens' Road from a young lad: 'What does EDO stand for then?' to which his mate replys 'No, they're the ones we're protesting against' - 'Ahhh'.. People along solely to cause trouble with no knowledge of, or empathy towards, the cause. I wrote that comment after a lad had made an unprovoked verbal dig to a member of the public and brought her nationality into it and so I told him to fuck off. I, for one don't want to be associated with people like that when on a demo, do you?

If you'd read my post fully you'll notice I said there's nothing wrong with direct action, including clashing with the police if appropriate- by no means am I 'peace police'. I just think actively provoking the police when they are being passive and not restricting movement or anything is stupid, if they're letting you get on with your business then why go out of your way to pick a fight, as I saw on more than one occasion. If they're trying to stop you going about your business or restricting your right to protest that's a different matter..

Brighton lad

Smash EDO - Activist Ghetto Dead End??

07.05.2009 20:03

While some aspects of the demo on Monday were good, there was a lot that was shit.

We were lucky with the police - if it had not been for the G20 events it would be different. When McD's on London Road was attacked and the police van rocked- a mass of Hampshire riot police pulled up in vans and stormed down to the demo, only to be pulled back - if they hadn't pulled back then there would have been cracked skulls and lots of arrest for serious offences.

I'm all up for street confrontation, but you've got to be in a strong position - with plenty of numbers - having less than 1000 people and trying to pick a fight with cops is suicide (don't give me that crap about 2000 - leave the exageration to the SWP).

The message of Smash EDO barely got out - at least when you go on an SWP demo you know what it is about cos there are loads of placards.

What are we going to do with idiots who throw stuff from the back (empty beer cans of plastic bottles which have no impact) and damage property belonging to individuals/small businesses? You've got to reach more people to get them on your side acting like idiots is just going to alienate the mass of the public.

Smash EDO seems to be heading into a sub-cultural anarchist ghetto - always looking for a ruck for cops is dumb - they have the weapons, resources and legal infrastructure behind them to stamp on you. Be prepared to fight but don't look for it everytime - you'll get diminishing returns - have a couple of fluffy demos and when they least expect it hit em hard!

Brighton Person


07.05.2009 22:08

The thing with demos (unless you organise Stewards to act as soft-cops) is that you've no idea who's gonna turn up or what they're gonna do. Bit like a house-party in that respect.

How're you going to tell cops in advance( if you wanted to) how many people are going to be there - conduct a phone poll?

SMASH EDO do loads not to get stuck in the anarchist brew-punk ghetto - street stalls, regular noise demos, art exhibitions, public meetings.

Of course it's the big street gatherings that get all the attention - in the mainstream press and Indymedia - but the fact that activists were at the factory on Wednesday afternoon shows that the street demos are just punctuation in an ongoing campaign.

On a different subject - our movement was cowed by police violence for far too long - since the London Mayday's were crushed in fact. It's good to know that the storm-troopers and all-powerful and can be out-witted and even out-fought - especially when they're on unfamiliar territory.

Zark Hanzoff
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Don't make such a big deal...

12.05.2009 00:22

Please don't make a big deal about silly things.

The euphoria that comes with momentary release from state oppression is bound to produce a certain amount of acting-up. Throwing harmless things at police, from too far back or at the wrong times, or causing a bit of damage which isn't politically necessary simply stems from this. It's not some great revolutionary act but nor is it something which should cause us to question tactics such as decentralised actions.

Annoyed people who want to fight cops are not pure evil, they're just part of the "public" that activists claim to be targeting. If a demo includes people who aren't pure 100% anarchists then some of them will do/say things which aren't necessarily anarchist. Often there's a backstory, e.g. how do you know that particular pier store hadn't excluded some of the kids before and they were quite justly getting it back (not saying they were but we don't know). The point with amorphous or mis-directed rage is to educate it, not to suppress it. (and yeh by all means tell racists to fuck off though it hardly ensures they will).

Really, a sense of proportion is needed... Just today I have read about someone living six months on a curfew before being acquitted for trespassing at a farm, dawn raids over the Gaza protests, a violent squat eviction, callouts on police abuse... the smallest of the state's violence is worse than the worst our "hangers-on" can do.

fuck pigfuckers