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(en) Ireland, Dublin, RTS on Baggot St. a great success

From "Andrew" <andy@dojo.tao.ca>
Date Mon, 23 Sep 2002 09:16:41 -0400 (EDT)


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Sundays Reclaim the Streets was a great success. Over 
1,000 people took part in the four-hour party. Despite 
attempts by the Gardai to whip up a panic because the 
organisers refused to meet with them in advance of the 
party the day was trouble free and very good humoured.

Pic: RTS banner in Baggot st, pics online at
http://struggle.ws/wsm.html

Planning for this RTS had been going on for months with 
a group of organisers meeting on a regular basis. In 
the weeks before the protests this involved a few 
meetings a week as all the different things that needed 
to be organised for the day were sorted out. Dozens of 
other people helped out by spreading word of the party 
and by attending the fundraiser; a few weeks back that 
paid for the equipment, used on the day.

After the last Reclaim the Streets when the Gardai 
attacked party goers, arresting 24 and hospitalising 
others they were very much on the defensive. In the 
last weeks they were making increasing desperate 
attempts to contact the organisers and when these 
failed telling the papers that RTS would be responsible 
for any trouble on Sunday. Seeing as there was none 
this must tell us something about who was responsible 
for the trouble last time! The partygoers proved quite 
capable of looking after themselves and having a good 
time without the permission of the boys in blue.

Pic:The decks and dancing in the streets

Of course this is one of the central points of Reclaim 
the Streets. It is as much a statement about the 
freedom of people to organise themselves free from 
state control as it is one about traffic. As the 
leaflet distributed on the day said "RTS is not anti-
car, we are anti-car culture". RTS parties are 
statements about the way the city and the street is 
viewed purely as a mechanism for allowing business to 
function and of extracting money or labour from the 
population. It's ironic how those attacking RTS echo 
this in complaining that the party might have delayed 
people getting to work!

There were several components to the RTS on the day. In 
the weeks beforehand a meeting point (top of Graton 
St./Stephens Green) had been advertised all across the 
city by posters and graffiti. In the days beforehand as 
the newspapers ran stories about RTS most also included 
the meeting up point. At the point on the day the 
organisers had divided the two sides of the road into a 
black group and a green group. This was to allow us to 
take different routes to the party point if needed. 
Leaflets were given out to people assembled at the top 
of the Green saying they should follow the flags that 
were the colour of the dot on the leaflet. They also 
gave a brief explanation of what RTS is and some legal 
advice. The back page had contact details for a range 
of campaigns people should be involved in.

Meanwhile a Critical Mass (cyclists) was in progress 
down at Heuston Station where they were demanding more 
bicycle parking spaces. This then made its way across 
town, also heading by its own route to the party point. 
Something like one hundred cyclists took part in this.

Pic: Critical Mass at Heuston station

As the Critical Mass was getting near the party point 
RTS organisers on it contacted another group actually 
at the party point whose responsibility it was to 
initially halt and divert the traffic so cars wouldn't 
get trapped in the middle of the party. They in turn 
contacted organisers at Stephens Green and told them to 
start heading towards the party point.

At Stephens Green we triggered air horns to tell people 
we were about to move off and people with RTS flags and 
banners moved out to the front of the crowd and started 
to lead it down towards the party point (at Baggot 
St.). Meanwhile the road blocking group waited for the 
lights to change and then put a row of traffic bollards 
and a diversion sign across the road diverting traffic 
out of the party area.

Pic:Crowd just after arriving in Baggot street

Critical Mass arrived just after this was happening 
swelling the number to over 100 at the blockade point 
and then a couple of minutes later the head of the 
march appeared coming from Stephens Green. As the march 
arrived the sound system was taken out of a nearby van 
and assembled in a lane way entrance facing onto Baggot 
St. Within a few minutes we had music blasting out and 
the party could begin.

