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Newcastle Anarchists on May Day March

NAG | 01.05.2011 23:43 | Public sector cuts | Workers' Movements

There was a highly visible and lively Anarchist Bloc on the Tyne and Wear TUC May Day March in Newcastle on Saturday 30th April. Elsewhere on the march, interesting banners and placards were present from a wide range of groups.
Newcastle Anarchists on May Day March

The Anarchist Bloc was headed up by a massive “Reclaim May Day – Solidarity is Strength” banner held by members of the newly-formed Northeast Anarchist Group, and there were also many black, and red & black flags and a variety of other banners and placards. A sound system mounted on a bike rode alongside the bloc, playing an International Workers' Day-themed mix of music. Northeast Anarchist Group also distributed leaflets to shoppers and passers-by along the march route.

The bloc aimed to commemorate the anarchist origins of May Day. May Day became International Workers' Day on May 1st in the 19th Century, as a mark of respect to the anarchists who were executed (and the other trade unionists killed by police) for struggling for an 8-hour day in Chicago. The Haymarket affair began during a massive strike in 1896 for the 8-hour day, when at a demonstration at Haymarket Square in Chicago, an unknown person threw a bomb as police were dispersing the crowd, then the police opened fire into the crowd of workers. After the Haymarket Massacre, eight anarchist trade union organisers were framed for throwing the bomb. 4 men (August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer, and George Engel) were executed in 1897, 1 man (Louis Ling) cheated the hangman by killing himself in prison, and 3 men spent 6 years in prison before being pardoned (Governor Altgeld, who pardoned the 3 men, said the trial that convicted them was characterised by "hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge". The state had, in the words of the prosecution put "Anarchy is on trial" and hoped their deaths would also be the death of the anarchist idea.)

As well as the usual trade union banners, groups marched with banners and placards from Sunderland Against the Cuts, Tyneside Claimants Union, North East Shop Stewards Network, Tyne & Wear Left Unity, Tyneside Coalition Against Racism's ESOL Campaign, and Greenham Common Women of Newcastle & Friends. Newcastle Anti-Cuts Network also formed a lively bloc,, standing in front of front of the Vodaphone Shop as the march passed by with a banner saying “Vodaphone £6bn Tax avoiders & Supporters of Mubarak” and shouted “The banks got bailed out, We got sold out” as the march passed monument (and HSBC).

The rally in Exhibition Park afterwards had the normal speeches from trade union bureaucrats (although more relevant speeches were given by someone from the PCSU, and a UCU member from Newcastle College (where 170 members of staff face redundancy). However, many people just relaxed in the sun, socialising and discussing politics with old and new comrades, and drinking real ale from the bar. The Anarchist & Working Class bookstall was the highlight of the stalls tent (although NESSN were also selling their excellent “Going on Strike” pamphlet). The Making Waves Choir sang some anti-cuts songs, and after the speeches the Backyard Rhythm Orchestra moved a good portion of the crowd to dance.

All-in all a good day had out by all. See you next year!

In memory of the Haymarket martyrs: Spies, Parsons, Fischer, Engel, and Ling.



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  1. Solidarity from London! — Anarchists of London