May Day is my favorite holiday. Actually, it’s kind of my only holiday. I celebrate christmas with my family, and my dad calls me on winter solstice to wish me a happy new year, but May Day is the one I really feel a connection to.
This year, I took a train to the city of Nijmegen in the east of Holland to attend an anarchist demonstration there. The Dutch haven’t had much of a May Day tradition in something like 50 years, so it was wonderful to be part of the largest such event in decades. Anyhow, the local anarchists had even gone ahead and gotten a permit for the event, since May Day is intended as a celebration, and they wanted the event to be as kid friendly as possible. But the police simply cannot be trusted to keep their truncheons to themselves.
It started of nice enough, with a bunch of speeches I couldn’t understand. The crowd was decently mixed: mostly younger punk/squatter anarchist types, but there were a fair number of older folks and children as well. We left the station and paraded about, with a few younger kids putting up stickers and some folks wheatpasting. We told the police they would not be allowed to enter the march itself. At one point, a cop started walking inside the crowd. He was confronted and then left. We stopped at a beautiful squatted building with a fantastic mural. Then we marched to another neighborhood that was going to be entirely demolished to make way for gentrification. All along, the police horses were skittish, and the police clearly had poor control over them.
We marched through a tunnel. Once again, the police tried to get into the march. We didn’t allow them. Some stencils, stickers, spraypaint, and wheatpaste went up. On the other side, a police horse knocked an unaffiliated woman off her bicycle and sent her to the hospital. Shortly thereafter, a police horse trampled a man right in front of me (who I was both unable to help or photograph, so much for that cliched dillemma). After this, they started attacking the crowd. It’s almost a joke: we always say “the police started it” and the media always says we do. But honestly, we rarely start in with the violence. Here, the police trampled someone, then started freaking out about losing control, so they began to attack with sticks and horses. People defended themselves, with flagpoles and bottles.
After awhile, things calmed down a bit, and the police started marching us around. I got out and watched as people were forced towards the police station. The police station, though, was right next to the train station, and the remaining crowd was put into the station and told to leave town. Regardless of where they lived.
But in the end, only three people were arrested, all of whom were let out later that night. Most people eventually left the train station and reconverged for dinner and conversation.
More about the whole thing (mostly in dutch, but with some video and photos) can be found on indymedia.nl.