Other people were reading to carry out other tasks 
which were fortunately not needed on the day. This 
included a legal group in case anyone was arrested and 
a medical group in case the police injured anyone. 
People also brought and distribute free food, groups 
and individuals distributed free literature.

Spacecraft who are putting on an Irish adaptation of 
Accidental Death of an Anarchist based on the police 
riot at the last RTS staged the first act of the play 
on the street. Elsewhere on the street there were 
jugglers, skateboards and the unavoidable drum players. 
The crowd was mostly young but also included a fair few 
older people, parents with young kids and even the 
parents of some of those taking part. People had 
travelled from all over the country including of course 
many of the 'direct action' activists so there were 
lots and lots of informal discussions going on up and 
down the street with various ideas for the future being 
floated.

Pic: The play in Progress

The police just had to stand back and watched the day's 
proceedings although we did have to put up with a low 
flying helicopter over head all day. They had obviously 
been told to leave their batons at home and even the 
dismounted motorcycle cops replaced their helmets with 
soft caps. One of the more amusing things was the 
protracted political discussion that went on between 
one of the people they had battered at the last 
demonstration and the senior cop present. As this went 
on more and more cops were drawn in until he was 
addressing six or more of them.

Pic: Telling it like it was

One thing RTS had learned from the last time was that 
we needed to set an end time in advance of the event 
and a method of getting the participants dispersed to 
avoid the guards attacking the crown once the numbers 
dropped. So at 6pm the music was turned off and as the 
sound system was dismantled we marched back down to 
Stephens Green behind the RTS banner. Some people 
stayed behind with bin bags and tidied up any litter 
left behind.

Pic: Marching back to Stephens Green

This RTS was a good success. Despite the scare stories 
being printed in the newspapers more people turned up 
then for the May 6th one. We demonstrated that, with 
police interference removed, we were quite capable of 
having a high spirited but trouble free day. The nature 
of the event allowed a lot of people to meet up with 
each other and exchange ideas, which will hopefully 
bare fruit in the future. Many of these discussions 
should continue at the Grassroots Gathering in Belfast 
at the end of October.

Andrew

----

RECLAIMING the STREETS AGAIN ? Mk II ? 22nd September 
2002-09-22

Critical mass assembled across from the escalator 
entrance to Connolly station at around 1.15pm.  The 
mood was light hearted and there were many colours to 
be seen.  The Armagh and Kerry supporters passed by the 
assembled cyclists singing and waving at us.  Some even 
gave colours to the gathering cyclists and I remember 
that one person rode the whole way with an Armagh 
orange and white scarf on her head.  The Dublin Cycling 
campaign where there in their bright yellow t-shirts, 
along with a superhero woman, a few white suited heads, 
some cowboy, couriers, and punks.  Someone kindly went 
around and dished out party hooters to us all.  At 
around 5 to two we emerged out into the traffic led by 
the Dublin Cycling campaign and TD Tony Gregory. We 
cycled  up the ramp towards Conolly station and 
actually cycled into the station and laughed derisively 
at their one bicycle rack provided for one of the 
busiest train stations in the Country.

Then about turn and down off into the city.  We decided 
to cross the bridge (Matt Talbot) and get ourselves 
quickly onto the south side.  The GAA supporters were 
quiet successfully reclaiming the North side of the 
city and we left them to that.  The route we took was 
up Dame street,  South Great George's street, Angier 
Street, then off around the back of Dublin Castle to 
emerge into Partick street.  On the way we picked up 
straying cyclists and a few kids on skates and 
skateboards.  Our mass was growing steadily.  Tourists, 
kids and pedestrians all gave us a great reception.  
Coming back down from Christchurch back into the city 
we passed the pathetic attempt at Car free day that was 
Parliament Street by the authorities.  Some stand had 
been erected and a band played to bemused passers by 
and a few forlorn children had their faces painted.  
Meanwhile in our gang the kids had great fun 
skateboarding down a deserted Lord Edward Street hill.

