Carnival Against Capital
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The Global Carnival Against Capital took place on Friday, 18 June 1999. It was an international day of protest timed to coincide with the 25th G8 summit in Cologne, Germany. The carnival was inspired by the 1980s Stop the City protests and the Global Street Party, which happened at the same time as the 24th G8 Summit in Birmingham, England in 1998. The rallying slogan was Our Resistance is as Transnational as Capital.
Preparations took many months. The day became known as simply J18. In London, the open organising group met every month. The day was also discussed in the open weekly meetings of London Reclaim the Streets. There were between 10 and 100 people at these discussions. An international email discussion list was set up. Fund-raising was carried out by collecting anonymous donations and running a series of benefit gigs.
There is only so much that can be learned from how J18 was organised. J18 and the many other successful and inspiring anti-capitalist events in recent history were produced by a free flowing convergence of events and political currents combined with sheer luck. 1
In London, a concerted publicity campaign was carried out, using colourful stickers and 10,000 posters. Workers were encouraged to phone in sick. An eighteen-minute promotional video was made and distributed globally. Squaring up to the Square Mile was a 32-page pamphlet produced by Reclaim the Streets and Corporate Watch which gave details of financial institutions. An A3 map of the City of London (the "Square Mile") showed where they were located. 4,000 copies were produced.
A spoof version of the Evening Standard, daily London-based newspaper was produced. 30,000 copies were printed and distributed on June 17 and 18 to City workers. The cover resembled the layout of the actual newspaper and the inner pages contained agitprop and humour. The newspaper was handed out for free. The headline read 'Global Market Meltdown', followed by a spoof report of the collapse of the world's financial markets.23
On January 29, 1999, the Daily Mirror ran a full page article entitled "Police spy bid to smash the anti-car protesters." Closer to the day, stories abounded in the media about possible violent scenarios.
It was clear that the City was taking things very seriously. All leave was cancelled for City of London Police officers on the day. The Corporation of London sent letters out to the Managing Director of every firm in the square mile (and many outside it) with instructions to circulate the warning of "major disruption" and the need for extra security measures to be taken on June 18 to all staff.4
In London, there was a large march planned for midday and autonomous actions in the morning. Among other actions, a Critical Mass bicycle ride brought the City of London traffic to a standstill in rush hour. The Campaign Against Arms Trade closed down a Lloyds bank with a 'die-in'.
At twelve, the protesters met at Liverpool Street train station. Food Not Bombs and Veggies Catering Campaign 5 gave out free food and a samba band played. Carnival masks were distributed in four different colours and five processions set off in different directions (there were four marches planned and another occurred spontaneously).3 The spontaneous procession erupted in anger at London Wall when a woman was hit by a reversing police van and had her leg broken.
Between two and three o'clock, the marches came together and an estimated 5,000 people converged on the London International Financial Futures Exchange (LIFFE). A fire hydrant was set off, symbolising the freeing of the Walbrook river, and the lower entrance to the LIFFE was bricked up. Banners were hung, reading Global Ecology Not Global Economy, and The Earth Is A Common Treasury For All, the latter a quote from Gerrard Winstanley of the seventeenth century Diggers movement. Graffiti messages were sprayed and CCTV cameras were disabled. Then sound systems set up and drum & bass music and punk bands played.
In the early afternoon a small group of protesters broke into the Cannon Bridge building, smashed up the reception area and tried to access the LIFFE trading floor, but were repelled by LIFFE traders in hand-to-hand fighting on the escalators. The police arrived late on the scene and made a number of arrests; monitors from the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group attempted to keep track of who the police were arresting and why.
We'd failed in our under-ambition. Unprepared, we never imagined we could get so close to occupying a trading floor in one of the City’s major exchanges. We'd planned the wall, and built it. We'd planned to free the Walbrook, and done it. But we’d stopped short of planning a full-scale occupation. (Wat Tyler, 2003).
The rest of the afternoon became a battle as police using horses and personal incapacitant spray containing CS gas pushed the protesters down Lower Thames Street and out of the City of London. In the aftermath, protesters gathered peacefully in Trafalgar Square.
