Get together with some like-minded people. Possibly your friends. Work on a plan of action. Sort out different roles, jobs and time scales. Imagine. What is possible?
Decide on a date. Give yourselves enough time. Not too much - a 'deadline' is a great motivator - but enough to sort the practicals: materials, construction etc. You may need money.
Choose the location. Your street, the town centre, a busy road or roundabout, a motorway! A separate meeting place is good: people like a mystery, bureaucrats don't.
Publicise! Word of mouth, leaflets, posters, e-mail, carrier pigeon. Make sure everyone knows where and when to meet. Posters and paste go well on walls, billboards and telephone boxes. Leaflet shops, clubs, pubs - everyone, including your mum.
Sort out your sound system. A party needs music - rave, plugged in, acoustic, yodelling - go for diversity. Invite jugglers and clowns, poets, prophets and performers of all kinds. Ask campaign groups to come along and set up a stall in the middle of the road.
How will you transform the space? Huge banners with a message of your choice, colourful murals, bouncy castle, a ton of sand and a paddling pool for kids, carpets, armchairs. The materials and money from earlier may come in useful here. Print up an explanation for this 'collective daydream' to give to participants and passers-by on the day.
For opening the street - or rather stopping it being re-closed by the traffic - ribbons and scissors are not enough. A large scaffold tripod structure with a person suspended from the top has been found useful. Practice in your local park. Blocking the road with a car that can then be dismantled is nice. Even the traditional 'barricade' will do.
Rescue some young trees from the road of your local 'development' and have them ready for planting. You may need a pneumatic drill and safety goggles for the last bit.
Have a street party! Enjoy the clean air and colourful surroundings, the conversation and the community. Bring out the free food, dance, laugh and set off the fire hydrants. Some boys in blue may get irate. Calm them down with clear instructions.
Get together with even more like-minded friends and plan the next one. Organise in your community, workplace, school and street. For real change take direct action.
The following text is a more detailed explanation of elements involved in organising a street party. It may seem complicated but it can be simplified (or expanded!) depending on the nature and location of your street party...
Location group - about four people who decide the party location. The location must remain secret until the blockade is in place.
Blockading groups - these groups quickly put a section of the blockade in place. Only one person in each blockading group needs to know the location, and groups don't need to know what the others are doing. They need to liaise with their support group, and should acquire and store their equipment in advance. There are many different ways of blocking a road to traffic. For example, you could stage a mock car crash, erect scaffolding tripods, hold a critical mass or a pedestrian procession carrying banners. These tactics will work if the blockade is quick and unexpected. Other ideas might include street theatre, redirecting traffic with mock road signs or groups of people continuously walking across zebra crossings. A combination of these, plus your own ideas, should establish a temporary blockade.
Blockading support groups - these groups reinforce the initial blockade. They assemble somewhere else, waiting for a signal from the blockading group, before moving quickly to the location. The police are likely to be monitoring support groups.
Traffic redirectors - deal with traffic until the police arrive. Explain what is happening, suggest alternative routes and invite motorists to join in.
Guides - when the blockade is in place, making the party a success relies on getting a large number of people there quickly from the publicised meeting place. The meeting point should be a public space from which a large number of people can move relatively quickly to the target location, either on foot or by public transport. Guides should be easily identifiable and their identifying feature must be networked through the crowd at the last minute. For example, a legal briefing leaflet distributed at the meeting place could also include a message saying something like, "Follow the people in wigs, holding helium-filled balloons".
Press liaison - it may be worth setting a time and place to meet the media. Press releases should NOT include the location of the Street Party even if you embargo it.
Police liaison - this is optional. One person could take on the role of approaching the police to give them just enough information to keep them off your back. Don't tell them anything useful, especially the secret location. If they think they know what is going on, then they are less likely to over-react. For example, give them a finish time and tell them that there will be an army of litter pickers. Use a false name. If you hear anyone saying too much, step in and chat about the weather.[ Contents ]
Mobile phones in each group are the ideal means of communication but be careful what you say. Don't specify the location until the blockades are in place. Consider using code names for people and locations. Mobile phones can be tapped and you don't know who is listening nearby.
Information leaflets will help to spread the message of what the party is about. Separate, appropriately styled leaflets for pedestrians and motorists are ideal.
Organise some legal support to advise on the legal implications of the action and to take care of anyone arrested. Breach of the Peace and Obstruction of the Highway are the most likely charges if you block a road. Prepare bust cards and set up a team of action observers.
Now celebrate the car free space and show its possibilities. Groups can take on setting up a safe children's play area, sandpit, cafe, music (acoustic and amplified), banners between lamp-posts (for climbing them, see lamp-post prussiking in the Appendix), street decoration (eg. painting, tree planting), information stalls and theatre. These things can take up to two months to organise, as you have to book performers and persuade them to take part for free. Be sensitive to local residents - think about noise pollution and general disturbance.[ Contents ]
Tell the police (don't ask them, tell them) that the party will end at a certain time - the music will stop, the banners will come down and litter will be cleared. It is a good idea to have a procession to somewhere else - a park or indoor venue - where partying can carry on, or where people can disperse. Telling the police this, may persuade them to let you end the party, rather than them breaking it up by force. Protect expensive equipment, like sound systems, from being impounded by the police. It is important to communicate clearly that leaving at a certain time is the intention of the people who planned the party - not a concession to the police. The end of the party is the point where the police may wade in heavily against stragglers. They create violent scenes which can then be used to discredit what has actually been a wonderful day. Think about what state you want the street to be in when you leave; impassable to motor vehicles, colourfully decorated, a vegetable garden, or a beer can graveyard. The above was written with experience from London street parties. The largest party of 1996 saw 8,000 people reclaim, redecorate and plant trees in a six-lane motorway.[ Contents ]
Reclaim the Streets
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London N4 4JY
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