When we finally turned onto Merrion Square and pulled 
into Baggot street at 14.51pm. we were at least a 
hundred strong.  There was a diversion sign up on 
Baggot Street but it didn't apply to those of us on two 
wheels.

Immediately the Reclaim the Streets crew sprang into 
action.  I legged it up a side alley to an awaiting 
pick up truck.  In the back of it was a sound system 
that was quickly hauled into place by various masked 
assistants.  A few minutes of frantic plugging in of 
leads and flicking of switches and finally after some 
expert assistance from one of  the cycling jungalists 
from Bassbin we had some ropey sounds coming out of the 
speakers.  Even the sound of the generator springing 
into noisy action was greeted with cheers.  By the time 
I looked up from the mixing desk there must have been a 
crowd of 1200 people in the street.  There were clowns, 
pranksters, politicos, punks, ravers, street performers 
drunks and hedonists.  It was a huge crowd and they 
were enjoying their space and freedom under the shade 
from the trees of Lower Baggot Street.  It was great 
just to be there on this one of Dublin's busiest 
streets and showing what a CAR free environment is all 
about.  It's not about some corporate sponsored 
bandstand and some clown tying balloons for the kids.  
This was about people taking over a street and 
providing their own entertainment.

This was not being done for profits or for kudos or 
"brand recognition."  It's about people having a party.

Some young woman came up to me and asked if I wanted a 
free hug.  That's what it was about.  People danced, 
people performed, people mixed and made friends.  
Declan, Krossphader and Dr. Groove, Nessa Johnston, 
Ross Carrew, and Psyence provided dj-ing from Bassbin.  
Every track was appreciated by one of the most 
enthusiastic crowds I've seen.  Foghorns went off, 
whistles were blown and bubbles were blowing in the 
wind. 

Spacecraft ? who are staging the play "Accidental Death 
of an Anarchist" all week in the International Bar in 
Wicklow street (6pm book to avoid disappointment) 
staged an act from their play up at the far end of the 
street watched by over a hundred people.   People 
played with footballs and Frisbee's.  An exhibition of 
Skateboarding skills happened at the other end of the 
street with kids leaping over bollards on their boards.

Artists went to work at designing and drawing banners 
right there.  Others helped.  Some people ran up an 
cherrypicker and hung a banner, which had the message 
that Streets weren't just for shopping.  They're not 
just for a way of channelling traffic though the city 
either.  The streets and the space have to be made 
available for the people of the city for other uses 
besides getting to and from work.   Public space in the 
city is being evaporated and we have to fight to stop 
that from happening.

Pic: Another view of the crowd in Baggot st

Finally - the music ended at just after 6 o'clock.  The 
sound gear was packed up.  People went around with 
black plastic bags and collected rubbish.  All that was 
left behind as a huge crowd marched down towards St. 
Stephens green was slogans that had been painted on the 
ground.  The street was opened to traffic and this 
morning it was jammed with people driving their cars, 
hassled and stressed, trying not to be late for their 
boss.  They'll be unaware that yesterday for a few 
hours reclaim the streets showed what kind of future 
city is possible for a few hours. 

The crowd ended up in St. Stephen's green and then all 
went their separate ways.  As I walked down Grafton 
street and we passed by the assembled cops there were a 
few conspiratorial smiles from the fellow participators 
we met.  It was a success.  A snapshot of what direct 
action, willpower, organisation can achieve.  A free 
street party where people displayed how truly inventive 
and creative they are.

Needless to say the day is not going to be front-page 
news.  There was no violence.  The cops behaved 
themselves and maintained a role of bemused spectators.  
That's not going to make the news.  Neither is the fact 
that over 1200 people took over a major street in 
Dublin on European Car Free Day and showed what a 
wonderful city we could have it there was less cars and 
more imagination applied to the use of space in Dublin.  
That's not news either - but it should be.

Dr Groove

Pic: Cop surrounded by pink faries

Pics online at
http://struggle.ws/wsm.html


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