Millennium May Day Protests
May Day protests in London by groups of political radicals are so much an institution that eventually there will be others protesting about them as the established order. But those on May 1 2000 somehow seemed to have greater significance: this was the first year of the new millennium: a growing realisation was in the air that all was not well with ‘the system’. This was not a protest about one perceived injustice or event, but against capitalism, against the way the world is going. Accordingly the police planned a major operation – mustering a force of some 5000 - to counter the large numbers expected in the centre of the capital.
When eventually and seemingly inevitably the protest changed from peaceful to violent the initial targets were symbolic: a statue of national hero Winston Churchill given a green Mohican haircut and red paint to mimic blood coming from his mouth; the Cenotaph, representing the appalling suffering of WWI was sprayed with graffiti; a McDonald’s outlet in the Strand had every window smashed.
As ever the protesters gravitated towards Trafalgar Square . The violence flared and there were several injuries, including a policeman hit by a brick. Later there was national outrage about the damage to the Cenotaph in particular; and interestingly a former soldier was given 30 days for his addition to Churchill’s memorial. The world did not change; but a growing undercurrent of dissatisfaction was apparent: the following year yet more police were drafted in to control its manifestation.
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