Mayday 2001: Statement from Actor Anna Carteret

May 09, 2001

Anna Carteret’s most famous role was as a police officer in the 80s TV series Juliet Bravo. She was also interviewed by the Guardian about her experience at Oxford Circus – the article is here.

My daughter, Becca, invited me to take part in a peaceful protest outside the World Bank in the Haymarket, London on May Day at 1 o’clock. I duly caught a train up from the country – and joined her among a small crowd of protesters with various banners and flags bearing anti-capitalist slogans and two large cartoon faces of ‘FAT CATS’ and a large black and white ‘BOMB’ etc.
There was already a police cordon round the corner – who had put up railings to contain the protesters. They insisted that anyone wanting to join the protest had to go right to the end of the railings and climb over them to get into the ‘enclosure’… Gradually a girl with red hair initiated simple slogans for people to repeat – expressing what we wanted to say – particularly concerning the need to cancel third world debts, to control the increasing globalisation, and to take some of the power from the big corporate companies – for the benefit of the smaller countries, whose trading rights are being crushed. All this in the interests of helping dependant third world to grow and become responsible for their own economy (with our help if requested)…
After a while, a group of cyclists arrived – who had ridden long way through London to encourage people to cycle to work – to help decrease pollution.. We noticed a policeman taking a video film of the protesters in close-up along the lines of people – and others taking photos etc..
Eventually the procession started moving up Regent Street – flanked by police officers on every side – and even in lines to try and break us up – but the crowd, who were being joined by more and more supporters – refused to be negative. In fact the mood was quite buoyant and happy – people talking and laughing – showering fake 5 dollar notes into the air – distributing leaflets with info about what we were trying to say. Sometimes people took a bunch with them to in turn give them to others…
When we got to Oxford Circus – we stopped for moment – wondering which way to go – when we noticed several large police vans banked up in all three directions and two rows of police – who began to push us together – and closed up the entrance to Regent Street to block us in completely…. No explanation was given – and when I asked to speak to someone in charge I was refused..
I tried another side and a police sergeant grudgingly listened to my questions about who was authorising them to contain us, when would they release us, and refused to answer except in the negative. In fact he was positively rude, saying that ‘we were a load of anarchists – and their job was ‘to protect society’ – and ‘that we shouldn’t have come in the first place..’ By no another row of riot police had gathered – with helmets and truncheons. I looked up and saw snipers on the roofs surrounding us. Every few minutes two helicopters would be circling overhead (one police and one BBC). The whole effect was very frightening. Still no explanation – as to why. There was one scuffle, when a young boy started a fight, which was soonquashed with others shouting “peace!” – and another moment when there was a sudden bang – followed by shouting and the crowd suddenly began surging out of control – but we managed to escape from the line of fire…
After several hours in pouring rain, cold and wet (most of us hungry, having not had lunch) not being able to go to the loo – the only thing that revived our flagging spirits was the occasional shouting of familiar slogans and a small group of intinerant musicians who gathered together (tom-toms, flute, Andean pipes and a home made percussionist with an old plastic water container and a stick..) We all began to dance in groups, helped to warm us up and feel part of a whole again – but still no info as why we were being held against our will.
By now it was 5.30.pm and I had to be at the National Theatre by 6,00.pm for a platform performance – so I took my courage in both hands and made my way to the only side I hadn’t tried. I spoke to the Sergeant in command, who recognised me – and said he believed that I was telling the truth. He asked me who was with me – and I said my daughter, and two friends (one a mother who was supposed to have collected her child from school – and borrowed my mobile to ask a friend to step in). Provided we were discreet he let us out through the triple cordon of ‘faceless’ policemen into the ordinary world again. It was such feeling of relief..
What shocked me most was the assumption that we were there to make trouble, that we had no respect for authority and deserved to be taught who was in control.
Having attended many peaceful demonstrations over the years since the Aldermastion marches in the sixties, taking bread to the women in Greenham Common – and lastly a TUC protest with white lilies in Whitehall – about the rights of asylum seekers – followed by a series of statements from various people with direct experience of the situation in the synagogue in Edgeware Road – the most moving of which was from a boy of eleven who had been given asylum, entitled “SORRY” – I felt that my rights as a free citizen had gone – and that we are in danger of becoming a police state.

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