Bristol was awash with a sea of red & black flags today as anarchists, radicals and trade unionists took to the streets for May Day. Four hundred people descended on College Green for a march and rally organised by Bristol Trades Council to commemorate International Worker’s Day (May1st). A large Radical Block we called that was made up of members of Bristol Anarchist Federation, Solidarity Federation, IWW and other revolutionaries numbering around 50 were present from the beginning handing out leaflets about the true origin of May Day.
As the march began the Radical Block took position near the front of the procession. The demonstration snaked out of College Green and down Park Street towards the Fountains as chants rung out from the block. There were some old favourites in there as well as a few new ones including a variation of “Solidarity Forever” called “Aristocracy Forever”.
The purpose of the Radical Block – as well as giving the radical movement in Bristol a visible presence on the march – was to show solidarity with the Bangladeshi Garment Workers who are currently fighting for better working conditions and rights after a factory collapsed leaving over 400 workers dead. We handed out leaflets about the situation in Bangladesh, implicating Primark (who have a flag ship store in Bristol) and capitalism in the death of the workers.
When we arrived outside Primark our place at the front allowed us to stop the march. We chanted, handed out leaflets and stood outside with a banner which read: “Fire to the Bosses – Power to the Bangladeshi Workers”. There we made sure we had our photo taken so we could send it to the struggling workers in Bangladesh so that they knew that Bristol was with them!
The march continued making its way through town and finishing in Castle Park where we unfurled another banner which read: “Remember Haymarket May 4th 1886-2013” with the words: “TUC Censored” scrawled over the top in red paint. This was in reference to Bristol Trades Council who refused to allow an anarchist speaker to talk at the May Day rally, despite the anarchist origins of International Worker’s Day. Though after speaking to a couple of us, Andy Robertson assured us that we can have a speaker at the next demonstration, we look forward to that!
After the speakers had finished, the Radical Block moved off again, this time marching down Union Street accompanied by a cycle-powered sound system. It descended on Primark for a second time. The police seemed well aware of our plans after successfully dragging two comrades out of the building prior to the march arriving, and threatening to arrest one person if they tried to leaflet outside Primark.
Little did they know that a third person was already inside Primark. As the Radical Block pulled up outside they broke into action pulling out a megaphone and started talking about the situation in Bangladesh and how companies like Primark where complicit in the death of the Garment Workers there. They were met with lots of positive responses by the people shopping in Primark, even more looks of shock and confusion, no doubt at the sheer lack of care Primark seems to pay to its workers (both in the UK and across the world).
They were eventually escorted out of the premises by a security guard and several police but not before successfully leafletting the store. Once they were outside they joined the main demonstration out front where people were talking on megaphones about the situation in Bangladesh and the general crisis that is capitalism.
There was a positive response from inside and outside the store, with some people opting to boycott Primark, join the protest and in one case even give an impromtu speech on the megaphone!
We left having made our point and having arranged to have our message of solidarity sent to Bangladesh (via some existing contacts and from a Bangladeshi person who spontaneously joined our demo). Today has shown that May Day in Bristol can be marked with more radical action than just the A to B march with the unions, we look forward to an even bigger and more effective demo next May Day, and a year of resistance until then.