The spontaneity of the first Stop the City was somewhat lost during the second. The cat and mouse game protestors played with the police seemed rehearsed. The police also came down really heavy this time because they were caught off guard during the first one. I believe 1,000 arrests were made that day, including yours truly.
My arrest happened during one of the many breakouts after being cornered by the police. We were in a situation similar to the one pictured above, and I was grabbed by a copper while trying to break through the line. Many others made it through. The Met police was far less militarized back then, so at Stop The City they mostly used their fists and boots, or just grabbed you if they were feeling generous. There was no riot gear or pepper spray used on peaceful protestors.
I then spent about 6 hours banged up in a small cell designed for 1 with about 10 other protestors. It was pretty challenging considering that I had a habit of ingesting certain stimulants back in those days. The kind that would put you in the mood of running around the streets rather than standing in a small cell for 6 hours. By today’s standards in New York City, my time in the cell was modest, but it felt like an eternity—that was due to the amphetamines more than anything else. I had been arrested by a black police officer, a real rarity in the British police force at the time. So rare, that his racist colleagues referred to me as “Sooty’s case”. I don’t actually remember what I was charged with, or what happened in court, but it was pretty minor.
It turned out that the unruly rabble of anarchist squatter punks on the dole were right about corporate capitalism and the financial industry: rotten to the core. Our protest took place at the beginning of the neo-liberal economic project of bank deregulation, privatization, austerity, corporate welfare, and putting profit before people. Reagan and Thatcher had come to office just a few years earlier.
While I knew the intentions behind the project were evil, I would never have guessed that so much incompetence would also flourish within the corporate class. Privatized profit and socialized loss is devious, but with the colossal losses of the economic collapse it’s just plain silly. And what hubris it must take to think you can get away with it. How very Marie Antoinette. At the time of Stop The City, bankers and stockbrokers were all supposed to be very clever. Most were in the Oxford and Cambridge old boy network. In he early ’80s, it was completely outrageous to protest the financial industry. Certainly the people Stop the City was protesting could not fathom it. It was fitting that something so outrageous would come out of punk.
The world economic crash of 2008 changed the mirage that the corporate class was very smart—now we know they’re a bunch of twats, especially those up top.They’re there because society rewards the wrong qualities, not because any one who is super-rich is particularly gifted or talented.
I left the anarchist punk scene shortly after the second Stop The City, and in fact left London in 1986 and moved to the US. It has been great to see anti-corporate protests move beyond punk and into the mainstream attracting a whole range of groups over the years since Stop The City—from the Battle of Seattle to Occupy Wall Street.