Friday on my mind…

Normally, I don’t tend to leap out of bed in the morning, enthusiastically keen to go to work. Fridays, while perhaps a little better because of the impending weekend, are not really any different. But next Friday, I may be slightly keener. The reason for this is best summed up thus :

J18 – International Day of Protest
Against transnational corporations and capital flows
June 18th 1999

IMAGINE Financial Districts across the world filled not with profit and plunder but with the sounds and rhythms of party and pleasure IMAGINE a world where people have control of their own lives and communities IMAGINE a society based on mutual aid, sharing and respect for nature IMAGINE taking your desires for reality IMAGINE demonstrations, actions, protests, pickets, stunts, shut-downs, leafletting, blockades, games, carnivals, sit-downs, free food, occupations, teach-ins, parties & more simultaneously transforming financial centres across the world

Now, as someone who works in one said financial centre, the City of London, this has the potential to be a bit interesting: Crusties vs. Yuppies, grubby, dreadlocked hippies taking on designer-clad, mobile-phone bearing executives in a battle of incompatible stereotypes. At least, this is what I’d like to see — since I have little time or respect for either group, I’m hoping for something which wipes out both groups and leaves the world to us cynical technocrats.

I’d noticed a few stickers around promoting the event, but wasn’t paying much attention. After all, what could a few unemployed anarchists do? But then we got sent a memo, whose tone is best described as “worried”:

An International Day of Action, organised by various groups including Reclaim the Streets, is expected to take place in the City of London on Friday 18th June.

‘If the demonstrators repeat the kind of activities seen in the 1980’s, or carry out some of the suggestions included … in their website pages, we could expect the following:

  • Roadways & footways blocked
  • Major disruption to traffic including public transport
  • Targeting of City premises including attempts to gain entry and climbing
  • Damage to premises
  • Misuse of telecommunications e.g. nuisance/bogus callers and messages’

(Source: City of London Police) Blimey. Clearly someone high up is taking this VERY seriously — it looks highly like the threats on the June 18 Web Page [a site which shows a total lack of the principles of web design, by the way, and takes an absolute age to load] are not the end of it, and that someone has convinced my employers that they are likely to be specific targets.

Over the past few days, the paranoia in the company has become steadily more apparent, with things like “Do not schedule any onsite meetings with external parties on this day as entry will be refused to all visitors.” We’ve been given instructions to walk past the building if there are any protestors, checking “at regular intervals” to see if the coast is clear (regular eight-hour intervals should be fine, I guess). A clear desk policy has been instituted for the day, presumably in case any protestors feel a desire to read my copy of FHM.They’re even going to sell sandwiches inside the building at lunchtime, to minimise the need for employees to leave the premises: note, that’s “sell”; we’re trapped inside the building by a howling mob, and they’re flogging us junk food. This is why we made five billion quid last year, and upset the protestors. As someone pointed out, the best defence would probably be to yell out “Yer Giro’s arrived” — that’d cause the demonstrators to move pronto.

Now, in all likelihood, this is nothing more than severe overkill, and next Friday will pass off without major incident — we’re not even in the main offices, just a quiet little building. But it’s all much more exciting than usual: not had this much fun since I discovered the company was founded on drug money [Opium Wars are good for that sort of thing]. And if any would-be protestors are reading this, please feel free to visit us, at 6 Bevis Marks, London EC3. We’re in the phone book…