It was an early door’s start that morning. The hire lorry needed picking up, followed by the rig and décor. Then it was the drive from Bristol to London in a variety of vehicles.
For weeks beforehand we’d been preparing, sitting in circles on the floor of various living rooms night after night; making and assembling literally thousands of Raver Saver packs by hand, in a production line, to give away on the march.
The elements were contained in little plastic sealey bags. We’d designed little fold out information sheets with useful info on them that echoed the format of our flyers. There were friendly lawyers phone numbers, rights on arrest info, epaulette identification guides so you could recognize the rank of given police officers, a form to write down info in case of arrest and a great quote about money from Joseph Campbell; all in a cute graphic package. On the front was a symbol of a copper, with the words Get Out Of Jail Free.
Also in the pack was a folded big rizla, a couple of non safety matches, a small yellow sticker with an appropriate word on it, a silver holographic sticker that had been re-purposed from its original use as an identification device for people attending the Tory party conference that year; a menu detailing the contents, a roach card, a multi vit, a chewing gum and either a sunflower seed or a cannabis seed to plant later.
One of us had designed a poster for the march for Liberty with an image of the palm of my hand on it, made to look like a turkey. It was a reference to the repressive nature of the discriminatory ideas contained in the proposed policy creation.
A summons had originated to take the rig on the march by the Advance Party, and a lady from United Systems, that we’d met earlier in the year during our involvement in the No M11 link Road Protest. We were pretty much unknowns being from the West Country.
Hyde Park was buzzing when we arrived to set up the rig on the lorry. People were everywhere, the sun was shining, the grass was green. There was an overwhelming sense of community and friendship from the people around us.
This was an opportunity to congregate and voice democratic opinion against the impending Tory legislation to criminalise the free parties that were successfully happening across the country pretty much every weekend; parties that we had all had so much harmless fun at. They were the real time social networking events of the time, catalysts for friendship and the sharing of ideas and common ground.
This was a government as ever dedicated to enshrining injustice within law, while claiming it was actually justice. The idea that it would make criminals of us all overnight, as well a whole generation around the country, simply for
wanting to hang out and dance together in a new kind of previously unseen community within which we all felt at home; was self evidently wrong.
Politicians always pretend to the moral high ground, when in reality they are mostly mired in the foul swamp of corporate corruption. As our current Prime Minister is so fond of reminding people, in a democracy everyone has a personal political responsibility to do what they feel is right. This is true, even if it is inconvenient to the agendas of Parliament. That is the nature of freedom in a democracy.
The march set off in a massively carnival atmosphere and we were allocated a position at the rear by the stewards. There were a couple of rigs, one a customized Bedford CF by Desert Storm.
People were looking on in amazement. There was impromptu dancing to our music on the streets of the capital. The back of the truck was crowded and bouncing. Down Marble Arch and into Piccadilly we went, occasionally halting for stragglers and latecomers to catch up, occasionally urging forward to keep the crowd together.
The thing about demonstrations is that they are like icebergs. Only a small amount of the support for them is visible in those actually attending. Most people have lives and responsibilities that prevent them from being able to go. They are the ones hidden under the surface, the uncounted.
Stood on top of the speakers going through Piccadilly Circus there was a massive line of policemen presumably put in place to prevent any deviation from the agreed route but we were heading for the heart of the city, Trafalgar Square, to hold a rave at the very gates of Whitehall.
As we arrived we were directed to pull up at top of the square in front of The National Portrait Gallery. The square was full of people. Desert Storm were actually in the middle of the crowd down in the square itself. We turned off the music to allow the speakers at to say their peace. Tony Benn was the last person to speak out in opposition. When he concluded, that was our signal. We turned on the music and at that point, that was the moment. Our 8k of speakers began to do their job and nothing was the same ever again.
The roar of the crowd as they turned everyone punching their hands in the air in communal celebration, sent adrenalin through my body up my spine. The hair on the back of my neck stood up in a rush like I’d never known while stone cold sober. For a couple of hours we played, our designated driver unfortunately lost in the crowd, so we couldn’t move, despite the Police advice that we should do so and bring proceedings to an end.
When we finally did move, we did a lap of honour around the square before heading up Tottenham Court Road and back down Oxford Street, with the music pumping all the way to de-rig the truck back in the Hyde Park and rest. Our opinion voiced, our civic duty done, with not a trace of civil unrest anywhere.