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Saturday, 24 July 2010

A few London sights

Not knowing if Kropotkin's old house still stands, or any of the original anarchist clubs, there are at least these locations in London:

Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park for free speech fights - literally a fight on days like November 13 1887, Bloody Sunday when many South London workers were injured by police batons blocking their approach over the bridges. Other processions were blocked by police, but one North London contingent did make it to Trafalgar Square, to be attacked and wounded by police. One young worker, Alfred Linnel, was beaten to death. A great procession followed his coffin to the grave, with William Morris giving the funeral oration. A vast crowd stood bareheaded as Morris read the Death Chant:

"They will not learn; they have no ears to harken,
They turn their faces from the eye of fate,
Their gay-lit halls shut out the skies that darken,
But lo! this dead man knocking at the gate."

The refrain was often repeated in the years that followed:

"Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,
But one and all if they would dusk the day."

And fight went on, and for a period the Square was won for free speech.

In Hyde Park, a mass meeting for 23 July 1866 was met with posters declaring the park closed from 5pm. The police refused entry to the park and the majority of the mass Reform League demo followed its leaders to Trafalgar Square, where after a few speeches the crowd went home.

But meanwhile, back at the park, tens of thousands had remained, massed at two places. At Bayswater road a throng hurled themselves at the massive iron rails, which were thrown down; at the same time, workers in Park Lane tore down the park railings and the two sections joined forces to fight the police.
The Foot guards were sent in, and the workers sought to fraternise, halting the troops near the gates. Then the horse guards trotted in, again the workers cheered, the cavalry trotted off again and the police were attacked again. More foot and cavalry guards were then sent in with orders to shoot if necessary. Many were wounded, but on that day it was the workers who won. As a Reform League paper reported:

"The people have triumphed, in so far as they have vindicated their right to speak, resolve and exhort in Hyde park. True, the gates were closed against them, and lo! in twentyh minutes after the Park all around was one vast, gaping gate. The ordinary gates were the only closed part of the fencing."

From Tom Brown's 'British Syndicalism; Pages of labour History', which also lists newcastle's Bigg market as our local area for free speech.

Kings Cross, where 'the Alarm' was printed for a while, by a small group who pooled their money to make it happen. They hired a premises behind a shop in Ossulston St, Euston Rd, which was then taken over by the 'freedom group'.

Charlotte Wilson left the Freedom paper when its editor put his own slant and censorship over the contents, but workers in the group got together and kept the paper going with John Turner as publisher.
The income from pamphlets, aided by Kropotkin's reputation, kept 'Freedom' going for years.

The London Freedom group hired a room at 144 High Holborn, from the Emily Davison Dining Club, and carried on meetings there for several years. They also held oepn-air meetings in Hyde Park.

From George Cores' 'Personal recollections of the anarchist past'

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