After the success and peaceful carnival nature of 1st march against the CJA, we were invited back to take part in the 2nd national demonstration against the legislation in London on the 24th of July 1994.
The first march had attracted virtually no media coverage. There was no violence. There was no PR value in giving it space in a mainstream media dedicated to hysterical reports about the killer nature of ecstasy, the scourge of illegal drugs, the activities of rampaging hordes of crusty traveller ravers and the plight of poor old ladies being displaced from their homes by villainous, destructive squatters.
The 2nd march was much larger than the first, which had attracted maybe 20,000 plus people. The word had clearly gone out on the bush telegraph that existed in rave culture at that time, as word of mouth was everything. Practically every major city in the country was holding, or had held, its own local anti CJA demonstration. Post event estimates put the attendance at between 50,000-80,000 people depending on whether the sources were establishment or not.
The Socialist Worker Party had also got on the bandwagon and annoyingly branded the demo with placards saying Kill The Bill, which in retrospect was kind of not cricket. This time we were in a 7.5t curtain sider rather than a flat bed, in case it rained. We needn’t have worried. It was blazing hot. This time we invited local Bristol crew Mutant Dance to come along and jazz up our rig with their crazy flouro madness. Hyde Park was simply singing with people as coaches arrived from all over the country to gather in opposition and voice their protest.
There were a lot more rigs too. Oops from Reading, Exodus from Luton, Smokescreen from Sheffield along with a DiY crew from Notts, who gave everyone All Systems Go t-shirts. Traveller type folk heroes the Tofu Love Frogs had also got a rig on their lorry representing the London contingent, along with a pink armoured car that turned up from somewhere.
It took ages to get going and the route to Trafalgar Square was much more convoluted than on the previous march; taking us away from the major thoroughfares in an attempt to make the demo less visible. There was also a massively increased and threatening Police presence. Lines of them were blocking every road off route with riot vans of reinforcements as back up, the passive aggressive threat of impending potential violence implicit.
The streets of London were turned into a massive rave. The march seemed to stop and start along with the builds and breaks of the music. The Smokies with their bouncy throbbing deep house vibes full of disco love. Exodus with huge jungle breaks sending the crowd into a series of exhilarating, roaring peaks.
Once again it was a massively celebratory and peaceful affair. The only small flashpoint occurred after the march had reached Trafalgar when a small contingent tried to scale the gates of Downing Street just down the road. This clearly caused some unrest and gave the Police their the excuse to wade in on a small scale. They charged the crowd there with Police horses, before 14 people were arrested.
That mini event also gave the press something to focus on in their subsequent reporting of the event, which clearly also featured the SWP’s Kill The Bill placards. In public order situations like that however, it is never possible to assume that people are who they appear to be. Possible infiltration by the forces of evil was on everyone’s minds.
In the Square Tony Benn spoke again, while people played in the fountains, accompanied by a selection of other politicians and union types keen to get themselves some exposure, including one Jeremy Corbyn.
We missed all that however, as having developed their strategy since the first march where Trafalgar Square had danced, had fun and raved without incident to our rig and Desert Storm; the Police had requested that all the sound systems be directed away from the march before it reached the square.
At the first march, one of the lines of defense to the Police when they were trying to move us on, was that it was far better to have us there and keep people dancing, giving them a positive focus on fun, rather than provoke a potential public order situation by sending us away. A sentiment clearly they ignored this time round.
That meant a detour south of the river, on a magical mystery tour away from the route that the rest of the march took, before heading back over London Bridge. Then came the instruction to head towards Victoria Embankment, taking us right in front of the Houses of Parliament , and the gift of allowing us to take the rave to the very institution that was acting to outlaw us.
The volume got turned up, and we waved at the row upon row of empty windows, wishing the MP’s were in session, but clearly being MP’s there’s no way they work weekends in that particular house.
This time we decided not to do an after party, but as Claremont Road was still a thriving center for everything counter cultural we headed up there to take part in the festivities along with what seemed like half the march.
Late into that night we finally left the city in a friends big green hippie bus, and made the journey under cover of darkness back from one roads protest to another, finally reaching Solsbury Hill in the dawn of next morning, just a short trip from away from home.