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The Carnival Against Capital took place on Friday, 18 June 1999. It was an international day of protest (also known as J18) timed to coincide with the 25th G8 summit in Cologne, Germany. The carnival was inspired by the 1980s Stop the City protests, Peoples' Global Action and the Global Street Party, which happened at the same time as the 1998 24th G8 Summit in Birmingham. The rallying slogan was Our Resistance is as Transnational as Capital.
In 1983 and 1984, Stop the City demonstrations in London had attempted to blockade the City of London. In planning to contest the 25th G8 summit in Germany, activists connected through Peoples' Global Action decided to make a network of global protests. Preparations took many months and the day became known as simply J18. Groups involved included labour, environmentalist, feminist, anti-capitalist, animal rights and anarchist.
In London, the open organising group met every month. The day was also discussed in the open weekly meetings of London Reclaim the Streets. There were between 30 and 100 people at these discussions. The slogan for the event became Our Resistance is as Transnational as Capital. An international email discussion list was set up. Fund-raising was carried out by collecting anonymous donations and running a series of benefit gigs.
There is only so much that can be learned from how J18 was organised. J18 and the many other successful anti-capitalist events in recent history were produced by a free flowing convergence of events and political currents combined with sheer luck.
In London, a concerted publicity campaign was carried out, using colourful stickers and 10,000 posters. Workers were encouraged to phone in sick. An eighteen-minute promotional video was made and distributed globally. Squaring up to the Square Mile was a 32-page pamphlet produced by Reclaim the Streets and Corporate Watch which gave details of financial institutions. An A3 map of the City of London (the "Square Mile") showed where they were located. 4,000 copies were produced.
On January 29, 1999, the Daily Mirror ran a full page article entitled "Police spy bid to smash the anti-car protesters." Closer to the day, stories abounded in the media about possible violent scenarios. All leave was cancelled for City of London Police officers on 18 June. The Corporation of London wrote to companies warning of disruption and suggesting extra security measures.
In London, there was a large march planned for midday and autonomous actions in the morning.
A spoof version of the Evening Standard daily London-based newspaper was produced. 30,000 copies of Evading Standards were printed and distributed on June 17 and 18 to City workers. The cover resembled the layout of the actual newspaper and the inner pages contained agitprop and humour. The newspaper was handed out for free. The headline read 'Global Market Meltdown', followed by a spoof report of the collapse of the world's financial markets.
Carnival masks were distributed in four different colours, namely green, gold, black and red. On the inside of the masks, the following text was written:
Those in authority fear the mask for their power partly resides in identifying,stamping and cataloguing: in knowing who you are. But a Carnival needs masks, thousands of masks...Masking up releases our commonality, enables us to act together...During the last years the power of money has presented a new mask over its criminal face. Disregarding borders, with no importance given to race or colours, the power of money humiliates dignities, insults honesties and assassinates hopes. On the signal follow your colour. Let the Carnival begin...
Five processions set off in different directions (there were four marches planned and another occurred spontaneously). The spontaneous procession erupted in anger at London Wall when a woman was hit by a reversing police van and had her leg broken.
Between two and three o'clock, the marches came together and an estimated 5,000 people converged on the London International Financial Futures Exchange (LIFFE). A fire hydrant was set off, symbolising the freeing of the Walbrook river, and the lower entrance to the LIFFE was bricked up. Banners were hung, reading Global Ecology Not Global Economy, and The Earth Is A Common Treasury For All, the latter a quote from Gerrard Winstanley of the seventeenth century Diggers movement. Graffiti messages were sprayed and CCTV cameras were disabled. Then sound systems set up and drum & bass music and punk bands played. In the early afternoon a small group of protesters broke into the Cannon Bridge building, smashed up the reception area and tried to access the LIFFE trading floor, but were prevented by a security screen.
We'd failed in our under-ambition. Unprepared, we never imagined we could get so close to occupying a trading floor in one of the City’s major exchanges. We'd planned the wall, and built it. We'd planned to free the Walbrook, and done it. But we’d stopped short of planning a full-scale occupation.— "Wat Tyler"
The rest of the afternoon became a battle as police using horses and personal incapacitant spray containing CS gas pushed the protesters down Lower Thames Street and out of the City of London. In the aftermath, protesters gathered peacefully in Trafalgar Square.
Katherine Ainger described the global atmosphere of protest:
The June 18 events were as diverse as the groups taking part. In Barcelona "street reclaimers" invoked the slogan of the rebellious Paris students of 1968, "Sous les paves, la plage" ("Under the sidewalk, the beach") and, dressed in swimming costumes, put out towels and sun-bathed on the road, handed out French fries to commuters in their cars, and later took part in a 700-strong street party. Music and dancing also hit the streets of San Francisco with "art attackers" who, armed with giant puppets and candy, lobbied those working for multinationals that exploit sweatshop workers to take the day off work and "join the revolution." In Melbourne, Australia, Kim Beazley, leader of the opposition, received a custard pie in the face for speaking at a global trade conference sponsored by Shell, while thousands of party goers in Sydney held up traffic as a massive street festival got underway.
The event was covered by live streaming and internet citizen journalism, which at the time were new. In London, the day's events were transmitted live by VJ Matt Black over the internet until the servers were blocked up by the sheer volume of traffic. In Australia, CAT TV and Active Sydney got a team together for all day coverage. They collected stories, photos and videos from activists and published them in a news feed. The global networking of activists, and technology created, formed the basis of the Indymedia network.
In the United Kingdom, a total of sixteen people were arrested on the day. The Metropolitan Police made a website listing 138 photographs of those wanted for further questioning. Using CCTV footage extensively, they had arrested a further 50 people one year on. A protestor plead guilty in January 2004 to Section 20 unlawful wounding (grievous bodily harm) and two violent disorder charges, plus an additional charge of skipping bail in 2000. He received a four and a half year sentence.
J18 was the first in a line of huge anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation protests. Others included the 1999 Seattle WTO protests, the protests in Prague during the 2000 International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank summit and the 2001 protests against the 27th G8 summit in Genoa.