Roots of Seattle - Birmingham RTS Party 1998
- the first global summit disrupted by direct action protest -
Still buzzing as I arrive home after tonight's RTS party in Birmingham (16 May 1998). As the leaders of the worlds eight supposedly greatest nations gathered to discuss their idea of the fate of the world, we decided to have a fucking great street party in the middle of the city they were doing it at! I had arrived late with a couple of friends and the city was swarming with 50,000 charity/church demonstrators protesting third world debt.
Relaxed policemen seemed to be on all street corners and we had no idea just where our bunch of freaks were assembling. Eventually I asked one of the ubiquitous coppers where the Reclaim the Streets party was happening - he thought a moment then directed us staight there, just in time to see the first of the tripods going up. 'Animal' had secured a policewoman's helmet at the front line and, holding a bottle of bubbly, it was roped up to the tripod-dweller aloft - to cheers from the assembled partygoers. Finally the sound system arrived amidst us. Five had set out to penetrate the police lines and one had made it - you only need one.
The authorities were outfoxed yet again and the wildest group of highly-charged eco-warriors staged a stomping party in Birmingham's famous city centre Bull Ring. The women dressed sexy and the men were either dressed in drag, or as clowns. It must be difficult for a policeman to grab hold of a beaded and bearded protester dressed in a tutu and see-through black lace top.
The party is the battlefield and we pick the terrain; the stronger the party, the harder it is for the police to stop. It wasn't until past ten o'clock, as darkness settled in, that the police finally advanced en masse upon the sound system, leading to a slow and dignified wind-down of the event.
The whole city centre was now sealed off and the world's most powerful politicians were forced to make alternative arrangements for their dinner. During this stage I wandered through police ranks a couple of times, going from "our territory" into that which they now controlled, and back again.
Whilst finally making our way out of the Bull Ring, we briefly stopped to tend a young victim of the day's only usage of CS gas. He was suffering badly and my medically inclined friend Nigel looked after him. As our now bedraggled group of about ten continued on our way, we found a ranked masse of uniformed police advancing 20 yards behind us, in a strangely Roman fashion. They seemed to be timing their gait to the speed with which I was pushing my wheelchair up the medium gradient. Our group constantly taunted the approaching police, occasionally wiggling bare asses at them as they followed. As we came out of the traffic contraflows and reached our first possible exit piont at a pedstrian crossing, half of our group peeling left and half right.
I stopped in the middle of the pedestrian island and watched the ranks stride purposefully foreward, now with nobody in front of them. I wondered mischievously what would have happened had we fell into place twenty yards behind them and continued the rattling. The locals we now passed were very curious, with policemen now marching along empty streets, and asked us more than once what had been going on. I kept replying that I thought this was the annual Birmingham Policeman's Walk - presumably some olde English custom.
The party? You had to be there to feel that power. It was more real human power than any of those superpower leaders tap into during an entire lifetime. I've been to a few good parties, but would have traded most of them whole for a paticular five minutes at this one.