May Day, 4th May 2009: Hundreds of people from all over the country met in Brighton today to protest against the war, capitalism, and the arms trade. Organised by the Smash EDO movement, which for years has been campaigning against the EDO/ITT weapons factory based in Brighton, the protest started off very peacefully and remained generally positive throughout the day.
After meeting by the Palace Pier, the protest moved through the centre of Brighton cheering and chanting. Four young anarchists climbed to the top of the Barclays building, where they hung a banner reading “Arms Dealers Out Of Brighton’. Barclays is notorious for being one of the banks most complicit in the international arms trade. The people responsible for the banner were welcomed into the crowd as heroes, and avoided arrest.
After passing peacefully past the Clock tower, down Queens Road and through North Laine, the protest clashed with police on London Road. A heavy police presence blocked part of the road outside McDonalds, and minor scuffles quickly escalated as mounted and riot police forced through crowds to protect the building. A smoke-bomb lit by protesters, combined with a push forward from mounted police, frightened shoppers and nearly split the protest in two.
From then on, the protest became a game of cat-and-mouse – although it was sometimes hard to tell who was the cat and who the mouse. Protesters managed to force back mounted police several times, while police hastily re-grouped around the protest as it moved into residential districts and through Preston Park. However, neither protesters nor police seemed to have a plan as such, and after much walking and a few minor scuffles – including the arrest of one man by riot police – the protest moved back into the town centre.
On the seafront, for the first time in the day the police attempted to ‘kettle’ protesters by surrounding them on all sides. However, protesters quickly skirted down onto the beach and back onto the road behind police lines. The protest moved on peacefully and, after more skirting through narrow lanes and moving around police lines, settled on the grass outside St. Peter’s Church to dance and relax.