Using techniques which at the time were new and would soon form the basis of the Indymedia network, the day's events were transmitted live by VJ Matt Black over the internet until the servers were blocked up by the sheer volume of traffic. On June 23, 1999, Undercurrents, the alternative news organisation, premiered a 30-minute documentary in Oxford about the day produced from the pooled footage of a dozen video operators in London. The documentary was shown at festivals and social centres all over the UK during the following months.
Katherine Ainger described the global atmosphere of protest:
The June 18 events were as diverse as the groups taking part. In Barcelona "street reclaimers" invoked the slogan of the rebellious Paris students of 1968, "Sous les paves, la plage" ("Under the sidewalk, the beach") and, dressed in swimming costumes, put out towels and sun-bathed on the road, handed out French fries to commuters in their cars, and later took part in a 700-strong street party. Music and dancing also hit the streets of San Francisco with "art attackers" who, armed with giant puppets and candy, lobbied those working for multinationals that exploit sweatshop workers to take the day off work and "join the revolution." In Melbourne, Australia, Kim Beazley, leader of the opposition, received a custard pie in the face for speaking at a global trade conference sponsored by Shell, while thousands of party goers in Sydney held up traffic as a massive street festival got underway.6
In total there were protests in 40 countries, these included Tel Aviv, Minsk, Madrid, Valencia, Prague, Hamburg, Cologne, Milan, Rome, Siena, Florence, Ancona, Amsterdam, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Lancaster, Zurich, Geneva, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Texas, Boston, and Eugene, Oregon.6
In the United Kingdom, James B***K (last name masked by individual) pled guilty in January 2004 to Section 20 Unlawful Wounding (GBH) and two violent disorder charges, plus an additional charge of skipping bail in 2000. He received a four and a half year sentence. A total of sixteen people were arrested on the day. The Metropolitan Police made a website listing 138 photographs of those wanted for further questioning. Using CCTV footage extensively, they had arrested a further 50 people one year on.
In Eugene, Oregon Rob Thaxton was sentenced to 88 months in jail after throwing a rock at a police officer while trying to avoid being arrested.
Others who had been identified at the Carnival were arrested at later events, particularly the 30 November WTO protests.
- Against the World Trade Organisation on November 30, 1999 (Seattle)
- Against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in September 2000 (Prague)
- Against the 27th G8 summit in Genoa.
- Against the 31st G8 summit in Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland.
- Reclaim the Streets
- Earth First!
- Peoples' Global Action
- Tactical frivolity
- Anti-globalization movement
- 1999 Seattle WTO protests
- World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 2005
- List of demonstrations against corporate globalization
- Evading Standards, 18 June 1999.
- Christoph Fringeli, "Radical Intersections", Datacide 10, 31 October 2008.
- Friday June 18th 1999 (Do or Die)
- Katherine Ainger, "Global Carnival Against Capital", Z Magazine, September 1999.
- Anonymous, J18 1999 Our resistance is as transnational as capital, Days of Dissent, 2004.
- Anonymous, Friday June 18th 1999, Confronting Capital And Smashing The State!, article in Do or Die 8.
- Wat Tyler (2003), Dancing at the Edge of Chaos: a Spanner in the Works of Global Capitalism, in, Notes From Nowhere (Eds.) We Are Everywhere: the Irresistible Rise of Global Anticapitalism 188-195. Verso, London/New York 2003 ISBN 1-85984-447-2
- Complete list of actions worldwide
- J18 Timeline London
- Archived global J18 site accessed June 11, 2006.
- Archived UK J18 site accessed June 11, 2006.
- Reclaim the Streets accessed June 11, 2006.
- Chronological video single camera record without commentary
- "Radical Imagination (Carnivals of Resistance)", video by Marcelo Expósito (2004)
- Dancing at the Edge of Chaos:a spanner in the works of global capitalism by Wat Tyler
- "Reflections on June 18 - global day of action in financial centres 1999", Anarchist Federation pamphlet, October 1999.
- J18, 1999, film by Stefan Szczelkun